Killing Hitler’s hangman: the dramatic story of Reinhard Heydrich’s assassination

In May 1942, two partisans assassinated the reviled Nazi grandee Reinhard Heydrich. For the beleaguered Allies, Heydrich's death was a major coup. But, says Robert Gerwarth, the consequences for countless civilians across occupied Europe were catastrophic...

Reinhard Heydrich’s brutality was shocking, even by Nazi standards. (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Reinhard Heydrich is widely recognised as one of the great iconic villains of the 20th century, an appalling figure even within the context of the Nazi elite. Curiously enough, however, his international ‘fame’ rose considerably as a result of his 1942 assassination which quickly became the subject of countless movies and books, starting with Fritz Lang’s Hollywood production Hangmen Also Die! (1943) and Heinrich Mann’s novel Lidice (1942).

The continuing interest in Operation Anthropoid is understandable. Arguably the most spectacular secret service operation of the entire Second World War, the assassination on 27 May 1942 ended the life of Nazi Germany’s chief organiser of terror at home and in the occupied territories. It was the only successful attempt on the life of a senior Nazi during the war.

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