Reviews for The hangman and his wife : the life and death of Reinhard Heydrich

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Reinhard Heydrich is widely regarded by historians as the most malevolent force within the Nazi regime. Known as the Hangman of the Gestapo and referred to by Hitler as “the man with an iron heart,” Heydrich was responsible for many of the Third Reich’s heinous and murderous programs. He was the head of the SS and the Gestapo, he organized the ruthlessly violent Kristallnacht campaign, and was a principal designer of Hitler’s Final Solution. Biographer Dougherty conducted extensive interviews with Heydrich’s wife, Lina. With posthumous editing assistance from Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, Dougherty covers Heydrich’s life from his childhood raised by bohemian parents, to his Naval career which was cut short due an ethically questionable affair, to his meteoric rise through the SS while haunted by rumors of Jewish descent. Lina’s dubious commentary on Heydrich’s life and career are highlighted throughout. The result is an exhaustive and dark expedition into the diabolical mind of a truly evil villain and unsettling insight on the deliberate delusion that blinded some Germans to the horrific atrocities committed by the Third Reich.


Library Journal
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Responsible for both the Security Service branch of the SS and the German Security Police, which included the Gestapo; chair of the Wannsee Conference and thus instrumental in formulating the Final Solution; and infamously known as the Hangman and the butcher of Prague, Reinhard Heydrich personified Nazi evil. PEN Girard Award-winning Doughtery's full-scale biography tracks back to Heydrich's unpromising youth before capturing the full horror of his actions and includes commentary from interviews she conducted with Heydrich's wife. After Doughtery's death in 2013, this volume was edited by distinguished critic Lehmann-Haupt, himself deceased in 2018.


Publishers Weekly
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The hollowed-out soul of one of Nazi Germany’s worst criminals is explored through his wife’s recollections in this searching biography. Dougherty, a biographer and film critic who died in 2013, examines Heydrich’s rise through the S.S. to become head of the Gestapo and other intelligence agencies (he even ran one of Berlin’s swankiest brothels, staffed with amateur spies); his control of the Einsatzgruppen death squads that murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews; and his assassination by Czech resistance agents in 1942. She portrays him as the quintessential Nazi: tall, vigorous, “a wolf in a fancy uniform” with a “luciferous” knack for intimidation. Extensive interviews with Heydrich’s wife Lina, who died in 1985, offer an alternate version of the man as a striving careerist with little involvement in the Final Solution; Dougherty demonstrates how delusional that sketch is, but Lina’s viewpoint suggests how denial and wishful thinking distracted Germans from the Nazis’ crimes. Dougherty vividly dissects the murderous intrigues roiling Nazi bureaucracies—Heydrich poisoned an assistant’s drink and withheld the antidote until the man explained his suspicious relationship with Lina—and the crooked path of opportunism, brutalization, and warped Nazi idealism that led Hitler’s minions to a policy of extermination. The result is a chilling, revelatory case study of the moral corruption of the Third Reich. Photos. (Apr.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A gripping biography of an irrepressibly evil historical figure. Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942) was Heinrich Himmler’s right-hand man, an architect of the Holocaust known as “the Butcher of Prague.” Czech and Slovak resisters killed him in May 1942, and while his personal writing contains few insights, his wife, who survived him by 40 years, spoke freely during numerous interviews with biographer Dougherty, who died in 2013. In the introduction, Lehmann-Haupt writes that his job as editor was “to sharpen and highlight [Dougherty’s] all-but-tragic vision of Heydrich’s descent into profound evil.” The result is an engrossing biography that cuts away regularly to Heydrich’s wife as she delivers her version of events and freely expresses her opinion of her husband’s colleagues and superiors, including Hitler. Loyal to the end, she remained skeptical that he was a war criminal, preferring to see him as an earnest patriot in a dysfunctional system. As a child, Heydrich excelled at school and sports. He joined the navy in 1922 but was cashiered in 1931, apparently for dishonorable behavior. A fervent nationalist, he had joined the Nazi Party months earlier, and SS chief Himmler hired him to develop an intelligence service. At the time, the SS was a minor department that provided security for Hitler, but Heydrich proved a brilliant organizer, and by 1936, the SS controlled all of Germany’s police. Heydrich quickly acquired his fearsome reputation as the consummate Nazi bureaucrat: ruthless and, unlike most, uncorrupt and efficient. He persecuted Jews, organized the Einsatzgruppen that followed German armies invading Poland and Russia to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians, and often (but not always) treated Czechs without mercy as their governor. Nearly 600 pages of cutthroat Nazi political maneuvering added to genuine throat-cutting in Germany and throughout Europe would be excessive in less-skilled hands, but Dougherty, with the assistance of Heydrich’s wife and Lehmann-Haupt, has the right stuff. A masterful account of the quintessential Nazi. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Prior to her death in 2013, Dougherty had almost completed an unusual project, a biography of high-ranking Nazi officer Reinhard Heydrich (1904–42) as told through the eyes of his widow Lina (d. 1985). The finished product details the complex relationship between Reinhard Heydrich's personal story—along with some fascinating speculation on his personality—with the history of the Nazi state. Dougherty is adept at dissecting Lina Heydrich's attempts to exonerate her husband from the label of "the Hangman," and gets to the essence of what it was like to enjoy the privileges of living so close to the center of Nazi power. Dougherty periodically moves beyond the Heydriches' story to go into great detail on some events, such as Kristallnacht; here she risks losing her focus. She is, however, extremely dexterous in demonstrating Reinhard Heydrich's role in policy making and implementation in Nazi Germany. Dougherty also deconstructs the internal dynamics of the Nazi party, in which Heydrich excelled. Of particular interest in this biography is its discussion of the postwar experiences of Lina Heydrich and her children, and what they reveal about the families of high-ranking Nazi officials. VERDICT A dual biography that will have wide appeal for fans of World War II history. Recommended for all libraries.—Frederic Krome


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A gripping biography of an irrepressibly evil historical figure.Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942) was Heinrich Himmlers right-hand man, an architect of the Holocaust known as the Butcher of Prague. Czech and Slovak resisters killed him in May 1942, and while his personal writing contains few insights, his wife, who survived him by 40 years, spoke freely during numerous interviews with biographer Dougherty, who died in 2013. In the introduction, Lehmann-Haupt writes that his job as editor was to sharpen and highlight [Doughertys] all-but-tragic vision of Heydrichs descent into profound evil. The result is an engrossing biography that cuts away regularly to Heydrichs wife as she delivers her version of events and freely expresses her opinion of her husbands colleagues and superiors, including Hitler. Loyal to the end, she remained skeptical that he was a war criminal, preferring to see him as an earnest patriot in a dysfunctional system. As a child, Heydrich excelled at school and sports. He joined the navy in 1922 but was cashiered in 1931, apparently for dishonorable behavior. A fervent nationalist, he had joined the Nazi Party months earlier, and SS chief Himmler hired him to develop an intelligence service. At the time, the SS was a minor department that provided security for Hitler, but Heydrich proved a brilliant organizer, and by 1936, the SS controlled all of Germanys police. Heydrich quickly acquired his fearsome reputation as the consummate Nazi bureaucrat: ruthless and, unlike most, uncorrupt and efficient. He persecuted Jews, organized the Einsatzgruppen that followed German armies invading Poland and Russia to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians, and often (but not always) treated Czechs without mercy as their governor. Nearly 600 pages of cutthroat Nazi political maneuvering added to genuine throat-cutting in Germany and throughout Europe would be excessive in less-skilled hands, but Dougherty, with the assistance of Heydrichs wife and Lehmann-Haupt, has the right stuff.A masterful account of the quintessential Nazi. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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