During World War II, Reinhard Heydrich and Wilhelm Canaris were two of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany. Heydrich was head of the Gestapo, and Canaris was head of the Abwehr, the military intelligence agency. They were both spymasters, but they had very different approaches to their work.
Heydrich was ruthless and efficient. He was known as the “Hangman” because of his role in the Holocaust, and he was feared by both his enemies and his allies. Canaris, on the other hand, was more of a traditional intelligence officer. He believed in gathering information through espionage and other means, rather than relying on brute force.
Despite their differences, Heydrich and Canaris both played important roles in the Third Reich. Heydrich was responsible for many of the most heinous crimes committed by the Nazis, including the extermination of the Jews. Canaris, on the other hand, was a member of the German resistance who was involved in several plots to overthrow Hitler.
Their rivalry came to a head in 1942, when Heydrich was assassinated and Canaris was implicated in the plot. Heydrich’s death was a significant blow to the Nazi regime, and it led to a crackdown on the resistance movement.
Reinhard Heydrich was born in 1904 in Halle, Germany. He was the son of a composer and an opera singer, and he grew up in a wealthy family. Heydrich was a brilliant student, and he was accepted into the German Navy as an officer candidate.
Heydrich’s career in the Navy was short-lived, however. He was discharged after being accused of having a sexual relationship with another officer. Heydrich then joined the Nazi Party and quickly rose through the ranks.
In 1933, Heydrich was appointed head of the Gestapo, the secret police force that was responsible for maintaining order in Nazi Germany. Heydrich used his position to carry out the Nazis’ brutal policies, including the persecution and extermination of the Jews.
Heydrich’s most infamous act was the Wannsee Conference, which took place in January 1942. The conference was a meeting of senior officials to discuss the “final solution” to the “Jewish question.” Heydrich chaired the meeting, and he was responsible for implementing the plan to exterminate the Jews.
Heydrich’s reign of terror came to an end on May 27, 1942, when he was assassinated by Czech resistance fighters. Heydrich was riding in an open car when he was attacked with grenades and small arms fire. He died of his injuries a few days later.
Wilhelm Canaris was born in 1887 in Aplerbeck, Germany. He joined the German Navy in 1905 and served during World War I. After the war, he remained in the Navy and rose through the ranks to become a rear admiral.
In 1935, Canaris was appointed head of the Abwehr, the military intelligence agency. Canaris believed that Germany needed a strong intelligence service in order to compete with other countries, and he worked tirelessly to build up the Abwehr.
At the same time, Canaris was involved in the German resistance movement. He believed that Hitler was leading Germany down a dangerous path, and he was determined to stop him. Canaris was involved in several plots to overthrow Hitler, including the failed July 20, 1944, assassination attempt.
Canaris’s involvement in the resistance was discovered in 1944, and he was arrested and imprisoned. He was executed in April 1945, just weeks before the end of the war.
Assassination and Betrayal
The assassination of Heydrich was a turning point in the war, and it was a major blow to the Nazi regime. Heydrich was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany, and his death was a significant loss.
The assassination was carried out by two Czech resistance fighters, Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš. They were trained in the UK by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and parachuted into Czechoslovakia to carry out the mission.
On May 27, 1942, Heydrich was traveling in an open car from his country house to his office in Prague. Gabčík and Kubiš ambushed the car and attacked Heydrich with grenades and small arms fire. Heydrich was seriously wounded and died a few days later from his injuries.
The aftermath of Heydrich’s death was swift and brutal. The Nazi regime launched a massive manhunt to find the assassins, and they rounded up thousands of people in the Czech Republic in retaliation. The villages of Lidice and Ležáky were completely destroyed, and their inhabitants were killed or sent to concentration camps.
The assassination also had a significant impact on the resistance movement. The Czech resistance had been relatively small and ineffective before Heydrich’s death, but the assassination galvanized the resistance and led to an increase in support.
Wilhelm Canaris was implicated in the assassination plot, but his role is still unclear. Some historians believe that he was involved in the planning of the assassination, while others believe that he only knew about it after the fact.
Regardless of his level of involvement, Canaris was arrested and imprisoned for his role in the resistance movement. He was executed in April 1945, just weeks before the end of the war.
The rivalry between Heydrich and Canaris was one of the most interesting and complex relationships in Nazi Germany. Heydrich was a brutal and ruthless spymaster who was responsible for some of the worst atrocities committed by the Nazis, while Canaris was a member of the resistance who was dedicated to overthrowing Hitler.
In the end, Heydrich was killed by the resistance, and Canaris was executed by the Nazis. Their stories serve as a reminder of the complexity and moral ambiguity of war and the human capacity for both good and evil.