Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich

Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich

Yale University Press: New Haven and London

Reinhard Heydrich is widely recognized as one of the great iconic villains of the twentieth century, an appalling figure even within the context of the Nazi leadership. Chief of the Nazi Criminal Police, the SS Security Service, and the Gestapo, ruthless overlord of Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia, and leading planner of the “Final Solution,” Heydrich played a central role in Hitler’s Germany. He shouldered a major share of responsibility for some of the worst Nazi atrocities, and up to his assassination in Prague in 1942, he was widely seen as one of the most dangerous men in Nazi Germany. Yet Heydrich has received remarkably modest attention in the extensive literature of the Third Reich.

The book weaves together little-known stories of Heydrich’s private life with his deeds as head of the Nazi Reich Security Main Office. Fully exploring Heydrich’s progression from a privileged middle-class youth to a rapacious mass murderer, it sheds new light on the complexity of Heydrich’s adult character, his motivations, the incremental steps that led to unimaginable atrocities, and the consequences of his murderous efforts toward re-creating the entire ethnic makeup of Europe.

Link to the publisher’s website

The book has been translated into German, Japanese, Romanian, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Polish, Spanish, Czech, Dutch and Chinese.


“This admirable biography makes plausible what actually happened and makes human what we might prefer to dismiss as monstrous.” — Timothy Snyder, Wall Street Journal

“Supremely enlightening.” — Jacob Heilbrunn, The New York Times

“Gerwarth’s approach is subtle, painstaking and psychologically acute; it convincingly demonstrates that the historian’s tool of ‘cold empathy’ best clarifies the enduring question of what brings forth monsters.” — Roy Foster, Times Literary Supplement (Books of the Year)

Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich by Robert Gerwarth is superb on the making of evil.” — Frank Dikotter, The Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)

“At the subsequent grand public funeral, Nazi leaders eulogized Heydrich as the perfect Nazi. This intelligent and readable biography shows how he had made himself into one, and Gerwarth explains persuasively what motivated Heydrich to do so.” — Richard J. Evans, Times Higher Education

“. . . two splendid biographies. There have been lives written before, but nothing to match the exceptional way that Peter Longerich and Robert Gerwarth . . . have gone about digging in the sources to root these two awful figures more firmly in the context that gave rise to some of the worst crimes of the modern age. It is unlikely that either of these biographies will be bettered.” — Richard Overy, The Sunday Telegraph (reviewed with ‘Peter Longerich’s Himmler biography‘)