On December 12, a worker at the Invalids’ Cemetery in Berlin came across a plot that had been dug up overnight.
This was no ordinary grave. It was the final resting place of Reinhard Heydrich, the high-ranking Nazi official who formed the Gestapo alongside Heinrich Himmler and helped plan the “Final Solution.”
Nothing appears to have been taken from the grave, Berlin police said, but they are investigating the disturbance.
Authorities believe that the culprit had knowledge of Heydrich’s resting place, the BBC reported. After the Allies defeated Germany in 1945, Nazi graves were left unmarked to prevent ideological followers from seeking them out and turning them into shrines. Heydrich’s grave was also unmarked.
Though he died in 1942 before World War II concluded, Heydrich played a central role in organizing the Nazi’s persecution of its political enemies and the regime’s genocide of European Jews to the extent that the Nazi’s plan to exterminate 2 million Jews in parts of German-occupied Poland bears his name.
Heydrich was born in 1904 and was drawn toward racist, nationalist ideologies in his youth, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He served as a naval officer but resigned in 1931 after he caused a scandal for leaving the daughter of a high-ranking officer to marry a different woman, who was a committed national socialist.
Soon after leaving the Navy, he was introduced to Himmler, who was chief of the SS and one of the most powerful men in Adolf Hitler’s regime. Heydrich ultimately became Himmler’s second-in-command.
According to historian Robert Gerwarth, author of “Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich,” his was a case of “a relatively late conversion to Nazism.”
“Most of the people who had comparable careers in the Third Reich were followers of Hitler from the early 1920s onwards,” Gerwarth told DW News.
But Heydrich rose through the ranks quickly, working with Himmler to unify the various political police into the Gestapo. He was later tasked with building a secretive Nazi intelligence service that targeted perceived enemies of the state, including political dissidents and clergy. He also served as the acting Reich Protector of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, a region that now includes the Czech Republic.
Heydrich helped plan the strategy of intimidation and expulsion of Jews, including Kristallnacht, a night of pogroms targeting Jewish communities that marked a turn toward a more violent Nazi strategy twoard the religious minority.
“By 1941 it’s become quite clear that Heydrich is the one driving anti-Jewish policies,” Gerwarth told DW News. “He controls not only the political police organizations but also is twice entrusted by Hermann Goering,” a high-ranking Nazi military figure, “as the kind of intermediary between him and Hitler to find and implement a Final Solution.”
As an SS general, Heydrich convened the Wannsee Conference in 1942, where he and other top Nazi officials mapped out the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question,” their strategy to carry out the mass murder of the continent’s Jews.
Heydrich was assassinated in Prague in 1942 by two Czech resistance fighters, Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis. The plan, known as Operation Anthropoid had the backing of the British and Czechoslovakia’s government in exile, the BBC reported. Heydrich was mortally wounded after one of the assassins rolled a grenade beneath his car when their submachine gun failed; he died in a hospital after contracting a deadly infection from his wounds on June 4. In retaliation, the Nazis razed the Czech town of Lidice, murdering its inhabitants or shipping them to concentration camps.
But even after his death, his plans endured; millions died as a result of the Nazi’s extermination apparatus before the end of the war.They perished in gas chambers, packed trains, on marches and mass executions, and in raided towns, their bodies thrown into furnaces or mass graves.
Heydrich was laid to rest at the Invalids’ Cemetery where it remained unmarked, and, until December 12, undisturbed.