Review: The Assassination of Heydrich by Jan Wiener


☆☆➹⁀☆ 4.5 stars☆➹⁀☆☆



What it’s about:

“Jan Wiener’s fascinating, well-documented book tells of the heroic exploits of various Czech men and women, most of whom paid for their resistance with their lives. Above all it gives a detailed, documented account of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the most gruesome of the Nazi murderers, by Czech resisters parachuted from London but aided in their task by the Czech underground.” William L. Shirer, author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich If you only read one book about what it felt like to be present during the worst time in modern human history, a time when your life could be snuffed out for having the mere thought of opposition against the Nazi regime, this should be the book because it is told by survivors and by one of the greatest survivors of them all, Jan Wiener. 

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Guest Review from Joe:

Part deep history lesson of the Czech Republic during WWII and part historical narrative, the actual assassination of Heydrich is foretold in the title and perhaps secondary to the story. The book is voiced from both a German/Nazi perspective and a Czech/British/Resistance point of view. The author does a very thorough job of bringing the listener up to speed on the geography, politics and temperament of Europe in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s while weaving in Hitler’s implementation of the Final Solution. Be forewarned that multiple historically correct examples of Nazi soldiers zealously and fanatically carrying out their orders are described in detail. These depictions are necessary as they paint a desolate landscape for the Czech citizens, the Resistance and exiled Czech government.

Heydrich was a highly placed Nazi officer and reported directly to Hitler who referred to Heydrich in admiration as the “man with the iron heart”. Heydrich chaired the committee that formalized the Final Solution (the deportation and genocide of all Jews and other non-Arians in Europe), organized and implemented Kristallnacht and was officially charged with eliminating resistance to the Nazi party. Both Hitler and Heydrich saw the Czech Republic as an impediment to the Nazi goal of global domination, hence, Heydrich lobbied for and was granted the position of Reich Protector over Bohemia and Moravia (the part of Czech Republic incorporated in 1939. The Resistance was composed of Czech nationals, British and other Allied friendly forces. Upon Heydrich’s arrival what was a brutal and difficult occupation became a nightmare almost beyond description. So, In an act of both justice and desperation the Resistance decides to assassinate Heydrich. The Nazi retaliation is beyond anyone’s reckoning!

Many supporting characters are fleshed out in this story and the narrative moves at a reasonable pace. Wiener quotes his sources for much of the story and the listener doesn’t have to guess as to what is fact and what is dramatization. This audio book is brutally frank and historically necessary. Weiner wrote a great piece; the audio equivalent of a page turner. The narration by Mark Kamish was exceptional. There is so much thought and preparation that goes into vocal characterization and Kamish was hitting on all cylinders in this offering.

Guest Review from Zach:

The Assassination of Heydrich: Hitler’s Hangman and the Czech Resistance by Jan Wiener is a comprehensive telling of the sufferings of Czech people during Nazi occupation as well as the Czech resistances valliant efforts to thwart the Nazis.

Jan Wiener tells his own story of WWII as well as that of his countrymen. The chapters alternate between the author’s tale of escaping Czechoslovakia, his family’s tragedies and his experiences as a POW in Italy and that of the united effort to rid Czechoslovakia of one of Hitler’s worst. I found the story layout confusing, and I would have preferred a straight telling of the Czechoslovakian Resistance.

In general I love military stories. I really enjoyed the story of the RAF’s assassination plot and how the town came together to protect the men involved. I was less interested in the author’s personal war story, and the recap at the end was redundant. I did appreciate how the author’s story eventually intersects the story of Heydrich’s assassination.

Mark Kamish admirably narrated the book. His intonations, pronunciation, and character voices helped to keep straight the vast number of people in the book. He compels listeners to feel more of the horrific atrocities endured by the townfolk than the mere words on the page convey.

The Assassination of Heydrich: Hitler’s Hangman and the Czech Resistance is an interesting take on the bravery of the Resistance fighters and their supporters.

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