A Ray Of Light: Reinhard Heydrich, Ledice, And The North Straffordshire Miners, by Russell Phillips
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
One of the unfortunate aspects about the horrors of the Third Reich is that its evils can scarcely be exaggerated . Whether it is the destruction of property, looting and murder on a mass scale, or acts of detailed and specific cruelty, there is little evil that could not be ascribed to Hitler’s wicked regime. This book is an unusual one, at least to date, in the author’s body of work, but it fits along with the author’s interest in obscure historical military incidents that involve special forces , and so it is not too far outside of the author’s normal area of expertise. At its heart is a story about the fragility of civilization in the face of the World War, the desire of tyrants to instill fear in conquered population, and the tendency of the Czechs in the face of oppression to bow uneasily rather than to rise up in continual revolt. It is also the story of uncommon generosity in difficult times that was downplayed due to Cold War politics.
This book is a short one, less than 100 pages, but it manages to fulfill its purposes nicely. The book begins with a short biographical sketch of one Reinhard Heydrich, who was (falsely) thought to be part-Jewish, a rumor which led him to have a great deal of trouble in Weimer Republic Germany and which may have helped encourage him to overcompensate by developing a particularly harsh anti-Semitic attitude in response. After a discussion of Heydrich’s early troubles, his marriage, and his rise in the SS to the point where he was named as the German ruler over the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia during World War II, the author then gives some attention to various resistance operations that sought to discomfit the Germans and show them to be vulnerable. A detailed discussion of the assassination of Heydrich and its bloody aftermath follows, including a discussion of how it was that the little village of Lidice managed to get caught up in the mess and how it was destroyed with all of the men killed and the women and children subjected to harsh reprisals as well. The generosity of some North Staffordshire miners led to the reconstruction of Lidice after World War II and to the knighthood of the leader of the efforts at rebuilding in the United Kingdom.
For the most part, this book shares the qualities of much of the work of the author as a whole. The author seeks to tell stories that have either been deliberately hidden that have facets that can be brought to light, or that are obscure but tellingly important, and this story has both elements to it. In addition to this, the book also has the quality of being told in a largely dispassionate and matter-of-fact attitude, which makes the deliberate courting of Heydrich in order not to show fear that made him vulnerable in an atmosphere of violence and oppression as well as the horrors suffered by the Czechs in response to the assassination all the more harrowing by their being told in such a direct and unadorned manner. If you are a reader with an interest in World War II and the aftermath of successful assassinations–hint, they usually don’t end well for the assassins–and have an interest in both British generosity and Czech struggles with tyranny, there is much to appreciate here. This may not be a book to enjoy, but it is certainly a book to appreciate and a story well worth becoming familiar with.
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