This is the third and final installment of Greg Walker’s series debunking the “savior myth” surrounding the brother of the brutal SS officer Reinhard Heydrich.
Reinhard Heydrich Assassinated
Second in the SS only to Heinrich Himmler and one of the senior architects of the Final Solution and Holocaust, Reinhard Heydrich became a Nazi martyr of the Third Reich on May 27, 1942, when assassins attacked him on his way to the airport. In September 1941, Heydrich had been appointed Acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia to ‘encourage’ productivity in Germany’s conquered Czech territories. Although Heydrich knew he was hated he was sure the fear he generated protected him. He habitually drove between Prague and his country home in his open-top Mercedes.
On May 27, Heydrich’s driver was slowing down to take a sharp bend on a Prague street when British trained commandos, 2 Czechs and a Slovak, attacked him.
They [attempted to shoot] the ‘Butcher of Prague’ as he was also known as and followed through with a [hand-thrown] bomb. Despite his injuries, Heydrich was able to stagger from his vehicle and fire shots at his assailants before collapsing in the street. He was taken to the local hospital and attended to by doctors who operated. On June 4, Heydrich died from blood poisoning attributed to fragments of his car and uniform which became lodged in his spleen during the explosion.
“Heydrich was the only senior Nazi to be successfully assassinated.
His death brought about violent repercussions as Hitler, and the Reich attempted to reassert their dominance. The Nazi’s retaliated by killing over 10,000 Czech citizens. They obliterated the mining town of Lidice, which was scapegoated for the attack and the deported 3000 Czech Jews to concentration camps. As for Heydrich, he became ‘The Martyr of Germany”. His body lay in state in Prague’s Hradcany Castle while on June 7, Prague citizens were made to take part in a pantomime of grief.
Honoring a fellow SS/SD officer — A brother’s love
“I remind myself to mention here publicly the thoughts of this man, who was feared, hated and denounced by sub-humans: such as Jews and miscellaneous criminals. Even many Germans did not understand him. In all measures and actions, he wore the deeds of a National Socialist and SS one. From the depths of his heart and blood he made the world-view of Adolf Hitler a reality. Heydrich solved all problems from a racial point of view. His ultimate goal was the maintenance, protection, and preservation of our blood. To carry out his difficult task, he had to build and lead an organization, which dealt with evil, criminal, anti-social elements in our society. There was little joy in this work. Heydrich’s view did what only the best of our people, the racially pure of exceptional character, were viable to battle the elements with negative social sufficient hardness.”
— Eulogy for Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler
Reinhard Heydrich’s body was brought back to Berlin and buried in the city’s Invalidenfriedhof, an historic military cemetery. This after an extravagant memorial service. The service was attended by the senior Nazi leadership and members of Heydrich’s family to include Heinz, who met with Adolph Hitler personally during the services. Heinrich Himmler and Herman Goering likewise consoled him. Heinz, in full Wehrmacht uniform and standing next to Goering and his brother’s two young sons, demonstrated his faithfulness to National Socialism and the SS by giving a picture perfect Nazi salute in honor of Reinhard.
In Berlin, as he was preparing for the memorial services and burial, an envoy from the Gestapo visited him. According to the myth inspired by Kurt Fischer and others of what put HHeydrich on his humanitarian mission of saving Jews it was his discovery of the true extent of Reinhard’s direct involvement in the Final Solution / Holocaust. “Among the personal effects that Heinz received before Reinhard’s state funeral were a bundle of his personal papers, which included details about the ‘Final Solution’ – the systematic extermination of the Jews.
“Heinz was horrified. He burned the papers and resolved to use the influence of the Heydrich name to secretly help as many Jews as possible escape from Germany. As a journalist and publisher of the soldiers’ newspaper, Die Panzerfaust, he had access to a commercial printing-press which he used to print forged travel-documents to give to Jewish families.”
We know today this account, widely repeated over the many years since the war’s end, was then and remained until today a grotesque manipulation of the facts. H. Heydrich had long been fully aware of the Final Solution and Holocaust plans being developed and put into motion by his brother.
He’d arrived in Berlin after several years of military service to include the 1938 annexation of the Sudetenland for which he was decorated.
“Beginning before the occupation, Jews in the area were targeted during the Holocaust in the Sudetenland. Only a few weeks afterwards, the Kristallnacht occurred. As elsewhere in Germany, many synagogues were set on fire and numerous leading Jews were sent to concentration camps. Jews and Czechs were not the only afflicted peoples; German socialists, communists and pacifists were widely persecuted as well. Some of the German socialists fled the Sudetenland via Prague and London to other countries. The Gleichschaltung would permanently alter the community in the Sudetenland.”
It is as likely as not there was a directive to Heinz from Reinhard that once he’d read the papers, they were to be destroyed. Millions of Germans had no idea of what their government was doing in terms of mass murder. If the papers were to fall into the wrong hands and become public… Heinz was likewise deeply affected at the death of his brother and how it had come about. Any interpretation of his mood and state of mind by his wife and immediate family had to take this into account. After the funeral services Heinz returned to the war, this time in Russia.
A cast of characters
One of those alleged rescued by Fischer / HHeydrich was Dolores Beatrice Lieselotte Lafaire. Ms. Lafaire is the only person named by Dr. Kurt Fischer as being a Jewess who was saved by the Fischer/Heydrich ratline out of Germany.
Born on May 20, 1918, in Germany, Dolores married a young German officer and Olympic medalist (Equestrian – 1928 Olympics), Richard Sahla. They had one child. Major Richard Sahla would serve in the invasion of Poland in 1939. He would be convicted by Wehrmacht court martial of murdering four Polish women while they were in jail, and seriously wounding a 5th The survivor was able to identify him. Despite Hitler’s direct appeal that the charges be dropped due to Sahla’s Olympic performance in Berlin and his “victims” being “sub-humans,” he was stripped of his rank and assigned to a penal battalion. There he became a machine gunner. Hitler’s intervention was, at the time, limited in its appeal within the Wehrmacht High Command. That would change after the successful campaigns in Poland and then France.
In response to my formal inquiry, Herr Wilhelm Wehren, at the Russian War Graves Association in Germany, shared the following regarding the disgraced Wehrmacht officer’s ultimate fate.
“Richard Sahla (Born 08.04.1900 in Bückeburg, Deceased 06.04.1942) – his grave is currently still in the following location: Chudovo – Russia. Richard was assigned to a Sonderabteilungen at time of his death in the OST [East]. He was demoted from the rank of Major to Sagittarius.”
Sagittarius was the only identifier of rank used in Nazi penal battalions for those soldiers so assigned. In penal battalion language a Sagittarius was less than nothing…cannon fodder…promised only that his military record would be cleansed upon his faithful service in the battalion. Most penal battalion soldiers, as was the case with Sahla, would never live to see such a correction made.
The young woman with a child to raise would later meet and marry German actor Karl John after the war. John made a number of films for the both the Nazi and later the American film industry. He was a favorite of Goebbels. In fact, it was Goebbels’ Reich Ministry of Propaganda which ruled the Whole of the German entertainment, news, and film industries with an iron hand as well as the military propaganda units and their products.
Kurt Fisher was born in Konstanz and received his doctorate from Heidelberg University in 1936 with a thesis on the organization of labor in the German civil service. He worked as a civilian journalist and during World War II served in the German army as a war reporter and propaganda officer. Using the name Dr. Joachim Fischer, he published and wrote for Die Panzerfaust, the unit’s propaganda magazine as would H. Heydrich.
According to an account by Fischer published after the war, from 1942 to 1944 he and Heydrich participated in an underground operation that helped Jews escape from Berlin to Sweden via Copenhagen. This by providing them with forged identification and travel documents. The documents, according to Fischer, were printed in the Panzer-Propaganda company’s print works. According to Fischer the print works came under investigation in 1944 and the rescue operation was aborted. Shortly thereafter, Heydrich committed suicide, again per Kurt Fischer. For his alleged role in the scheme, Fischer was sentenced to death. He was eventually given a six-year prison term when Heinrich Himmler was convinced by a university friend of Fischer’s — and a senior SS officer in good standing — to commute the sentence of the Nazi court.
Fischer is an interesting study. After studying sociology, history and economics at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin, followed by a doctorate, Dr. Kurt Joachim Fischer began working in 1934 as a columnist for Seifferts Korrespondenz (Berlin), for the Charlottenburger Zeitung (Berlin) and for the Mainz newspaper Anzeiger. When Hitler’s war began, he joined the Wehrmacht as a propaganda officer and took part in the Western Campaign (invasion of France) at Propaganda Company 501. In an assessment by the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (RMVP) his performance in this capacity states: “excellently gifted, very versatile, very confident and self-confident demeanor, great ambition”. In the spring of 1942 he took command of Panzer Propaganda Company 697 on the eastern front.
Fischer’s unit traveled and worked from a “special train”. From this mobile command various printed matter / items for propaganda were created to include newspapers, booklets, pieces of paper, pictures, and any product that could be used to look after the troops. Also produced under the direction of Goebbels to all of his PK companies was active propaganda for consumption of the German people and historical images, stories, and film footage of those “resettlement” and mass killing actions taken against Jews, the gypsy populations, Slavs, and Soviet prisoners of war. High-profile German personalities often visited the train for updates. One of these was General Heinz Guderian, the “Father of the Blitzkrieg,” whom HHeydrich briefed personally.
The order to film the mass executions came from Reinhard Heydrich while alive and Goebbels. The film crews / camera men became so sickened that they had to be changed often. Many refused to return to the pits to film. Still, because of them we have the visual record of such executions for all time.
The train was agile and moved over the rail networks that fell under Nazi military control on the eastern front. This was not easy because of the different rail / rail systems in Europe and Russia. The train was not always the main reporting point for PzPK 697. Fischer widely deployed his soldiers, photographers, painters, radio crews to accomplish their missions. In one such image, taken in 1942, Feldwebel HHeydrich (with camera) is seen chatting with Panzer troops (black uniforms) during a band concert.
“The production of leaflets and other printed media for the Eastern Front was quite complicated and powerful printers were not available. All promotional materials had to be transported to the front with immense effort. Thus, it was often not possible to respond effectively to the changes at the front. To remedy the situation, the army set up three Druckereizüge (printing trains, so-called PK-Frontdruckereizüge.”
The trains proved immensely successful.
According to Herr Marvin Knoche, who specifically studies PzPK 697’s history with a focus on its travels and routes on the Eastern Front until the end of the war, the train was a self-contained publishing firm. “There was a printing car with a paper store and a photo laboratory.” This enabled PzPK 697 to achieve higher print runs in the field newspapers as well as in its other printed products. Which of course reflected positively on the unity and position of individual soldiers.” Kurt Fischer, seen in this image taken on the train (left), was provided by the Ministry of Propaganda and Wehrmacht with a significant budget as well as stores, supplies, and other related materials to accomplish his unit’s mission.
Knoche compiled a unit roster which reflects HHeydrich’s assignment as a war correspondent / photographer with PzPK 697.
Panzer-Propagandakompanie 697, Aufstellung Potsdam Mai 1941 für Panzergruppe III
Chef der Kompanie, Dr. Kurt Joachim Fischer, Herausgeber (editor Die Panzerfaust)
Vorpahl Juni 1941 Sept 1944, Moosdorf Juni 1941 Jan – Feb 1944, Böhmer Juni – Juli 1941 Jan – Feb 1944, Bergmann, Johannes Okt – Nov 1942 April – Mai 1944, Bieling Juni – Juli 1941 Juni – Juli 1941, Friedrich August 1941 August 1941, Utecht / Ütrecht / Uetrecht Oktober 1941 Oktober 1941, Emskötter 1942 1943, Amthor Juni 1942 Juni 1942, Heydrich, Heinz Juni – Juli 1942 Nov 1944, Lassberg Oktober 1942 Oktober 1942, Wehmeyer Okt – Nov 1942 April – Mai 1944, Dreyer August 1943 Sept 1943, Jacob Jan 1944 Juni 1944, Petraschk August 1944 August 1944.
A daughter’s hope turns to horror and then silence
“I have researched the alleged rescue story of Mr Heydrich and Mr Fischer for years and have not found a single clue that it is true. And if I had found even a single trace in Sweden that the rescue story from Berlin was true, then I would have more hope.”
– Herr Axel Huber, Journalist, to Mr. Greg Walker, March 9, 2020
“I had contact with the daughter of Heinz Heydrich for several years. Isa Heydrich desperately clung to the fact that her father was a hero. I can understand that too. Everything she told me could not be verified or always remained so unclear that it could not be verified. Example: As a young woman she had bought a dress in a shop and she had received a decent discount because her father had saved the Jewish owners. She could not remember any name or street. Isa Heydrich’s brother wrote in his book, “I was the Crown Prince of Heydrich” that his father had already saved the Jewish photographer Dore Barleben before the war. I looked at Dore Barleben’s Reichskulturkammer file in Berlin and researched her life in great detail. She was not Jewish, she was able to pursue her work as a photographer undisturbed until the end of the war — among others for the Reich Ministry of Propaganda.
“There is a suspicion on my part: Heinz Heydrich may have helped an acquaintance of Karl John. I don’t want to rule this out, and Mr. John was obviously really [close] with the Heydrich family after the war. Herr John played the leading role in the post-war film Liebe 47, which Kurt Joachim Fischer wrote the screenplay for. Incidentally, Wolfgang Liebeneiner was the director of the film, who had contact with both Kurt Fischer and Karl John during the Second World War. Probably Karl John talked about saving a woman while working on the film and Mr. Fischer created a completely different story from this in his two letters.”
“Karl John was a very successful actor until he made inappropriate remarks about Herr Goebbels. Yes, Mr Goebbels was furious about it and wanted to send Mr John to the front so that he could prove himself. You can read all this in the Federal Archive Berlin: Reichsministerium’s holdings for popular enlightenment and propaganda (R 55/ 10372 [Uk position of Karl John, 1943]). What happened then is in the files and can be read in the book series of Curt Riess “Das gab’s nur einmal”. Karl John feigned a serious illness and took sick leave several times until the end of the war. Mr. Goebbels was very angry about this.
(Note: Karl John’s career included 50 films. His most notable were The Devil’s General, Der Verlorene, Sorcerer, Love ’47, and the American blockbuster The Longest Day.)
“During the Second World War Karl John was not married. And Dolores Lafaire was neither Jewish nor had she fled [been helped by Fischer / HHeydrich] to Sweden. I checked that with the Swedish National Archives. This same information was written to me by the son of Dolores Lafaire [and Richard Sahla] Peter Sahla.
“Karl John always lived and [he] died in Germany. Karl John, as Heinz Heydrich’s son [Peter] described it, [met] the family after the war and thanked them for the rescue of a Jewess by Heinz Heydrich. Probably Karl John talked about saving a woman while working on Liebe 47 and Mr. Fischer created a completely different story from this. Mr. John was very vivacious. In various books actresses remember his more or less successful flirtation attempts. Fact is: Mr. John was not married during the war. His ex-wife Erna John-Hansen lived in Berlin at times. I have spent a lot of time tracing her life: Ms John-Hansen was not Jewish, she spent the war in Germany and she fled with her mother from the Gdansk area to West Germany in 1945. As a precaution, I checked with the Swedish Reich Archives: until 1939 Ms. John-Hansen regularly traveled to Sweden as a model, but not after that. The second wife, Mrs. Lafaire, and also her sister had never been to Sweden, the Reich Archives told me. A total of 8000 Jews fled to Sweden during the Second World War, and there are files on them.
“In the Memorial Book of the Federal Archives you find all information about the murdered Jewish persons from Germany. There is not a single victim with the name Lafaire (https://www.bundesarchiv.de/gedenkbuch/directory.html.en?result).
“I asked the National Archives in Stockholm years ago whether Dolores Lafaire had ever been to Sweden. Answer: No. The son of Mrs. Lafaire and later stepson of Karl John could not confirm anything either.”
Dr. Kurt Fischer’s Letter to the Editor – March 16, 1950 – Spinning the lie
“In No. 6/1950, your report about Heinz Heydrich, Reinhard’s brother, wrote that he committed suicide in 1944 when he was hopelessly involved in a “corruption scandal”. From 1942 to 1944 I was the immediate superior of Heinz Heydrich in PzPK 697, whose company chief I was until I was arrested on November 21, 1944. Heinz Hexdrich shot himself on November 17th in Riesenburg, West Prussia, when he was Lorenz should be arrested.
“Corruption” – if we leave it at that word – was not what drove Heinz Heydrich to his death. When I read in the series that Heydrich was of a quarter of Jewish descent. Did the reasons for Heydrich’s death become clear to me?
“Heydrich came to my company as a sergeant and image guide. I proposed him to lieutenant. The verdict against me dated December 20, 1944 states that I had only brought Heydrich into the company in order to have backing against the SS. It was exactly the opposite: Heydrich did not want to join the Waffen SS as early as 1939, when I met him, because he did not want to be protected for the sake of his brother. Heydrich tried to come to me for two years until he was released from the Prop, -Min. Heydrich was the editor of the “Munich Illustrated Press” in Berlin, and also an employee of Ministerialrat Kurzbein, who had the picture press under his belt.
“It was Heinz Heydrich who gave me detailed descriptions of the extermination of Jews for the first time. He made no secret of his aversion to Himmler: Himmler was probably the guardian of Reinhard Heydrich’s children.
“Heinz often had to go to the SS field quarters. He had a shop steward there, a Strumbannführer Grothmann or something like that, who wrote him confidential letters, often containing detailed descriptions of Himmler. In winter 42/43 I sent Heydrich to Berlin, where he set up a kind of supply base. In March 1942, he asked me for a number of uniforms and asked for news golfer costumes. He asked for blank powers of attorney from me in pay books, on business travel certificates, vacation tickets, marching orders. Then I had to sign several applications to the OKW Department of Administration, in which he applied for the defense of Reichskreditscheine in Danish kroner. When I asked him what he was doing, he replied that he would tell me later.
“In November 1943, he told me: With a small group of confidants, he managed to get Berlin Jews, who didn’t look too Jewish, in Wehrmacht uniforms and news helper costumes to the existing propaganda association in Copenhagen. When they arrived, [they] reported to a Dane who was allegedly a member of the Danish SS volunteer brigade, later probably the SS Nord Division. They [the alleged escapees] were provided with papers by Heinz Heydrich.
“At the beginning of January, a group of four news assistants was stopped in Kiel and sent back to Berlin with papers that did not comply with the regulations. The patrolman, a captain, must have been an idiot. We received the complaint, Heydrich sent it to me and I burned it…Already in winter 43/44, when the Russian front advanced more and more west, Heinz Heydrich showed an ever increasing depression. In May 1944 he wrote a letter asking me to support his request for a name change. Chief Justice Dr. Lorenz was charging Heydrich with incorrect management. It was assessed by two staff from Gdansk. Their correctness was clearly established: when Heydrich was dead. During my detention, I was never asked questions about the Heydrich Jews’ transports. Proof that nobody knew anything: because all papers were signed by me.” – Dr. Kurt J. Fischer
Note: Werner Grothmann (left) was captured along with Himmler. He was taken to a barracks at Lübeck, where he was extensively questioned. He denied any knowledge of Operation Reinhard. Then he was taken to an SS prison camp. Grothmann served as a prosecution witness against several SS officials between 1946 and 1948, but during the trial of Karl Wolff he denied having any knowledge of the Final Solution. After release from Allied internment, Grothmann was denazified, considered part of category III (Lesser Offenders), by a court in Freising in March 1949. Grothmann remade his life as a businessman and granted a few interviews in the 1970s in which he disparaged Himmler’s character. He also gave a eulogy at the funeral of Richard Schulze-Kossens. Grothmann died in 2002. As Himmler was the godfather of Reinhard Heydrich’s children it is more than likely HHeydrich had met and knew Grothmann. However, there is no evidence of any form of conspiracy between Grothmann and H. Heydrich. Grothmann’s claims to have known nothing about Operation Reinhard – the official beginning of the mass killings of Jews and all other “enemies of the state” after R. Heydrich’s assassination, or of the Final Solution itself, was and remains absurd.
Kurt Fischer’s fall from grace
Dr. Kurt Joachim Fischer came to the attention of the American army in 1945 because of his work as a war correspondent and as a commander of a propaganda unit on the Eastern Front. He was interned several times and finally indicted by the American Army in August 1948 for war crimes. He was to be placed in the group of the significant Nazi defendants. During the three years of investigations against him, Fischer never once mentioned his claimed action to save Jews by either HHeydrich or himself during the war. He had many character witnesses write positive accounts about him, but the Jewish rescue story is not mentioned in any of these – not even by his colleagues.
In December 1944, Fischer was under investigation for embezzlement and disruption of military service. The latter charge under Nazi law was a form of sedition. In December 1944 he was sentenced to death. Only the direct intervention of a close friend from his university days during an audience with Heinrich Himmler saw the death sentence changed to six years in a military prison. The other three arrested were also PzPK 697 soldiers. They are mentioned by name in the court judgment of December 20, 1944.
Herr Huber spoke with Herr Peter Kustermann, the former deputy chief of Propaganda Company 697 in 2010. Kustermann took command of PzPK 697 upon Fischer being arrested. The two men worked together again for a time after the end of the Second World War. Mr. Fischer never said a word about the alleged rescue of the Jews. Mr Kustermann was visibly surprised when Herr Huber asked him about the alleged Jewish rescue operation. Kustermann passed away several years after their interview.
But why would Fischer be motivated to create just a story? PzPK 697 historian Marvin Knoche offers his professional opinion.
“He may have just wanted to present himself better after the war?”
According to Herr Knoche,
“Between May 1945 and 1950 everyone in Germany was reorienting, surviving and shaking off the past. I mean, people left war, destruction and bad deeds behind. In addition, many soldiers with leadership duties during the war were interested in not being depicted as Nazis. Especially since the Allies were specifically chasing them. Everyone claimed that he had only carried out orders.
“Of course, it was very well received if [men such as Fischer] told the Allies they illegally helped Jews and that they were never a Nazi themselves. On the contrary, you may even have been a Christian and have shown charity. Saving people from certain death would enormously increase your chances of survival as well as in your professional career in the post war period. After 1945, nobody wanted to see a Nazi in managerial roles in companies or factories being rebuilt in Germany. Better to be just normal soldiers who carried out orders and, perhaps, saved Jews, too.
“I think human adaptability and the struggle to survive are very strong for each of us. One portrays it modestly and the other in a much stricter, possibly unscrupulous manner. Was Kurt Fischer one of those over-the-top actors? I can not tell you. But I would not be surprised if he just invented everything to be able to do better and at the expense of a dead comrade [Heinz Heydrich].”
Did Dr. Fischer order the filming of mass executions? It is likely Fischer, as the commander of a propaganda company, followed the orders sent down from Berlin to send correspondents, photographers, and film crews to such executions. Particularly where the SS and SD were present / participating. Fischer was above all else a “good soldier”, as a snapshot of his military service reveals.
1939/12/01 – Lieutenant 2nd class as a member of PK 612
1940 – Assigned to the “Westfeldzug” with the PK 501
1942/02/01 – Promoted to Oberleutnat (Lt 1st class) as a member of PK 501
1942/03/28 – Commander of PzPK 697 on the Eastern Front until his arrest
The men of the PzPK 697 were specialists who had to fulfill a specific assignment in a very dramatic and exhausting period of time. They could not escape the war but they could certainly extend their own life through the employment with the PzPK as reporters and film makers. This in contrast to the simple soldiers in the trench or in a tank. The sophistication of Nazi atrocity propaganda before and during WW2 remains available because of them.
“The SS actively filmed what they did to civilians, especially what they did to the Jews.”
The Babi Yar Nightmare
It is said actor Karl John came to the Heydrich family after the war and thanked them for Fischer / HHeydrich saving Jews. Yet neither he nor any of his many female acquaintances have ever spoken about this story in an interview. Fischer was in contact with director Wolfgang Liebeneiner during and after the war, who in turn was also in good contact with Karl John. Liebeneiner had big problems with the denazification process after the war: Yet he never mentioned such a story. Just as Fischer never mentioned such a story in his own denazification process. Fischer, on the other hand, was not too sorry to register as a victim of National Socialism and to tell a story [read: lie] according to which he led thousands of concentration camp prisoners near Torgau to freedom.
Herr Huber, in his research, had written to the Association of Holocaust Survivors in Sweden. They had never heard of such a rescue operation described by Fischer. Neither has Yad Vashem (https://www.yadvashem.org/). A few years ago, there was an exhibition about Jewish flight stories to Sweden, which was made at great expense. The exhibition organizers never heard of the Fischer/HHeydrich “ratline”. The German Resistance Memorial Center in Berlin has never heard of it. There is good reason why.
It never occurred.
As SS Hauptmann Grothmann, aide and close confidant to Heinrich Himmler from 1940-1945 was successful in doing, Dr. Kurt Fischer fabricated a narrative in his favor which the Allies swallowed hook, line, and sinker.
Kurt Fischer was quick to file an application as a victim of National Socialism immediately after the end of the Second World War. In it he claimed he was as much a victim of the Nazis as were the Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Soviet prisoners of war, and all those others murdered under the guise of National Socialism. His doing so testifies to a certain unscrupulousness the man possessed and used in his favor throughout his life.
Suicide or Murder Most Foul?
Heinz Heydrich was working as a journalist in Berlin and when he was called up for uniformed service in the Wehrmacht. He trained in the Propaganda Replacement Department (Propaganda-Ersatz-Abteilung -> PEA) in Postdam, Germany. HHeydrich arrived at PzPK 697 as an non-commissioned officer/sergeant in 1942. Dr. Kurt Fischer, its commander, was happy to accept him for two reasons. First, having the younger brother of Reinhard Heydrich under his command offered numerous benefits and opportunities for Fischer to explore. Because of HHeydrich’s professional credentials as a Nazi journalist in Berlin under the umbrella of Joseph Goebbels he likewise fit right in as a war correspondent / photographer.
After the transfer Fischer, in his own words, promoted Heydrich to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Heydrich became an image guide (Bildfachführer). He was responsible for the dramatic design of captions for the pictures taken and also for the development of the pictures in the photo laboratory aboard the train. In the printing train.
That Heinz Heydrich had a special status as the brother of Reinhard Heydrich was known everywhere. His daughter told Herr Axel Huber that her father had all holidays off and could come home and celebrate with his family. After his death, the widow received a letter of condolence from Heinrich Himmler that sounded sincere. At the same time Huber became disappointed with Isa. He had exposed and proven many unknown things from her father’s life but she was reluctant to hear, much less accept, his findings.
According to Herr Huber at the beginning of November 1944, Chief Staff Judge Dr. Hans Helmut Lorenz, who had special authorization from the SS Reich Security Main Office, took over an investigation of Dr. Fischer. In 1947, Alfred Kohl, a member of the unit, wrote about this
“The investigation, which was conducted by Dr. Lorenz, included a large number of interrogations in which the entire company was questioned and in which the investigating judge examined Dr. Fischer’s human, political and soldierly attitude. During these days of interrogation I got the impression that Dr. Lorenz was not factual and objective and that he used his higher rank to intimidate soldiers subordinate to him. I also had to assume that he had information from a source unknown to me that enabled him to use all the details of the company as arguments, in many cases details that were so internal that they could only have come from a very familiar person, details above all that an outsider could not possibly know (emphasis added). Between Dr. Lorenz and me [Kohl] there were repeated violent clashes, because I was not willing to put up with his ranting and shouting, as well as his lack of objectivity. In addition, there was the fact that Dr. Lorenz was only trying to collect all the negative things about Dr. Fischer and had no intention of taking note of even the slightest thing that could have been considered positive.”
Was H. Heydrich the original source of the information provided to the SS Reich Security Main Office, an office his brother had overseen during his life and Heinz continued to serve as both an SS Mann and SD agent? If so, is it possible or indeed probable that Fischer or one of the others indicted by Dr. Lorenz discovered this and killed Heydrich aboard the PzPK 697 train? This in order to eliminate the only eye-witness to whatever misdeeds they’d been involved in?
“I never had the feeling that someone else shot Heinz,” offers Huber. “However, that the theft of a single camera should lead to such investigations also seems a bit banal to me. There was a suicide note that his daughter [Isa] had, but she never even showed it to me.”
And what of the story told by Fisher of his and Heydrich rescuing Jews?
Again, from Axel Huber. “In 2010, I met the deputy chief of PK697, who was 94 years old at the time [Peter Kustermann]. He had never heard of the Jewish rescue story, although he had also worked with Fischer after World War II. He described Heinz Heydrich as a very nice and sincere person, in contrast to Fischer, who tended to exaggerate. I also had contact with Fischer’s stepson, who had also never heard anything about it. When Fischer died, his stepson was unfortunately not there when his father’s apartment was cleared out, so that he did not have any things from that time that may have been useful.”
Heinz Heydrich was not arrested. He was shot, or shot himself before being questioned again by Dr. Lorenz.
The other defendants in the trial that followed in Berlin after Fischer was formally arrested were named. They were:
Lt. d.R. Walter Fournell, Pz.Prop.Kp.697, born on 5.4.1906 in Rheydt/Rhld
Lt. (ret.) Herbert Steinert, War Reporter Platoon, Army Group North, born Oct. 5, 1907, in Constance
Captain (ret.) Josef Werkgarner, 1st/Lds.Schtz.Ausb.Btl.I/17, Hungarian-Hradisch/Moravia, born 9.10.1897 in Vienna
Oberstabsrichter (Chief Magistrate) Lorenz was the representative of the indictment at the Berlin court proceedings. After the war he continued to practice law in Germany.
The three subordinates were all sentenced to harmless punishments, e.g. a few weeks of confinement. However, Kurt Fisher was sentenced to death by the court. Fischer’s stepson, who was ten years old at the time, recalled that he and his mother had heard on the radio in early 1945 that Fischer had been executed at the prison in Torgau on the orders of Roland Freisler‘s People’s Court. Several months later, the boy was playing outside in Bad Kissingen when a man appeared on a bicycle. It was Fischer. According to Fischer he had been sentenced to death, but the radio broadcast had been a hoax. According to the obituary of Fischer by Eckhard Becker in the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, a Gauleiter and former Nazi student leader at Heidelberg university convinced Himmler to commute his friend’s death sentence to imprisonment. Fischer was eventually freed by the American and Soviet troops who had entered the town on 25 April 1945.
Kurt Fischer, the self-proclaimed victim of National Socialism, went on to become a successful writer/author after the war and a film maker. The court trial made no mention of any alleged clandestine Jewish rescue operation involving either himself or HHeydrich. And as Fisher himself stated in his March 1950 letter to Der Spiegel:
“During my detention, I was never asked questions about the Heydrich Jews’ transports.” At the same time the former commander of PzPK 697 was specific in his condemnation when he wrote “Chief Justice Dr. Lorenz was charging Heydrich with incorrect management [embezzlement / theft]. It was assessed by two staff from Gdansk. Their correctness was clearly established: when Heydrich was dead.”
And dead men tell no tales.
Axel Huber’s exhaustive investigation on behalf of Isa Heydrich noted the following:
“I am not aware that in October/November 1944 a larger network of Jewish rescuers was [ever] uncovered in Berlin. From whose circle someone would have mentioned the name Heydrich [under Gestapo interrogation]. I have read a great many books on this and have written to numerous offices in Berlin. This could be the only approach that could have led to investigations against Heydrich. But the investigations were primarily against Fischer [for theft / embezzlement]. In its entirety, the picture [painted by Kurt Fischer after the war] is not satisfactory.”
The Fischer family returned to Heidelberg where Fischer wrote for many magazines and newspapers, and films. He wrote screenplays which included those for Liebe 47, Wer fuhr den grauen Ford?, and Bernhard Wicki‘s debut film Warum sind sie gegen uns? [de]. In 1952, he became the founding director of the Mannheim Cultural and Documentary Film Week, which later became the International Film festival Mannheim-Heidelberg. Later in his career he made television documentaries on the theatre directors Fritz Kortner and Erwin Piscator and served as a consultant on film funding to the German Interior Ministry.
Kurt J. Fischer passed away peacefully in Stuttgart at the age of 67. It is worth noting his Chinese zodiac sign is the Pig.
Hauptsturmfuhrer Heinz Heydrich — A Grave Lost to Time
The PzPK 697 special train was in Prabuty/Reisenberg, Poland at the time of the arrests (November 18, 1944). It was also here where HHeydrich died under mysterious circumstances.
By rail, Prabuty is a five and a half hour train trip to Lodz, Poland. It is a two and a half hour train trip from Prabuty to Warsaw. It is a one hour and nineteen minute trip from Prabuty to Chelmno. To Treblinka it took only four hours…to Sobibor it is only 198 kilometers by road. Both Lodz and Warsaw were the sites of Nazi created ghettos where thousands upon thousands of Jews were rounded up and forced to live and work under the worst of conditions. Chelmno, Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor became killing centers to which Jews were transported to from both ghettos under Operation Reinhard.
“Operation Reinhard” was ultimately responsible for the murder of approximately 1.7 million Jews, most of them Polish Jews. The overwhelming majority of victims in the Operation Reinhard killing centers — Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka — were Jews deported from ghettos in Poland. Once the killing centers were operational, German SS and police forces liquidated the ghettos and deported Jews by rail to those killing centers.
“Though initiated in the autumn of 1941, the operation was later named after SS General Reinhard Heydrich, who was chief of the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or RSHA) from September 1939 until his death in 1942. The RSHA was the Nazi agency responsible for coordinating the deportation of European Jews to killing centers in German-occupied Poland. Heydrich died in June 1942 from injuries sustained during an assassination attempt by Czech partisans.”
It is beyond impossible that SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Heinz Heydrich knew nothing about his brother’s direct, crucial, plans, policies, and actions to murder millions upon millions of human beings. Not only in Poland, but throughout Europe and beyond.
It is highly likely H. Heydrich was killed by a member of his unit to keep him from testifying in court regarding the charges against Dr. Kurt Fischer, his commanding officer and the other three Wehrmacht officers arrested.
A shared fate
I contacted Mr. Adam Białas (Pracownia Badań Historycznych i Archeologicznych POMOST) and requested his help in possibly locating the exact cemetery and grave location of HHeydrich.
“Heinz Heydrich was buried in 1944 according to his rank in the military cemetery of Riesenburg (today: Prabuty). I checked with the city administration of Prabuty, but unfortunately the location of the cemetery is no longer known there. In case of H. Heydrich they’ve got only an info that he’s buried in Prabuty – without specified location but with additional info, that he wasn’t exhumated yet. There’s a second option – that he’s been moved out, but without official permission or as an unknown soldier – and he may rest in an official war cemetery but as an Unknown. No info on which cemetery he was [originally] buried – or an official grave site, or temporary near-frontline small cemetery, or central or parish cemetery.”
Then from Mr. Krzysztof Bielawski (Centrum Informacji Historycznej, Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN), I received the following. “Yes, the situation may be difficult. After the war German cemeteries were treated in a bad way by local residents as well as the state. In the 60s many Protestant cemeteries were destroyed by the local authorities. It also concerned Jewish cemeteries.
“I know one such case only [where German war dead were buried in a Jewish cemetery]. Approximately 2500 German soldiers were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Wrocław (Breslau), in its unused section. However it took place between February and May 1945, when the town was surrounded by the Soviet Army. It was an exceptional situation. These bodies were exumed in 1999.
“Please remember the approach of the Nazis to Jewish cemeteries was negative. Prabuty had also a Protestant cemetery so it seems unlikely a German soldier could be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Maybe it took place in a case of so called “mischlings” [German soldiers who had “Jewish blood” but not to the degree to have been classified as Jews] but I have no knowledge about it.”
Note: It is also possible H. Heydrich’s grave has been opened and then looted by “black diggers” — a fate Lina Heydrich feared would occur if her husband’s remains were left buried in Berlin.
It is said the remains of SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard T. Heydrich were removed from the cemetery in Berlin shortly after the war’s end – at the express request of his widow, Lina Heydrich. They are said to have been quietly moved by loyal SS men to her family’s secure mausoleum in the old cemetery on Fehmarn Island in the Baltic Sea. Frau Heydrich was terrified the Russians, after occupying the area of Berlin in which his original burial took place, would exhume the body and desecrate it.
Lina Heydrich once said of Heinz’s alleged suicide that he, in her opinion, did not have the psychological armor to see “it” through to the end. Implying he was not as mentally strong as her Reinhard was regarding his wartime duties as a mass murderer. After the war she hosted SS men at her bed & breakfast and assisted them in any way possible. Her husband’s death mask displayed with reverance on one of its walls.
To date, there is no reliable record of SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Heinz Heydrich’s military burial site in Poland having yet been identified or his remains recovered.
“There comes a time for us not to just be survivors, but to be warriors. Yara, you have your life, and the chance to make the most of it. Don’t run or hide from that challenge or let your guilt keep you from living your life. This gift is such a beautiful opportunity. Embrace it. Seize every opportunity from here on out. Live.”
― Becca Vry, Musings: An Argyle Empire Anthology
Dedicated to all those victims of Reinhard and Heinz Heydrich. We must never forget and we must never allow Myth to overshadow Truth.
– Greg Walker, author
Greg Walker served in two wartime campaigns as a “Green Beret” from 1980 until his retirement in 2005. Likewise an honorably retired Oregon law enforcement officer, he is currently a researcher for Professor Terry Karl regarding the upcoming El Mozote war crimes trial in El Salvador.