Konrad Henlein

Konrad Henlein

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Konrad Ernst Eduard Henlein (May 6, 1898 – May 10, 1945) was a leading pro-Nazi
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 ethnic German
Ethnic German
Ethnic Germans historically also ), also collectively referred to as the German diaspora, refers to people who are of German ethnicity. Many are not born in Europe or in the modern-day state of Germany or hold German citizenship...

 politician in Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 and leader of Sudeten German separatists. After Nazi German annexation of Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

 he was named Gauleiter
Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...

, regional party leader, and held that position through the Second World War.

Early life


Henlein was born in Maffersdorf, Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, Austria-Hungarian Empire, now Vratislavice
Vratislavice
Vratislavice nad Nisou is a district of the city of Liberec, in the north of the Czech Republic. It has around 6,700 inhabitants and straddles the Nisa river between Liberec and Jablonec, around 3.5 km south-east of Liberec city centre.-History:...

, Liberec
Liberec
Liberec is a city in the Czech Republic. Located on the Lusatian Neisse and surrounded by the Jizera Mountains and Ještěd-Kozákov Ridge, it is the fifth-largest city in the Czech Republic....

, Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

. In light of his being a leader of the Sudeten German movement, Henlein's origin was not without problems. His mother, Hedvika Anna Augusta Dvořáček, was daughter of a German-speaking mother but her father was Czech. As Henlein pursued a policy against mixed marriages after 1938, he was forced to change his still-living mother's name from Dvořáček to the more German spelling of Dworatschek, which would be thus more comfortable for Henlein's career as a high Nazi official.

He attended a business school in Jablonec nad Nisou
Jablonec nad Nisou
Jablonec nad Nisou is a town in northern Bohemia, the second largest town of the Liberec Region. It is known as a mountain resort in the Jizera Mountains, an education centre, and a centre of world-production of glass and jewellery...

. After serving in the Austrian army in the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, during which he spent time in Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 captivity, and the subsequent breakup of Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

, he worked as a bank clerk in Czechoslovakia while taking an active part in Sudeten German communal life.

Leader of SdP



In the first half of the 1930s, Henlein held a pro-Czechoslovak and overtly anti-Nazi view in his public speeches and did not become a follower of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 until 1937, when the pro-German camp within the Sudeten German Party (SdP) represented by Karl Hermann Frank
Karl Hermann Frank
Karl Hermann Frank was a prominent Sudeten German Nazi official in Czechoslovakia prior to and during World War II and an SS-Obergruppenführer...

 emerged victorious. He then swiftly aligned himself with the slogan Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer! ("One People, One Country, One Leader!"), thus calling for the predominantly (typically more than 80%) German-speaking Sudetenland
Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

 to be a part of Germany.

Henlein's political party's dominance of the Sudetenland in the 1930s contributed to the Munich Agreement
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

 on September 30, 1938, which was due in part to his influence with the British delegate Lord Runciman
Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford
Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford PC was a prominent Liberal, later National Liberal politician in the United Kingdom from the 1900s until the 1930s.-Background:...

 during the latter's visit of Czechoslovakia. Henlein presented his party's policy as striving to fulfill the "justified claims" of the then largely nazified German minority in Czechoslovakia. Henlein, often under direct orders from Berlin, deliberately worked to help create a sense of crisis that was useful to Hitler's diplomatic and military efforts; as he once put it himself "We must make demands that cannot be satisfied".

In September 1938, he helped organize hundreds of terrorist attacks and two coup
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 attempts in the Sudetenland immediately after Hitler's frenetic and threatening speech in Nuremberg
Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

 at the Nazi Party's annual rally. Since the attempted uprising was quickly suppressed by Czechoslovak forces, Henlein fled to Germany and made numerous intrusions into Czechoslovak territory as a commander of Sudeten German guerilla bands of Freikorps
Sudetendeutsches Freikorps
Sudetendeutsches Freikorps was a paramilitary fifth-columnist organization formed of Czechoslovak ethnic Germans , with pro-Nazi sympathies. They operated in Czechoslovakia from 1938 to 1939...

.

After Germany's absorption of the Sudetenland, Henlein's party merged with Hitler's NSDAP on November 5, 1938. Henlein then became Gruppenführer
Gruppenführer
Gruppenführer was an early paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party, first created in 1925 as a senior rank of the SA.-SS rank:...

 (later Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in 1932 as a rank of the SA and until 1942 it was the highest SS rank inferior only to Reichsführer-SS...

) SS and a Reichstag
Reichstag (Weimar Republic)
The Reichstag was the parliament of Weimar Republic .German constitution commentators consider only the Reichstag and now the Bundestag the German parliament. Another organ deals with legislation too: in 1867-1918 the Bundesrat, in 1919–1933 the Reichsrat and from 1949 on the Bundesrat...

 deputy. In March and April 1939 he served as the head of civil service in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was the majority ethnic-Czech protectorate which Nazi Germany established in the central parts of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia in what is today the Czech Republic...

 but soon most of the power went to the hands of another Sudeten German politician, Karl Hermann Frank
Karl Hermann Frank
Karl Hermann Frank was a prominent Sudeten German Nazi official in Czechoslovakia prior to and during World War II and an SS-Obergruppenführer...

. On May 1, 1939 he was named Gauleiter
Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...

 of the Sudetenland, a position he held until the end of the war.

Newer research shows his position within the SdP was very difficult after 1935. Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

 and others made several attempts to remove him from power supposedly because he was not radical enough. In 1937 Heinz Rutha
Heinz Rutha
Heinz Rutha was a Sudeten German architect of furniture and politician for the Sudeten German Party...

, one of his closest allies was tipped off to the Czech authorities by German secret service and imprisoned for alleged homosexuality. After 1938 Henlein worked as a spy for the British and had conspirative contacts with Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German admiral, head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance.- Early life and World War I :...

.

In May 1945, while in American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 captivity in the barracks of Plzeň, he committed suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 by cutting his veins with his broken glasses. He was buried anonymously in the Pilsen Central Cemetery.

In fiction


In Harry Turtledove's
Harry Turtledove
Harry Norman Turtledove is an American novelist, who has produced works in several genres including alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction.- Life :...

 "Hitler's War
The War That Came Early
The War That Came Early is an alternate history series by Harry Turtledove, in which World War II begins in 1938 over Czechoslovakia. The number of volumes has not been set. The first volume, Hitler's War, was released in hardcover in 2009 without a series title. Subsequently, the paperback...

", Henlein is assassinated by a Czech named Jaroslav Stribny around September 28, 1938. Hitler, in the story, then starts World War II two days later on September 30, 1938 - much earlier than it does in our history time line.

Notable decorations

  • War Merit Cross
    War Merit Cross
    The War Merit Cross was a decoration of Nazi Germany during the Second World War, which could be awarded to civilians as well as military personnel...

     without swords Second (?) and First (?) Classes
  • SS Honour Ring
    SS-Ehrenring
    The SS-Ehrenring , unofficially called Totenkopfring , was an award of Heinrich Himmler's Schutzstaffel . It was not a state decoration, but rather a personal gift bestowed by Himmler...

     (?)
  • Golden Party Badge
    Golden Party Badge
    The Golden Party Badge was a special badge of the Nazi Party. The first 100,000 members who had joined and had uninterrupted service in the Party were given the right to wear it...

     (?)
  • Wound Badge
    Wound Badge
    Wound Badge was a German military award for wounded or frost-bitten soldiers of Imperial German Army in World War I, the Reichswehr between the wars, and the Wehrmacht, SS and the auxiliary service organizations during the Second World War. After March 1943, due to the increasing number of Allied...

     in Black (?)

External links