How many books have you already read about the Second World War? I never counted them, but I must have read at least dozens. Already at primary school, you soon start to learn the countless stories, primarily from a Dutch perspective.

Children’s books, novels, biographies and history books, the one even more upsetting and gripping than the other. Are there any recent books written about WWII that will surprise with stories and facts that were totally unknown to me? Yes, such a book certainly exists, HHhH by Laurent Binet.

I find this book special for two reasons and I would recommend everyone to read it. First, it tells the story about the attack on Reinhard Heydrich on the 27th of May 1942 in Prague. Who? I must confess that I had never heard of Heydrich before. Or I must conclude to my own surprise that I have been sleeping during history lessons.

Heydrich has been one of the top Nazi officials. The man who, behind the scenes, has been the mastermind behind The Night of the Long Knives (getting rid of Hitler’s opponents). He was also involved in the Kristallnacht and was initiator of the Wannsee Conference. During this conference, Heydrich directed the decision-making process regarding the fast and total destruction of all Jews. He convinced everyone, the rest is history. As a Nazi leader he eventually becomes the “Reichsprotektor” of Bohemia and Moravia to tackle the Czech resistance. He also goes by the nicknames “The Butcher of Prague” and “The Blond Beast”.

HHhH stands for Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich, (referring to the fact he was the evil brain of Himmler) but this book is not just about Heydrich. The attack on his life is central to the book including the two assassins, the soldiers and resistance fighters, Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík.

The second reason why I  believe this book is so special, is that the writer starts explaining how he collected  the facts concerning this attack and the run-up to it. It becomes a huge search for details, which are sometimes difficult to trace. Details about the preparation, the motivation, the location, the assassins and the period thereafter. For this book, Laurent Binet would like to stick to the facts only. Therefore he does not want to make use of interpretation. This seems impossible and that is where Binet discusses with its readers where he will deviate from the facts due to lack of evidence. That provides a distinct and nice narrative structure. The writer’s search for what exactly happened on the 27th of May 1942 is extremely fascinating, let alone the plot.

Order your copy of the book from Amazon. Click on the book below. If you prefer to order via The Bookdepository, click here.

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