History without a dramatist and actors to reenact it is not only a statue without life; such a set of frozen facts is Truth without a voice or means to make the worst nightmares within that Truth indelibly unforgettable.
Such were my thoughts upon watching the Netflix film, Killing Heydrich.
Of course, had I not been an actor all my life, I would, most likely, not be writing this tribute to the theatre, film and television’s dramatic achievements in historical drama.
However, I was not only an actor but a very privileged one to have been a part of the company and cast that created the television film, Holocaust. (Editor’s note: Holocaust won a historic number of awards including Emmy and Golden Globe honors.)
Much of those six weeks in Vienna filming that mini-series came back to me as I watched Killing Heydrich.
Having played the role of an SS Officer, Major Eric Dorf, one forever answerable to the increasingly two-legged disease that Reinhard Heydrich, as eventual head of the SS in Czechoslovakia, turned out to be, as profoundly disturbing as such a job is at times, I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to indelibly reveal the depth of Nazi Germany’s previously unimaginable Evil!
There can never be too many novels, plays, films or television shows about the horrors of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
I cannot imagine what the human race and life itself would be without either the divine blessings of literature, drama, the theatre, film and television.
No warning simply stated is ever as unforgettable as a fully embodied, well-produced and well-acted play, film or television drama that actually makes you experience the nightmare personally.
That horrifying part of history can then become a powerfully experienced and unforgettable corner of one’s own life.
The three central messages of Killing Heydrich are 1) Why Reinhard Heydrich had to be killed; and 2) The infinitely deep reservoir of courage it took for the two principal heroes, Ján Kubiš and Josef Gabcík, to accomplish that task and 3) The Tragic inevitability that both heroes had to commit suicide.
In their final haven and hiding place, a church, they and their few comrades fight bravely, killing dozens of Nazi soldiers, much to our satisfaction, but the only alternative to being captured and tortured would be suicide.
The nightmare of accepting that fact is most powerfully played by two very brilliant actors!
And performed courageously without one ounce of self-pity!!
Their death scene is, without a doubt, one of the most heart-rending events I’ve ever witnessed on a screen of any size or any kind.
These two, miraculously heroic men are the last human beings we want gone from this Earth!
Following their deaths, we instantly flash-back to the very day the two of them met, both on their way to this assignment!
It is a film you must see!
The killing of Reinhard Heydrich, one of History’s unquestionably most evil men, was the only planned assassination by the allies in all of World War II; and Czechoslovakia was not an official ally but a nation occupied by the Nazis.
Personally, I find that fact shocking on a record-breaking level.
The attempts on Hitler’s life were all begun in Germany and by Germans.
Those two, remarkable facts are now part of our memories, not because of History, but because of the dramatists, technicians, actors and producers who know for certain that some corners of History must be dramatized or we are in that much greater danger of repeating such History.
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies.