The botulinum toxin legend of Reinhard Heydrich's death: The end of “Himmler's brain”

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Abstract

The high-ranking German Nazi Reinhard Heydrich (1904–1942) was one of the main organizers of the mass murder of Jews during the Second World War. He died on June 4, 1942, in Prague after having been wounded in Operation Anthropoid planned by the British intelligence services. Since the 1970s and 1980s, Heydrich's death has been frequently presented in British, American, and French literature as the consequence of a bacteriologic attack. Botulinum toxin would have been used in the grenades or ammunition. We discuss the botulinum toxin hypothesis using the now declassified British archives of Operation Anthropoid and of the chemical and bacteriologic warfare centers to assess this hypothesis.

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