The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich,

19-03-2019


Operation Anthropoid was the code name for the assassination of Schutzstaffel (SS)-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office, RSHA), the combined security services of Nazi Germany, and acting Reichsprotektor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

Heydrich was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and an important figure in the rise of Adolf Hitler; he was given overall charge of the “Final Solution (Holocaust) to the Jewish question” in Europe. The Czechoslovaks undertook the operation to help confer legitimacy on Edvard Beneš‘s government-in-exile in London, as well as for retribution for Heydrich’s brutally efficient rule.

Jozef Gabčík  and Jan Kubiš, with seven other soldiers from Czechoslovakia’s army in exile in the United Kingdom in two other groups named Silver A and Silver B (who had different missions), were flown from RAF Tangmere by a Halifax of No. 138 Squadron RAF at 22:00 on 28 December 1941.They landed near Nehvizdy east of Prague, where now is standing this monument.. Originally, it had been planned to land near Pilsen, but the pilots had navigation problems.The soldiers then moved to Pilsen to contact their allies, and from there on to Prague, where the attack was planned.

The operation was carried out by these Czechoslovak army-in-exile soldiers in Prague, on 27 May 1942, after preparation by the British Special Operations Executive with the approval of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. Wounded in the attack as they they threw a hand grenade in his car, Heydrich staggered out of the car, apparently unaware of his shrapnel injuries, with his gun in his hand; Gabčík and Kubiš fired at Heydrich with their Colt M1903 pistols but shocked by the explosion, failed to hit him. Heydrich then chased Kubiš and tried to return fire. Kubiš jumped on his bicycle and pedaled away. Heydrich ran after him for half a block but became weak from shock and collapsed. Heydrich, still with pistol in hand, gripped his left flank, which was bleeding profusely. He ordered his driver  SS-Oberscharführer Johannes Klein to chase Gabčík on foot, saying “Get that bastard!”. Klein chased him into a butcher shop, where Gabčík shot him twice with a pistol, severely wounding him in the leg. Gabčík then escaped in a tram, reaching a local safe house. Gabčík and Kubiš did not know that Heydrich was wounded and thought the attack had failed. Heydrich died of his injuries on 4 June 1942, age 38. This was the only government-sponsored targeted assassination of a senior Nazi leader during the Second World War. His death led to a wave of reprisals by SS troops, including the destruction of villages and the mass killing of civilians in the village Lidice.

Hitler ordered an investigation and reprisals on the day of the assassination attempt, suggesting that Himmler send SS General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski to Prague. According to Karl Hermann Frank‘s postwar testimony, Hitler knew Zelewski to be even harsher than Heydrich. Hitler favoured killing 10,000 politically unreliable Czechs but after he consulted Himmler, the idea was dropped because Czech territory was an important industrial zone for the German military and indiscriminate killing could reduce the productivity of the region.

More than 13,000 people were arrested, including Jan Kubiš’ girlfriend Anna Malinová, who died in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. First Lieutenant Adolf Opálka’s aunt Marie Opálková was executed in the Mauthausen camp on 24 October 1942; his father Viktor Jarolím was also killed. According to one estimate, 5,000 people were murdered in the reprisals.

Intelligence falsely linked the assassins to the village of Lidice. A Gestapo report suggested Lidice was the hiding place of the assassins, since several Czech army officers exiled in England were known to have come from there. On 9 June 1942, the Germans committed the Lidice massacre; 199 men were killed, 195 women were deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp and 95 children taken prisoner. Of the children, 81 were later killed in gas vans at the Chełmno extermination camp, while eight were adopted by German families. The Czech village of Ležáky was also destroyed, because a radio transmitter belonging to the Silver A team was found there. The men and women of Ležáky were murdered, both villages were burned and the ruins of Lidice levelled.

Two large funeral ceremonies were held for Heydrich as one of the most important Nazi leaders:

first in Prague, where the way to Prague Castle was lined by thousands of SS men with torches and then in Berlin attended by all leading Nazi figures, including Hitler, who placed the German Order and Blood Order medals on the funeral pillow. The assassination of Heydrich was one of the most significant moments of the resistance in Czechoslovakia. The act led to the immediate dissolution of the Munich Agreement (called the “Munich dictate” or “Munich Treason” by the Czechs) signed by the United Kingdom, France and Italy. The UK and France agreed that, after the Nazis were defeated, the annexed territory (Sudetenland) would be restored to Czechoslovakia. The betrayer Karel Čurda was hanged for high treason in 1947, after attempting suicide

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