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20. century

Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich

Elimination of the German Reich Protector and a top man of the Nazi Third Reich
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Description

The assassination carried out by the paratroopers sent from Great Britain to the order of the exile government resulted in the death of Reinhard Heydrich, German Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia Protectorate, and in the better standing of the exile government in Britain. Unfortunately, the assassination was followed by cruel repressions of the civilian population.
In 1940, the Exile Czechoslovak Government in London was becoming subject to pressure from official places, primarily because of its insufficient activity in the domestic resistance movement and because of the existence of the protectorate government, which was transforming slowly and surely from passive to active collaboration. Therefore, Exile President Beneš was getting pressure from London pushing him to force Hácha to resign, as well as Protectorate Primer Minister Eliáš . After Heydrich's accession to power, Eliáš was arrested and sentenced to death for his cover activity in the resistance movement. That somewhat eased up the situation. The exile government made long-term preparations to send specially trained enemy agents, who would be capable of executing extensive diverse activities on the territory of the protectorate. Later on their activities expanded into terrorism and led to the assassinations of highly placed representatives of the Third Reich. In the end, in the autumn of 1941, it was decided to carry out an operation named Anthropoid, the objective of which was to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the German Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia Protectorate.
The original plan of the paratrooper was to assassinate Heydrich near his residence in the town of Panské Břežany, but strong security was in place which prevented the execution on the plan. Finally, Gabčík and Kubiš prepared a plan, using the crossroad at the former Kirchmayerova Street in Holešovice in the direction to Trója, where the Heydrich's car would have to slow down a lot.
On May 27, the men got ready, took their bicycles in the morning, and waited for the arrival of Heydrich, who was finishing his breakfast in his residence. At around 10:00 am, Heydrich left for the Prague Castle. On that sunny day, he rode in his convertible car with no security, only with his chauffeur. At around 10:30am Gabčík could see Heydrich in his car, stepped ahead , took off his coat and was ready to start shooting from his Sten submachine gun. However, either because his weapon jammed, or because of nearby civilians

standing at the tram stop, he did not start shooting. However, Heydrich's driver was so stunned that instead of quickly driving away, he stopped the car. He did so directly in front of the approaching Kubiš, who threw an anti-tank grenade onto the car but missed it. The grenade exploded next to the car and Heydrich was wounded. Kubiš alone was injured by grenade shrapnel but managed to run away. He was followed by the German driver, who returned to the car, where the injured Heydrich was in severe pain from his injuries. Kubiš and Gabčík thus escaped the scene and Heydrich was taken to Bulovka Hospital at around 11:00 am where an expert German physician was requested for his treatment. However, on June 3rd he went into coma and died on June 4th early in the morning.
What followed was a massive wave of repression, which culminated in the burning down of the villages of Lidice (June 10th 1942) and Ležáky (June 24th 1942). In those villages, all civilian male were executed, even though they had nothing to do with the assassination or those who carried it out. Under martial law, approximately 15,000 people were executed.
The assassins alone found refuge in the Orthodox church of St. Cyrillus & St. Methodius in Resslova Street. Help was provided by the church's Bishop Gorazd, who was later executed for this. Due to the betrayal of one of the other paratroopers named Karel Čurda, Gestapo found the hiding paratroopers. In the morning on June 18th 1942, 800 soldiers of the Gestapo arrived in front of the church, standing against 7 paratroopers. Kubiš and two other paratroopers were on the look out in the church and they tried to defend themselves against the Gestapo troopers. In the meantime, Gabčík and three other paratroopers were trying to dig into the sewer system and escape through it but were not successful. After a battle that lasted 7 hours, the overpowered Germans assaulted them with tear gas, water flooding and grenades, the paratroopers committed suicides with the bullets they still had left.
The significance of the Operation Anthropoid was tremendous. The Third Reich lost one of its most competent men, and the reputation of the Czechoslovak resistance movement was improved, as well as that of the Czechoslovak Exile Government in London. It´s only recently that the courage of the paratroopers was finally honored by a Monument to the Operation Anthropoid, which was unveiled on May 27, 2009 in Holešovičky, after 66 years.

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