When head of Nazi security police and governor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich, died 75 years ago, June 4, 1942, due to wounds inflicted by Czech parachutists during an assassination attempt, it marked one of the highlights in the history of Czech resistance and proved a great blow to the Nazi war effort. The death of the man nicknamed “The Butcher” signified that even the top-ranking German officials were not invincible.
Planned by British special operations and supported by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, the preparation for Heydrich’s assassination called Operation Anthropoid involved officers Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš as the major players. They were airlifted from Great Britain to Czechoslovakia along with seven other Czech soldiers in December of 1941. After scratching plans to kill Heydrich on a train and in his car in a forest, the plan was to attack him at a sharp turn in the Libeň district of Prague on his way from his home in Panenské Březany.
The assassination attempt
Gabčík and Kubiš were positioned at the tram stop near Bulovka Hospital where there was a bend in the road while their colleague Josef Valčík signaled with a mirror the arrival of Heydrich’s open-roofed Mercedes Benz. Gabčík jumped in front of the vehicle, but his sten gun jammed. Heydrich had his car stopped and tried to shoot Gabčík when Kubiš hurled a grenade. Although the bomb only hit the rear wheel of the car, Heydrich suffered a broken rib, ruptured diaphragm and splinters in his spleen, and Kubiš was injured as well. The explosion shattered the windows of a tram as shards of glass maimed passengers. Though severely injured, Heydrich tried to chase Gabčík but soon collapsed. The driver Klein raced after Kubiš, but his gun jammed, and the resistance fighter got away. Following Heydrich’s orders, Klein then set after Gabčík, who hid in a butcher’s shop. The owner, a Nazi sympathizer, revealed his hideout to Klein, who collided with Gabčík in the shop. The assassin injured the driver in the leg and scurried away to safety. The 38-year old Heydrich was taken to nearby Bulovka hospital where he died June 4 at 4:30 am.
A group of the paratroopers numbering beside Jan Kubiš and Josef Gabčík another 5 members needed to find a suitable hiding place for the attack. It was provided to them in collaboration with the home non-communist resistance movement by Jan Sonnevend and the Orthodox priest ThDr. Vladimír Petřek in the crypt underneath the Church of Sts. Cyrillus and Method in Reslova street. Despite extensive German search for nearly one month the hiding place of the paratroopers remained undiscovered, it was not given away by the Czechoslovakian citizens.
On June 18th, 1942 the hiding place went detected. After a long, uneven fight the staff sergeant Jan Kubiš, lieutenant Adolf Opálka, sergeant abs. Josef Bublík in the church and further staff sergeant Jozef Gabčík, staff sergeant Josef Valčík, staff sergeant Jaroslav Švarc, staff sergeant Jan Hrubý in the crypt, finished their lives by themselves or they fell in the fight. They had not surrendered to the enemies. The Orthodox bishop Gorazd, Reverend Petřek, Čikl and brother Sonnevend, another 9 executed Orthodox believers from the church and 265 collaborators of the resistance movement were executed for complicity and help to the paratroopers.