A Czech Tragedy

A walk back in history today...

During WWII, Czechoslovakia was under the control of the German army. Reinhard Heydrich, known as "the Butcher of Prague", was the commander of the Nazi army there. Many Czechs disappeared when Heydrich came to town because of his ruthlessness when dealing with the Czech people. He was also in charge of the "Final Solution" of the Jews in Europe.

At the time, the Czech government-in-exile, with the cooperation of the British intelligence, planned an assassination of Heydrich to impress on the Allies and Stalin that the Czechs were in the fight to get rid of the Nazis. This plot was named Operation Anthropoid.

In December, 1941, Jozef Gabcik (a Slovak) and Jan Kubis (a Czech), along with several other exiled Czech soldiers, were air-dropped into Czechoslovakia near Prague. They hid  among Czech patriotic families and anti-Nazi rebels for several months, planning the details of the assassination.

Monument set up at attack site 
On May 27, 1942, Gabcik and Kubis threw an anti-tank grenade at the car in which Heydrich was riding, damaging the vehicle. The grenade exploded behind Heydrich's seat, causing severe damage to his back, diaphragm, spleen and lung. Debris from the car seat embedded in his organs and later caused infection. He died from his wounds on June 4.

Hitler was swift at carrying out retributions on the Czechs for daring to assassinate one of his officers. He rounded up anyone who was at all associated with the attackers and murdered them. On June 9, he attacked the small village of Lidice, killing more than 500 innocent people, all because they found a letter they claimed was written by one of the parachutists to a girl in the village.

Meanwhile, seven of the plotters hid in the crypt of the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Prague, undetected for several weeks. The Germans  continued executing more innocent people during the desperate manhunt. Finally on June 17th, one of the parachutists Karel Curda, turned himself in to the Gestapo for one million Reichsmarks and gave them the names and location of the rest of parachutists. (The traitor saved himself while the Germans were in charge, but was hung after the defeat of Germany.)

Window with bullet holes around it
The next day, the Nazis laid siege to the church to exterminate the assassins. Three of the parachutists went up to the balcony to fight off the Germans. They were killed there. The remainder of the men remained in the crypt. The Nazis used machine guns, grenades, and tear gas, attempting to murder the hidden assassins.

The only access to the crypt was a small window high in the crypt wall. The Germans decided to kill the men by drowning them down there. They put fire hoses through the small window and filled the crypt with water. The hidden soldiers knew there was no escape and committed suicide instead of getting captured by their enemies.

Crypt in church

We visited the attack site and the church which hid the men for so long. Both locations have memorial plaques dedicated to Operation Anthropoid, along with information and picture boards telling the story.

Even though, this event caused the death of many innocent people, the Czechs today view this as a great patriotic event in their history. Kubis and Gabcik are thought of as heroes of the Czech Republic.


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