by Shagnik Mukherjea
It was September 1941 and Reinhard Heydrich, titled “the man with the iron heart” by Adolf Hitler himself was sent in to take charge of Bohemia and Moravia, the Nazi- occupied provinces of Czechoslovakia. He was to replace Konstantin von Neurath who was seen as “too lenient” by Nazi Officials.
Their goal was to crush the Czechoslovakian Resistance and utilize the Czech Motor and Arms Production for their war efforts.
Heydrich was the perfect candidate for this job and was extremely qualified in the modus operandi of Nazi Germany. His ‘achievements’ encompassed a wide range of operations from organizing the Kristallnacht massacre and leading the infamous Gestapo to form the Sicherheitsdienst (SD); a counterintelligence agency.
In as little as six months, the dreams of Adolf Hitler came true. Martial law was declared and around 5000 citizens had been arrested and boarded onto trains to the concentration camps. Time passed by and Heydrich was extremely successful in maintaining stability in the regions quelling rebellions with harsh retaliation.
The atrocities reached a crescendo when Heydrich became the lead architect of the “Final Solution” and eventually became responsible for implementing it. This led to the only successful state-sanctioned assassination of a senior member of Nazi Germany.
The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare
With Heydrich leading the charge of Hitler’s Final Solution, it became very clear that the Allies needed to act decisively to stop Heydrich at all costs. Their prayers were answered when František Moravec, the exiled chief of the Czech Intelligence System contacted the Special Operations Executive and proposed a black op, an operation to assassinate Reynard Heydrich. The Allies agreed and the black op was named Operation Anthropoid.
The operation as decided by the exiled Czech Government used Czech assassins to send a message of hope of a united resistance against Nazi Germany.
Twenty-four soldiers among 2000 exiled in Britain were shortlisted and were sent for training in Scotland. After many hiccups including finding a replacement for an injured soldier. Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš were chosen and sent to Pilsen, an area in Prague. The assets present in the FOB were shocked and quite reluctant to participate in a “suicidal” operation but Edvard Benes, the exiled Czech president urged the men to continue. The operatives stayed undercover for about 4 months and continued providing intelligence to the Special Operations HQ all while preparing for Operation Anthropoid.
It was May 27th and at 10:30 in the morning, Heydrich was on his daily commute to the Prague Castle. Gabčík and Kubiš waited at a tram stop nearby and Josef Valčík; a local asset acted as the lookout and was positioned north of Gabčík and Kubiš.
Heydrich’s Mercedes 320 Convertible reached the spot when Gabčík stepped in front of the vehicle and attempted to fire with his Sten submachine gun but in a fit of tough luck, it had jammed. Heydrich stopped the car and returned fire with his pistol when in retaliation, Kubiš threw a modified anti-tank grenade injuring both Heydrich and himself. The explosion shocked and stunned both the assailants and Heydrich himself. Gabčík and Kubiš tried to fire at Heydrich but failed to hit him. Heydrich exited the car in the hopes of chasing Kubiš but collapsed almost immediately. Klein, Heydrich’s driver, chased Gabčík into a butcher shop where
Gabčík in-turn shot Klein and escaped to a safe house. Both Gabčík and Kubiš were unaware of Heydrich’s wounds and were convinced that the operation had failed.
Reinhard Heydrich was taken to Bulkova Hospital where he was diagnosed with severe injuries to his diaphragm, spleen, and lungs as well as a fractured rib.
Professor Hollbaum operated on Heydrich with the help of Dr. Diek and Dr. Slanina and his condition seemed to be improving. This was until he unexpectedly collapsed white eating a meal and went into shock. He spent his remaining hours in a coma and died at 4:30 the next morning. The cause of death was described as septicemia.
The Consequences Part I
The Inner Circles of Nazi Germany were shocked to hear the news of Heydrich’s death. It was a matter of pride and prestige for Nazi Germany which regarded Senior Members as “Invincible” and this attack had destroyed their highly regarded dignity. It was not an attack on Nazi Germany, it was considered an attack on Hitler himself.
Hitler immediately ordered an investigation and sent SS General Bach-Zelewski to Prague. Hitler was even reported to dwell on the idea of killing 10,000 politically unreliable Czechs but dropped the idea after Himmler argued that it could reduce the productivity of the Czech regions.
What followed was one of the most brutal and atrocious reprisals of Nazi Germany. More than 13,000 citizens were arrested and around 5,000 citizens being executed. False German intelligence linked the Czech soldiers to the village of Lidice.
The Gestapo raided the village killing 199 men, 195 women being deported to Ravensbrück, and 95 children being taken in as prisoners with 81 of the children being eventually killed in gas vans at Chelmno.
The Consequences Part II
Following the raid at Lidice and unsuccessful attempts at finding the Czech Soldiers, the Nazis imposed a deadline to their Military and the people of Czechoslovakia for the assassins to be arrested by 18th June. Nazi Germany promised to “spill more blood” if their deadline wasn’t met.
The Czech Soldiers took refuge with several families in Prague with eventually settling down in the Karel Boromejsky Church in Prague. The military influence was growing in the regions and the people were scared of the increased military and police activity.
The Germans were unsuccessful at finding the assassins until Karel Čurda, a member of “Out Distance” another Czech Resistance Group voluntarily spilled several secrets including the safe houses and the families the Czech Soldiers took refuge within return for One Million Reichsmarks.
One such family was the Moravec Family which resulted in the Gestapo raiding their home on 17th June. Vlastamil “Ata” Moravec, the 17-year-old son of Alois Moravec was tortured by the Gestapo throughout the day who eventually broke down and told the Gestapo the location of the church. The whole family was then immediately executed by the Gestapo.
The Waffen SS Troops led by Treuenfeld laid siege to the Karel Boromejsky Church on 18th June. The odds were heavily stacked against the Czechs with the SS Soldiers being equipped with submachine guns and hand grenades whereas the Czechs had only low caliber pistols to defend themselves with.
What took place in that afternoon on the 18th of July sparked and brought upon a cataclysmic change for the united resistance against the Nazi Rule. The SS used
tear gas and attempted to flood the crypt of the church but neither dissuaded the Czech Soldiers. After a two-hour-long gunfight, Kubiš and two other men were finally shot dead by the SS Soldiers while Gabčík and others committed suicide. They were reported to have killed 14 and wounded 21 of the SS Soldiers.
The Aftermath and Ending
Neither the exiled Czech Government nor the Allies expected the retaliation of Nazi Germany at this scale. Churchill even suggested bombing three German villages for every Czech village the Nazis destroyed. This would just be the start of co-operation between the Czech Republic and the Allied Countries which eventually led to the Czech Republic being instated as a member of NATO.
Operation Anthropoid caused a revolutionary change in the societies of regions under Nazi control. Nazi Members were no longer considered invincible and freedom and revolution were on the horizon again. This would lead to the planning of many black ops. Namely, Operation Foxley which was to assassinate Adolf Hitler but was never implemented as the British Government believed Hitler to be “Poor Military Strategist” and felt that a better strategist could be a bigger threat.
Operation Anthropoid led to the immediate dissolution of the Munich Agreement which led Britain and France to restore the annexed territories to Czechoslovakia. This operation would also start the grassroots movement in Nazi-occupied regions. The most notable of them was the Polish Underground which was responsible for the assassinations of two senior SS officers in Operation Kutschera and Operation Bürkl.
Such operations not only serve as a reminder of the brutal and atrocious Nazi Germany Era but also as a showcase of the courage and bravery depicted by men to bring down tyranny.
●https://en.wikipedia.org ●http://www.ww2inprague.com ●https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org ●https://allthatsinteresting.com