March 10, 2013

Operation Anthropoid: The Assasination of Reinhard Heydrich

Reinhard Heydrich, SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office (including the Gestapo and Kripo) and Deputy Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia and one of the architects of the Final Solution, was assassinated by the Czech resistance- with the help of the British Special Operations Executive in 1942.

The code name, Operation Anthropoid, was created by the resistance for the purpose of assassination. Josef Gabcik and Jan Kubis were the two team members of the Operation. They selected SS- Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich as the target. To force the car to slow down, a sharp turn was selected as the location for the attack.

Gabcik and Kubis were positioned at the tram stop near Bulovka Hospital After receiving a signal by mirror from Josef Valcik, Gabcik stepped into the street with a British made machine gun, which he covered with a raincoat. As Heydrich’s Mercedes rounded the corner, Gabcik pulled up the sten gun and pulled the trigger. The gun failed to fire. He tried again with no success. Heydrich had his car stopped and tried to shoot Gabcik. Jan Kubis quickly rushed to his friend’s assistance, tossing a British made hand grenade, which hit the right rear of the car. Though severely injured, Heydrich tried to chase Gabcik but returned to the car and soon collapsed. Before he was taken to hospital, Gabcik and Kubis could have finished off Heydrich with their handguns but for some reason they didn’t.

According to another version, Heydrich exited the vehicle, but quickly collapsed on the hood of the car. Afterwards, Heydrich was taken to nearby Bulovka hospital. Here he was first examined by a Czech doctor, Vladimir Snajdr - but soon began to insist on a surgeon from Berlin. He settled for Professor Hollbaum. Hollbaum did a good job with the surgery, removing bomb fragments from Heydrich's spleen however, instead of improving, Heydrich's condition grew worse. Himmler visited Heydrich on June 2nd. Heydrich died June 4th.

The Nazi Retribution

The German retaliation was severe. More than 13,000 people were arrested, and 5,000 were killed in reprisals. Some false information led the Nazis to Lidice, a village near Prague. They thought Lidice was the assassins’ hiding place. The Germans took revenge on Lidice by killing all the men in the town, arresting the women and sending them to concentration camps and taking the children, eight of whom were given to German families. Most of the children disappeared; most likely they were gassed. Lidice was destroyed June 9, 1942.

The assassination of Heydrich induced an extensive manhunt.The Nazis offered a reward of one million marks for the assassins’ arrest and eventually Kubis and Gabcik were betrayed by two of their own team, Sgt Karel Curda and Cpl. Vilem Gerik. Gabcik, Kubis and four other team members took refuge at the Church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Prague. On June 18th 1942 the Nazis under the command of Gestapo Chief Heinz Pannwitz and Nazi Secretary of State Karl Frank quickly surrounded the church. The soldiers attacked, but they were held off for fourteen hours by Kubis and friends. All the team members of Operation Antropoid were killed in the gunfight along with fourteen German soldiers. 

The Germans erected a monument to Heydrich which was torn down by the Czechs in 1945.

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