The assassination of acting Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich took place 78 years ago in Prague. Commemorative ceremonies this year will be low key due to the coronavirus, but people can still see some of the locations.
As part of Operation Anthropoid, Czech paratroopers were dropped by Britain’s Royal Air Force on December 28, 1941, to assassinate Heydrich, the third-highest Nazi official at the time. It was the only successful mission of its type during World War II.
On May 27, 1942, the paratroopers attacked Heydrich as his car made a turn in Prague’s Libeň district. After a submachine gun failed to fire properly, one of the paratroopers threw a grenade that hit the car and sent shrapnel, causing a wound that got infected. Heydrich died of blood poisoning on June 4.
Seven of the paratroopers took refuge in the basement of the Church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, hoping to be evacuated by the resistance. They were tracked down by the SS on June 18, and all were killed or committed suicide in the siege at the church that involved over 750 attacking soldiers.
A memorial plaque for them, erected in 1947, is on the side of the Church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. Marks left on an outside church wall from the shooting can still be seen. People from the Czech resistance who had helped them were rounded up and executed.
The church crypt has been home to the National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror since 1995. It underwent renovation in 2010 and 2019.
The Orthodox Christian church at the corner of Resslova and Na Zderaze streets belongs to the city and is administered by the Military Historical Institute in Prague (VHÚ).
After the death of Heydrich, a state of emergency was declared and thousands of people were arrested. In total, 1,590 were executed. The villages of Lidice and Ležáky were destroyed, and the occupants either were executed or sent to concentration camps. A large memorial including statues of the executed people is in Lidice.
A modern statue in Prague’s Libeň district was erected in 2009 near where the grenade attack took place. The exact street no longer exists. The statue is a bit hard to reach, between the busy Zenklova and V Holešovičkách streets. In the same area there are two streets named after the main paratroopers, Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš.
Prague 2 in 2017, the 75th anniversary, unveiled additional plaques for resistance fighters who were executed in the aftermath of the operation. Two are on Italská Street, two on Resslova Street and one on Záhřebská Street.
There are also metal markers in the sidewalk corner of Václavská and Resslova streets, unveiled in 2018.
The story of Operation Anthropoid was told in the film Anthropoid, which premiered at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in July 2016. Another film about the same story called The Man with the Iron Heart was released in 2017. The story of the liquidation of Lidice was told in a film called Lidice, released in 2011.
An earlier version of the events called Operation Daybreak was shot in Prague in English in 1975. There were several earlier versions dating back to Hangmen also Die!, shot in Hollywood in 1943 by German-born director Fritz Lang.
The incident is also told in several novels such as Mendelssohn Is on the Roof (1960) by Jiří Weil.