Operation Anthropoid Commemorated

Operation Anthropoid Commemorated
Author: VHA-VÚA|Caption: Bodies of Opálka, Valčík and Gabčík
20 / 06 / 2018, 10:15

76 years ago the Operation Anthropoid successfully eliminated SS general Reinhard Heydrich, one of the highest-ranking architects of Holocaust. Seven paratroopers fought later their last battle encircled in the crypt of the Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius Church in the Prague centre; their bodies were lined up by their enemies for identification. Last Monday new golden commemorative plaques were unveiled there during a solemn ceremony.

The chosen Czechoslovak paratroopers were trained for their operations at the Arisaig commando training center in Scotland. Groups of several paratroopers were dropped from RAF planes above the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia with different intelligence, sabotage and resistance support tasks, and one was very special. Warrant Officer Jozef Gabčík and Staff Sergeant Jan Kubiš were sent to eliminate the SS Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei Reinhard Heydrich, one of the highest-ranking nazi officers, Director of the Reich Main Security Office, and Reichsprotektor in Bohemia and Moravia, one of the architects of Holocaust. With efficient support by the home resistance and the paratroopers from other groups they carried out a successfull attack on 27th May 1942, and Heydrich died from sustained injuries on 4th June.

Jan Kubiš

The nazi reprisals were immediate. More than 13 thousand people were arrested, possibly over 5,000 were murdered, on 9th June 1942 the Lidice massacre took place despite the village had no links with the operation. The terror which went together with the investigation and manhunt had fatal impacts on one of the paratroopers, Karel Čurda, who, possibly by fear for his familly and/or for a reward of one million of Reichsmarks, betrayed his fellows by giving the Gestapo names of the local contacts and supporters. This finally helped the Germans to locate the assailants who took refuge in the Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius Church in Resslova street in Prague.

On 18th June 1942 the Waffen-SS troops and Gestapo laid siege to the church and their aim was to capture the paratroopers alive. A heroic resitance was the answer. Three of the paratroopers were killed or mortally wounded in the prayer loft, including Jan Kubiš. The other four, including Josef Gabčík, have chosen death over capture, and they shot themselves in the crypt after repeated German attacks and attempts to smoke them out and to flood the crypt. Their last answer was: „We are Czechs! We will never surrender, can you hear us? Never!“

Josef Gabčík

After the battle, Čurda confirmed the identity of all of his former comrades whose bodies were lined up on the pavement at the corner of Václavská and Resslova streets.

On Monday 18th June 2018 hundreds of people including several senior Czech politicians, Czech Army officers, troops and re-enactors attended the traditional ceremony at the Church. And at noon a special ceremony in Václavská street took place: based on research by the Czech historian Pavel Kmoch, golden commemorative plaques were unveiled, to mark the eight exact places where the bodies were laid after the battle. The eighth body being that of Jan Milíč Zelenka, a young resistance supporter of the paratroopers.

The making and installation of the plaques was possible thanks to the support of the Prague 2 Municipal District and the Mayor Jana Černochová (who is also chairwoman of the Committee of Defence of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament), DAP company and dozens of private donators.

„Let’s hope this concrete commemoration will make those who pass by to take a think about the place and about the destiny of the men who beyond any doubt belong among the national heroes,“ Pavel Kmoch said.

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