Himmler’s deputy and also the head of RSHA Reinhard Heydrich had in the autumn of 1941 replaced Konstantin von Neurath as Bohemia-Mahren’s national protector and installed himself in Prague. The aim was to boost the war production of the protectorate and curb the Czech national will. Heydrich wanted to make the Czechs feel more like Germans than Czechs and he used both stick and carrot to push through this. This meant that Heydrich introduced certain benefits for the workers, but also a much more repressive system than his predecessor. The Czech exile army in London, in collaboration with the English SOE (Special Operation Executive), began planning an attack against Heydrich.

The operation was named Anthropoid and was carried out by seven Czech commandos. These were dropped down over Bohemia Moravia by parachute in the last days of 1941. The coming months were preceded by planning and reconnaissance to map Heydrich’s routines and to establish radio transmitters and contacts with other resistance men in the Czech Republic. Two of the commandos, Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, were tasked with carrying out the attack itself and their main task was to find a suitable location for the attack. Heydrich usually travelled in an open car between his home in Panenske Brezany, just under two miles north of Prague, and his workplace in Prague Castle. Heydrich believed he did not have to fear for his life and the safety around him was thereafter.  He allowed Himmler’s chagrin no major guard at his home, and he insisted on riding the hood down and without escort. This was something that the attackers noted and they decided to carry out the attack when Heydrich was on his way from his home to work. The location was determined to be a sharp curve on the road Holesovickach where Heydrich’s car was forced to make a heavy braking. It was there they planned to kill Heydrich.

On May 27, 1942, about 10:00, Heydrich left his home for the last time, and half an hour later he approached the curve. A third resistance, Josef Valcik, kept an eye out and signaled with a mirror to Jozef Gabcik as Heydrich’s car approached the curve. As the driver braked in, Gabcik ran into the road in front of the car with his automatic weapon ready to open fire, but the weapon did not work. Heydrich’s car stopped and Heydrich got up and tried to open fire with his service gun. Then the other attacker, Jan Kubis, threw a hand grenade that exploded next to the car and injured Heydrich. Heydrich’s driver took up the hunt for Gabcik but was injured in a shooting. Heydrich himself tried to chase Gabcik but soon fell apart as a result of the damage done by the hand grenade. Heydrich was taken to a nearby hospital where he was operated on.

When Himmler learned of the attack, he sent his personal doctor Dr. Karl Gebhardt to Prague to treat Heydrich. For a while it seemed that Heydrich would survive but he suffered blood poisoning and died on June 4. Heydrich’s body was first taken to the castle in Prague, then to Berlin on June 6, where Heydrich received a state funeral in the new Reich Chancellery. He was buried at the Invaliden cemetery in Berlin. After the war, the tomb was destroyed and is now unmarked. Heydrich was the only high Nazi leader to be assassinated during the war.

Current status: Monument (2010).

Location: 50°07'04.24" N 14°27'54.37" E

Get there: Tram to Vychovatelna stop.

My comment:

After the attack, the Nazis set up a memorial guarding Heydrich’s memory at the scene, and for obvious reasons the monument was removed after the war. Later the road was rebuilt and the sharp curve is no longer there. A monument dedicated to Operation Anthropoid was not established until 2007. The reason why it took more than sixty years to establish a monument lies in the political context. The attack was carried out not by communists but by Czechs who were seeking a free Czechoslovakia. Establishing a memory of these could fuel nationalist sentiments and this was something the communist leaders wanted to avoid. The fact that it took another fourteen years (Czechoslovakia’s partition) for the monument to come was due to something as banal as feelings of shame on the part of the Czech authorities. One was simply ashamed that no monument had been erected, which paradoxically had the consequence that it wasn’t until 2007 a monument was erected on the site of the attack.

Follow up in books: Dougherty, Nancy: The Hangman and His Wife: The Life and Death of Reinhard Heydrich (2022).