5/27/1942 - Evil personified (his very warranted "nicknames" include "The Hangman," "The Butcher of Prague," "The Blond Beast," "Himmler's Evil Genius," and "The Young Evil God of Death"), during WWII in the occupied city of Prague, Czechoslovakia, two Czech patriots launch an assassination attempt on the Deputy Protector of Bohemia and Moravia (a region that includes Czechoslovakia), 38-year-old SS-Obergruppenfuhrer und General der Polizei (Senior Group Leader and Chief of Police) Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich.
Born into a well-to-do Halle an der Saale family on March 7, 1904, Heydrich's father, Richard Bruno Heydrich (a Protestant, Elisabeth Anna Maria Amalia Krantz, Heydrich's mother, is Roman Catholic) is a music composer, opera singer, and piano teacher who raises his son very strictly and fills him with patriotic ideals involving German nationalism. A bright student who excels at science, young Heydrich becomes a gifted violinist, and a talented athlete as a swimmer and fencer ... despite his gifts, he is also frequently bullied for his shy ways, high-pitched voice, and rumors of Jewish ancestry. Leading a relatively normal life, everything changes for Heydrich with the advent of WWI, and its horrific aftermath for Germany.
Heydrich And His Two Sisters
Too young to fight in the war, when civil unrest of communists and anti-communists warring with each comes to Halle, 15-year-old Heydrich joins Germany's first Freikorps unit, Maercker's Volunteer Rifles, and participates in street skirmishes and private property protection ... quickly discovering he loves the order and action, along with sharing the anti-Semitic beliefs of most of his amateur military comrades. Economy decimated, with people not having money for music in their lives, Heydrich leaves thoughts of a professional career as a violinist behind, and joins the German Navy in 1922. Talented and ambitious, Heydrich goes from cadet to senior midshipman to ensign (aboard the battleship Schleswig-Holstein) to sub-lieutenant in the course of six years and seems destined for command, but his personality gets in the way ... a major womanizer, while engaged to be married to Lina von Osten (a Nazi party member he meets at a rowing-club dance and eventually marries) he carries on with another woman he is engaged to ... one with high enough connections that when the affair becomes public, Heydrich is kicked out of the German Navy by its commander, Admiral Erich Raeder. Jobless, without any career prospects, when his wife finds out that Heinrich Himmler is setting up counterintelligence division for the growing SS, Heydrich puts in for a job, impresses Himmler during his interview, and is hired in 1931 (it helps that by this time, Heydrich epitomizes the classic Aryan Hitler wants his country filled with ... six-foot tall, blonde, blue-eyed, intelligent ... and soulless).
As A Navy Cadet
Finding his calling, his career in the SS skyrockets, and between 1932 and 1942, with appropriate promotions and pay raises (despite continued womanizing, he is in his wife's bed enough to father four children) he becomes one of the movers and shakers of the Third Reich (he is the most powerful man in Germany after Hitler, Goering, and Himmler), a man Hitler calls, "the man with an iron heart." In a decade of deceit and death, Heydrich (as head of the Gestapo) compiles a resume of eternal infamy that includes drawing up the list of fellow Nazis to be arrested and murdered during Hitler's power consolidation that in 1934 comes to be known as The Night of the Long Knives (over 200 members of the party will be executed), helps orchestrate the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, coordinates the 1938 attacks on Jewish citizens that becomes known as Kristallnacht (for all the glass on the streets from the broken windows of Jewish businesses and homes, a tragedy that also claims the lives of over 700 Jewish citizens), engineers the fake attack on a German radio station on the Polish border by fake Poles that precipitates WWII in September of 1939 (Code Name Operation Himmler), provides misinformation to the spies of Joseph Stalin that feed the dictator's paranoia for killing his own Russian generals, carries out the Night-and-Fog decrees that allow German authorities to vanish trouble-makers and the "racially impure" without the necessity of the accused having a day in court, is instrumental in having Einsatzgruppen units of the SS clean up undesirables after the military front lines move further forward using death vans, mass executions, and population deportations (it is estimated they will kill 2,000,000 people), and at the behest of Goering, with Hitler's and Himmler's blessings, oversees a conference at the Berlin suburb of Wannsee of high placed Nazi officials that come up with the death camp "Final Solution" for the Third Reich Jewish problems.
At His Desk - 1934
Night Of The Long Knives
Just Behind Hitler - 1938
Einsatzgruppen - Mobile Killing Unit In Action
Given his deadly successes, when Czechoslovakia resists their German overlords too fervently, in 1941, Heydrich is given the assignment of teaching the country who is running Europe ("We will Germanize the vermin," Heydrich states upon hearing of his new job). Carrot and stick approach his methodology, Heydrich increases rations, ups worker wages, reduces hours, and suppresses the black market ... and has executed anyone who doesn't like the way he is running thing or seems an impediment to the Third Reich (in his first three days in Prague, 92 individuals will be put to death). Situation quickly turned around to German advantage, with the concurrence of Winston Churchill and the British government, the leader of the Czech government in exile, President Edvard Benes, authorizes a commando raid into occupied Europe to assassinate Heydrich.
Operation planned (it will go down in the history books as Operation Anthropoid and is originally scheduled to take place on October 20, 1941 ... the anniversary of Czech independence) by the head of Czech intelligence services, Frantisek Moravec, in conjunction with Brigadier Colin Gubbins of the Special Operations Executive, from a group of 2,000 exiled Czech soldiers, two dozen men are culled for the mission and sent to a British commando camp for training ... and eventually, two are chosen to kill Heydrich ... 30-year-old Jozef Gabcik and 28-year-old Jan Kubis (chosen originally, Staff Sergeant Karel Svoboda injures his head in training and is replaced by Kubis). Training in sabotage, the use of explosvies, hand-to-hand combat, weaponry, a parachute jumping completed, on the evening of December 29, 1941, Gabcik, Kubis, and seven other Czech soldiers on other resistance missions are flown across the English Channel by a Halifax bomber and dropped into Czechoslovakia ... in the snow, 50 miles from where they are expected. Eventually making contact with members of the resistance movement, they are soon in Prague, fine tuning the details of their hit based on Heydrich's security measures, schedule, and movements ... helped on immensely by the Nazi leader's unchecked arrogance.
Kubis & Gabcik
In Training In Great Britain
While well protected at work and at home, because Heydrich is convinced he has cowered an entire nation, when he travels to and from either destination, he does so in an unarmored car, with no security detail in front or behind, his only protection, his own handgun, and the killing efficiency of his driver, SS-Oberscharfuhrer Johannes Klein. Additionally, when a communication between the hit team and Britain is intercepted discussing the assassination, Heydrich takes no steps whatsoever to beef up security or change his normal schedule. Just a routine Tuesday, with a flight to Berlin planned for later in the afternoon to meet with Hitler (Heydrich is to be given the assignment of doing to France what he is already doing in Czechoslovakia), on May 27, 1942, at 10:30 in the morning, Heydrich seats himself in the rear of his green, open-topped Mercedes 320 Convertible B, and with Klein at the wheel, begins his usual commute from his Panenske Brezany home to his headquarters at the Prague Castle. Two minutes later, taking a tight curve alongside a tram station near Bulovka Hospital that forces Klein to brake to a crawl, Heydrich makes the fatal acquaintanceship of Gabcik and Kubis.
Duplicate Of The Heydrich Vehicle
Signaled by another Czech commando, Josef Valcik, one hundred yards ahead of the hit team, that Heydrich is coming, when the Mercedes brakes for the curve, Gabcik steps in front of the car and pulls the trigger on his Sten machine gun ... which jams and fails to fire. Escape possible, Heydrich's arrogance once again surfaces, and instead of the car speeding away from the attack, Heydrich screams "STOP!" to Klein, stands up in the back of the Mercedes, and pulls his Luger to shoot down Gabcik ... giving Kubis the opportunity to go into action. Concealed in a briefcase, Kubis throws a modified anti-tank grenade at the car, which on explosion, rips through the vehicle's right rear bumper, wounds Kubis, and sends metal shrapnel slivers and fibers from the car's upholstery into Heydrich's left side. Adrenaline pumping, as Kubis and Gabcik draw their Colt M1903 pistols and fire on the Nazi leader (missing), Heydrich jumps from the car and chases Gabcik down the street, but after a short distance collapses from his wounds. At the same time, Klein goes after Kubis ... but the bomb thrower, blood flowing down his face, runs into the crowd at the tram station, firing his gun in the air to scatter bystanders, grabs his bike and is able to ride away, helped by the fact that now Klein's gun has jammed. Returning to the Mercedes to find Heydrich sprawled on the hood of the car, Klein follows his bosses orders ("Get that bastard!") and then goes after Gabcik, who he corners in a nearby butcher shop ... until Gabcik shoots him in the legs and then vanishes up a side street.
After The Attack
The Damaged Car
A passing van carrying floor polish flagged down by a Czech woman and an off-duty policeman, Heydrich is taken to the Bulovka Hospital for emergency surgery for a shattered 11th rib, a punctured stomach, a torn diaphragm, a shrapnel ruptured spleen, and lung damage. Damage patched up and spleen removed, it is at first thought that Heydrich will survive his wounds, but on June 3rd, he suddenly collapses while sitting up in bed eating his lunch, goes into a coma, and dies the next morning from septicemia (in another bit of stupidity, he is not given sulfanilamides to prevent infection from setting in). And Hitler goes absolutely bonkers ... demanding retribution be rained down on the country, and the culprits caught immediately.
Adolf Says Goodbye
Already bestial toward the country's population, in the immediate aftermath of Heydrich's death, 3,000 Jews are sent to death camps in Poland in special train cars that state, "Assassination of Heydrich" and are never seen again (over 13,000 Czechs will be arrested, and over 5,000 will be murdered in the reprisals to the assassination that follows). And as a warning to the rest of Europe that there will be grave consequences for any future attacks on Nazi leaders, the Czech town of Lidice is selected for special treatment. Surrounded on the day of Heydrich's funeral, all men over 15 are rounded up and shot in groups of ten (it will take all night and most of the rest of the next day, the women are sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp (where 53 die by the war's end), 104 children have their names changed and 82 more kids are gassed. Population quickly made to equal ZERO, the German killers then torch and dynamite the whole town, even rerouting a stream that runs through the village, before sowing salt into the wasted terrain so that nothing will ever grow there again. Message apparently received, no other Nazi leader will be assassinated for the balance of WWII.
Some Of The Executed
Memorial To The Murdered Children
Knowing retribution is also looking for them, Kubis, Gabcik, Valcik, and four other Czech commandos take refuge in the basement of the Saints Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in Prague ... lonely for home though, one, Karel Curda, is able to slip away, leave the city, and hid in the barn of his mother's farm, where he becomes a Judas goat. Warned that anyone helping the assassins will be executed immediately, and that their families and friends will be murdered too, with pressure from his family to protect them and go after the million mark reward the SS is offering for information on the whereabouts of the killers, Curda is convinced to turn himself in to the authorities (given the reward, the traitor spends the rest of the war working for the Gestapo and married to a German woman ... war over, he is tracked down and hung for treason on April 29, 1947). Hiding place and culprits identified (Curda gives up the Moravec family as conspirators, and Vlastimil Moravec gives up the cathedral location when during interrogation, a Gestapo agent presents Moravec with the floating head of his mother in a fish tank), 700 SS storm troopers surround the church. At 4:10 in the morning of June 18th, the building's janitor lets the Germans in and a two hour battle begins when Kubis, and three other commandos hiding in the choir loft throw a grenade down on the troops entering the cathedral's nave area. Part one of the battle completes when down to their last bullets, Kubis, and the two other commandos still alive, choose suicide over capture and take cyanide pills before shooting themselves.
Bullet Scarred Area Where Kubis Died
Kubis In Death
Triumph not yet complete, the Germans then go after Gabcik and three others who have forted themselves into the catacombs below the cathedral. Hoping they will be more open to surrender then their comrades were, Curda is brought forth to yell down a metal grate that the position of his former friends is hopeless and they should give up, an admonition that is greeted by machine gun fire and part two of the clash is on. As bad as the previous encounter, the second fight lasts six hours and features another ambush on German soldiers trying to storm into the Czech's hiding place (during their day at the cathedral, the Germans will have 14 men killed, and an additionally 21 soldiers wounded), the fire department trying to flood the underground area, gas grenades being thrown back at the attackers, and the SS finally dynamiting a new entrance into the commandos' fortress ... at which point, Gabcik go the way of their comrades, and also commit suicide.
Removing The Dead Commandos
Gabcik In Death
Operation Antropoid over, at grave cost to their country and themselves, Czech heroes have removed a human monster from their midst ... an act still remembered and honored by their countrymen.
Operation Anthropoid Memorial
Memorial to Gabcik & Kubis