Operation Anthropoid
January 31, 2006 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Operation Anthropoid. In 1942, a group of Czech and Slovak exiles parachuted into their Nazi-occupied homeland and assassinated (hi-res pictures, scroll down) SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Reinhard Heydrich, one of the architects of the Final Solution, the "Butcher of Prague." For the first time since the end of the World War Two, a German museum is offering a close look at "Operation Anthropoid," the codename for the only successful assassination of a member of Adolf Hitler's inner circle.
posted by matteo (36 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
More on the Wansee Conference here and here (.pdf file)
posted by matteo at 11:38 AM on January 31, 2006

"Wannsee Conference", sorry
posted by matteo at 11:39 AM on January 31, 2006

Great post. Flagged as fantastic. I thought I knew a lot about World War II, but I learned something today.
posted by Fat Guy at 11:40 AM on January 31, 2006

This really is fantastic. Thank you-
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 11:46 AM on January 31, 2006

Warner Bros published "a novel of Casablanca", titled As Time Goes By, in which Rick Blaine, Isla Lund, Victor Lazlo, and Louis Renault are the conspirators who assassinate Heydrich, with the help of British Intelligence and the Czech Underground. It sounds kinda silly when I spell it out like that, but it wasn't a terrible novel.
posted by Lord Kinbote at 11:47 AM on January 31, 2006

You know who else liked to assassinate people? The Nazis.

I'm just sayin'....
posted by blue_beetle at 11:53 AM on January 31, 2006

You know who else liked Godwin? Hitler!
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:59 AM on January 31, 2006

I just visited the church (Church of SS. Cyril & Methodius) in Prague where the assassins tried to hide after the attack. There is an exhibit there with pictures, momentos, etc. of the operation. The assassins were discovered and the church was besieged; ultimately, they committed suicide rather than surrendering.

In revenge attacks, Hitler's troops killed many thousands of Czechs and completely destroyed two Czech towns. Supposedly, the Czech leader in exile had changed his mind about the plan shortly before it was carried out, out of concern for exactly this sort of reprisal.
posted by Eyebeams at 12:06 PM on January 31, 2006

What Eyebeams said--the church in question is definitely worth the visit.

Great post.
posted by bardic at 12:10 PM on January 31, 2006

The abandonment of the Czech Republic to the Nazis (and later to the USSR) is one of the many great shames of the Allies during that period. Their role in the war, and that of Prague in particular is often overlooked, especially in terms of its significance during the final push to Berlin by the Russians, so thanks very much for an interesting post.
posted by loquax at 12:16 PM on January 31, 2006

Fritz Lang turned the story into a great, if obscure film: Hangmen Also Die
posted by matteo at 12:19 PM on January 31, 2006

Churchill proposed 'three for one' bombing of German villages in retaliation for massacre of Czech civilians
posted by matteo at 12:20 PM on January 31, 2006

An unrelated operation : Project Paperclip
posted by troutfishing at 12:27 PM on January 31, 2006

Thanks, matteo! This is awesome!
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:30 PM on January 31, 2006

The movie Conspiracy, starring Kenneth Baranagh (as a chilling Heydrich), Ian Mcneice, Stanley Tucci and a cast of other notables, is about the Wannsee Conference. It's well worth seeing.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:38 PM on January 31, 2006

Operation Anthropoid Wikipedia entry (pretty good)
posted by craniac at 12:39 PM on January 31, 2006

Apparently, when Gabcik's sten gun jammed, Heydrich could easily have escaped, but he ordered his driver to stop and got out and shot it out with the three Czechs. Probably thought he was invincible.
posted by Eyebeams at 12:52 PM on January 31, 2006

Excellent, best of the web. I too recall being told that Heydrich could have ordered his driver on but was too arrogant. Speculation of course but interesting.
posted by Wilder at 1:25 PM on January 31, 2006

the codename for the only successful assassination of a member of Adolf Hitler's inner circle...

...excepting of course the ones that Hitler had killed.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:27 PM on January 31, 2006

The Germans destroyed the Czech towns of Lidice and Ležáky in retaliation. In Lidice, they killed all of the men and boys over 15, sent all of the women and children to concentration camps, burned and blew up every building in the town, and erased the town from maps. Ležáky was also razed.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:56 PM on January 31, 2006

The Germans destroyed the Czech towns of Lidice and Ležáky in retaliation...

Violence begets, eh?
posted by iamck at 2:16 PM on January 31, 2006

Violence begets, eh?

posted by loquax at 2:20 PM on January 31, 2006

Good thing Heydrich was overconfident.

There must have been more to the plan than - step in front of the car and open fire.
What if he’d had the police escort?
If the driver hadn’t stopped the car I don’t know if the granade would have worked.

I wonder what would have happened if he had lived?

Interesting post. I’m a big fan of this piece of history (particularly after that film “Conspiracy” mentioned above).
posted by Smedleyman at 2:33 PM on January 31, 2006

Fabulous post, matteo - all new to me. Plus that Radio Praha link is a gem - děkuji.

I wish I had known to visit that church when I was in Prague. Oh well, guess there's nothing else for it but another trip.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:41 PM on January 31, 2006

Great post.

Just because I think they deserve to have their names pronounced more or less correctly, the assassins' names in Czech spelling are Kubiš (pronounced KOO-bish) and Gabčík (GAHP-cheek).

And for anyone who knows Prague and is curious about where it happened, Heydrich was driving south from his house in Panenske Brezany (which the Czechs refused to give back to its former Jewish owners) on the street now known as Zenklova (called Kirchmayerova during the occupation); the assassination took place as he slowed for the sharp turn onto V Holešovičkách (leading to the bridge over the Vltava)—the intersection is at the bottom right of this map (you can zoom and scroll).
posted by languagehat at 2:51 PM on January 31, 2006

There must have been more to the plan than - step in front of the car and open fire.
What if he’d had the police escort?

German officers in occupied countries were generally not threatened by local populations for several reasons :

1. Not all (or even most) local populations necessarily resented their presence.
2. Opposition was crushed, killed and exiled at the beginning of the occupation
3. Collaborationist local governments actively discouraged opposition to the Nazis
4. The threat of reprisals was great and omnipresent, especially when looking at Poland. The Germans made their policies clear.

There was little reason for Heydrich to feel threatened in Prague. The Czechs were cooperative, there was no real resistance, and things were rather quiet until that point. The Czechs didn't even choose to resist the Germans when they marched in (which may or may not be morally right, but was almost certainly strategically right). In general, their strategies were effective, as (as stated in the post), no senior officers were killed, and relatively few occupying Germans were killed in general, except in Poland. (at least, until the end of the war).

I think that the legacy of his assassination was that it began to embolden other opposition groups around Europe and demonstrate that the smaller countries that were rolled over by the Wehrmacht would not simply acquiesce permanently to German vassalage. This resulted in more german troops being garrisoned in their protectorates, and off the front lines which generally hurt their prospects of defending against (especially) the Russians. It also, I believe, showed the Germans that maybe their 1000 year reich wasn't going to last as long as they may have thought.
posted by loquax at 3:02 PM on January 31, 2006

where is todays bonhoeffer?
posted by specialk420 at 3:12 PM on January 31, 2006

Clement Attlee, the dominions secretary and future Labour prime minister, said he believed it unwise "to enter into competition in frightfulness with the Germans".
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:53 PM on January 31, 2006

Also a movie called Operation Daybreak - good film too.

There is persistent rumour that the grenade that wounded Heydrich was laced with germs - see Harris & Paxman "A Higher Form of Killing" (1982).
posted by A189Nut at 5:05 PM on January 31, 2006

Wow.. Thanks.!
posted by Balisong at 5:49 PM on January 31, 2006


If the thread is ABOUT Nazi Germany, does it only Godwin the thread when you bring up Bush?
posted by Balisong at 5:50 PM on January 31, 2006

If not, I CLAIM IT!

From here on out... If anyone brings up Bush as a comparison against, I hereby dub it "Bullocking"!

OOPS, I already Bullocked the thread.
posted by Balisong at 5:53 PM on January 31, 2006

There's a fascinating story by the writer Jim Shepard called (straightforwardly enough) The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich that is worth checking out. You can find it in his short story collection from 2004 Love and Hydrogen.
posted by Skygazer at 7:38 PM on January 31, 2006

...the only successful assassination of a member of Adolf Hitler's inner circle.

Not counting the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934, of course.
posted by cenoxo at 9:30 PM on January 31, 2006

I just realised it is similar to the assassination of Michael Collins. Sorry for the de-rail. Collins was in an armoured car which could easily have pushed through the small arms ambush, but got out when he saw a few other members of his group get out to shoot it out. After all, it wouldn't do for the Big Fella to try to run. Morale;- choose your friends carefully, Oh and an ambush by definition means they have the advantage, don't lose it!
I wonder what the current tactics are for ambush situations in Iraq?
posted by Wilder at 2:29 AM on February 1, 2006

Wilder - Fire at anything that moves (regardless of whether it's armed or not) and drive straight through. The other is a normal instant action drill whereby everyone dismounts and charges into the ambush directly. Sounds suicidal but it's actually what is taught in vehicular ambush when escape is not an option.

I am assuming that most of the people who haven't heard about the assassination of Heydrich are not from Europe, as it's fairly well known here. There have been books, films, TV movies and documentaries galore about it. I do have to say that it's quite rare to see things about WWI and WWII nowadays - the generations are dying out and it seems nobody really wants to focus on the history and avoid repetition. Ho hum. Top post though matteo.
posted by longbaugh at 2:58 AM on February 1, 2006

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