A Story of Czech Resistance in WWII

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Rachel Zampino

Rachel Zampino

Sharing my travels, digital nomad life, and current hyper fixations!

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You may not know that I’m a big WWII nerd—but I am.

And despite this, I only recently learned of the badass Czechs who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, Obergruppenführer (or “senior group leader”) of the Nazis.

The only two people with more power than Heydrich were Hitler himself, and his right hand man, Heinrich Himmler. So, he was kind of a big deal.

Heydrich had many lovely nicknames, such as: The Hangman, The Butcher of Prague, The Blond Beast, Himmler’s Evil Genius, Young Evil God of Death, and The Man with the Iron Heart. Personally, I like call him ✨Piece of Shit✨.

Despite Hitler being the main scapegoat for the holocaust and coming up with all the evil ideas, Heydrich was actually largely responsible for putting concentration camps into effect.

“Work sets you free”

Unfortunately in 1941, Heydrich was appointed the “Protector of Bohemia and Moravia”, after the previous “Protector” didn’t do his job well enough. His first words about his new job were: “We will Germanize the Czech vermin.”

He immediately executed hundreds of Czechs, kept some as hostages, and sent many others to a concentration camp.

Czechoslavakia’s production of motors and arms were very important to the Nazi war and terror efforts, and thus Heydrich had to make sure those workers were hitting their quotas. Nothing is a stronger motivator than the fear of death or torture I guess.

Anyway, enough about this asshole—back to the badass Czechs and Slovaks…

On May 27, 1942, members of the Czechoslovak Army Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, carried out the assassination of Heydrich—also known as “Operation Anthropoid“.

To summarize, they carefully planned the perfect moment Heydrich would be vulnerable enough to take him out, and they succeeded.

His buddy Hitler had a lovely eulogy for him too:

Since it is opportunity which makes not only the thief but also the assassin, such heroic gestures as driving in an open, unarmored vehicle or walking about the streets unguarded are just damned stupidity, which serves the Fatherland not one whit. That a man as irreplaceable as Heydrich should expose himself to unnecessary danger, I can only condemn as stupid and idiotic.”

—Adolf Hitler on how Heydrich’s assassination was his own fault

Heydrich’s Mercedes after being hit with a grenade and gunshots

It wasn’t all roses though. Gabčík, Kubiš, and other resistance assistants (that should be a band name), fled and survived for less than a month before being found in a church crypt by SS troops.

Their small group managed to fight off an estimated 750 SS troops for several hours, before ultimately making the decision to commit suicide to protect not only themselves from torture, but from revealing any resistance information that might help the Nazi party.

The resistance sacrificed not only themselves, but also their family members, friends, and thousands of Czechoslovaks who were murdered after the assassination for “reprisals”.

Memorial plaque on the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius

Jsme Češi! Nikdy se nevzdáme, slyšíte? Nikdy!” 

“We are Czechs! We will never surrender, you hear? Never!” —Yelled by the resistance from the church crypt

I highly recommend checking out the movie Anthropoid if you haven’t already. It showcases the planning and execution of Operation Anthropoid by some seriously brave dudes. This movie had me literally sweating; it feels like you’re there in the moment.

Since we tend to receive a very biased and American-focused view of history here in the U.S., I thought this was an interesting and impactful piece of history worth sharing about the bravery and resolve of the Czech people. 🇨🇿

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