As a leading member of the Nazi Party and one of the architects of the Final Solution, Reinhard Heydrich was the personification of evil. By 1942 with the success of the Nazi regime, he must have felt invincible. But this feeling of invulnerability probably cost him his life. On May 27, 1942, Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis completed Operation Anthropoid, the code name for the plot to assassinate Heydrich.
They attacked the Nazi’s Mercedes-Benz 320 Convertible B in Prague, and the vile Heydrich died from his wounds seven days later. While his assassins could rightly call themselves heroes, they had no idea of the terror they unleashed.
The Formation of Operation Anthropoid
Heydrich was only too keen to replace Konstantin von Neurath as the acting Protector of Bohemia and Moravia in September 1941. He agreed with Hitler and Himmler’s assessment that von Neurath was too lenient and his actions had caused an increase in anti-German sentiment. Heydrich vowed to crush any resistance to Nazi rule. He carried out this promise in brutal fashion by having 92 people murdered soon after he became ruler
The plan to kill Heydrich originated in London in September 1941 although the suspected plotters, which included the British Secret Operations Executive (BSOE) and the Czech Intelligence Services (with the approval of exiled President Edvard Benes); all denied their involvement after 1945.
According to the surviving documentation, the plan to kill Heydrich was borne out of the Allies’ desperation after France fell in the summer of 1940. At that time, there was little chance of Britain winning the war so the plan was to cause popular unrest in Nazi-occupied areas so the enemy would have to divert resources and become weaker in the process. Benes was only too happy to assist as he believed it would help him achieve his postwar goal; an independent Czechoslovak state.
Preparation began on October 20, 1941, and the head of the Czech Intelligence Service, Frantisek Moravec, chose two dozen high-quality Czech soldiers based in Britain and they were sent to a BSOE commando training center in Scotland. The plot was called Operation Anthropoid which is the Greek word for ‘having the form of a human’ an obvious nod to the inhumanity of Heydrich.
The leading Nazi was chosen for several reasons. One, his position as acting Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Two, due to his cruel treatment of the citizens and three, because he had developed a habit of driving around in a car with an open roof. Heydrich did this to show his confidence in the strength of the occupying forces, but Hitler was apparently unhappy with this decision and urged him to tighten up his security.
On October 28, 1941, Moravec chose Karel Svoboda and Jozef Gabcik as the two assassins, but when Svoboda sustained a head injury in training, Jan Kubis was picked as his replacement. It delayed the mission because Kubis had not completed the training nor did he have the requisite false documents prepared for him. On December 28, 1941, everything was deemed ready and the two men, along with seven other Czechoslovakian soldiers, left Britain and landed at Nehvizdy just east of Prague. They knew what needed to be done and were prepared to risk everything to achieve their goal.