Czech capital sees commemoration of parachutists who assassinated Nazi leader in 1942
Hundreds of people including politicians commemorated the parachutists who carried out a successful attack in 1942 against the Nazi Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich by visiting the Cathedral of St. Cyril and Methodius in Resslova Street in Prague yesterday morning. At noon, representatives of the Prague 2 local authority unveiled memorial cobblestones to the fallen parachutists embedded in the sidewalk across from the cathedral where they heroically fought and died.
The events commemorated happened 76 years ago. The ceremonial laying of wreaths began with military musical accompaniment.
The procession bearing wreaths was roughly 100 meters long and, in addition to war veterans, included representatives of the Army and state institutions. Politicians attending the event included the chair of the Czech Senate Milan Štěch (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), vice-chairs of the lower house Jan Hamáček (ČSSD) and Tomio Okamura (SPD), and the chair of the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) Pavel Bělobrádek.
From 10 to 11 AM traffic was stopped in Resslova Street during the laying of dozens of wreaths at the memorial site. After that the ceremony ended on the street and those attending moved into the cathedral crypt.
"The successfully-performed assassination of Reinhard Heydrich was one of the most important acts of resistance in Europe and certainly the most meaningful on the territory of Czechoslovakia. These people simply laid down their lives for our freedom and they deserve honor and remembrance," said Hamáček.
Awareness about the heroes of the Second Resistance movement, in his view, is gradually improving, even though there is still a problem with history instruction, which focuses more on ancient history than on modern history. "It would certainly be worthwhile to make a change [in the way history is taught]," he said.
At noon the golden memorial cobblestones now embedded into the sidewalk at the corner of Resslova and Václavská Streets were ceremonially unveiled to mark where the bodies of the seven fallen parachutists were laid out after their battle in the cathedral crypt with the Germans. Jan Kubiš, Jozef Gabčík, Josef Valčík, Adolf Opálka, Josef Bublík, Jan Hrubý and Jaroslav Švarc died there on 18 June 1942.
Jan Milíč-Zelenka, who collaborated with the Czechoslovak paratroopers from Great Britain as a member of the Sokol resistance group "October" (Říjen), also has his name in the sidewalk next to them. After the Gestapo intervened against the 18-year-old's family, he committed suicide the day before the parachutists were discovered and murdered.
Another component of the new memorial is a QR code on the wall of the Resslova Primary School that links to other information online about the events of 76 years ago there. The legacy of those who fought against the totalitarian regime is, according to the Mayor of the Prague 2 Municipal Department, Jana Černochová (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) becoming more and more topical today.
"Despite the fact that many people cast doubt on this action [the military operation during which Heydrich was killed] and say that so many people didn't have to die, maybe here we can all agree that is not the case," Černochová told the several dozen attendees yesterday, including former presidential candidate Pavel Fischer. The "Anthropoid" paratroopers were deployed from London to aid the Czechoslovak domestic resistance and were entrusted with preparing the assassination, arriving on the territory of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in December 1941.
The chosen duo of Gabčík and Kubiš attacked Heydrich on 27 May 1942. The Reichsprotektor had been sent to Prague to crush the domestic anti-Nazi resistance and had prepared plans to destroy the entire Czech nation.
Heydrich died on 4 June as a consequence of the assassination attempt. Immediately after he was killed martial law was announced, massexecutions began, and the Nazi terror culminated in the razing of the villages of Ležáky and Lidice.
The parachutists from the "Anthropoid" paratrooper unit evaded the Nazi response for three weeks until being apprehended in the crypt of the Cathedral of St Cyril and Methodius after Karel Čurda, a member of the unit, betrayed their whereabouts. None of the paratroopers sent from Britain survived the subsequent street battle on 18 June 1942.
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