Czech ceremony commemorates heroic deaths of the Czechoslovak paratroopers who assassinated Nazi official
On 18 June a commemorative ceremony in Prague's Resslova Street at the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Cyril and Methodius marked the 77th anniversary of the heroic deaths of seven Czechoslovak paratroopers there. They fell inside the crypt of the church and elsewhere on its grounds after several hours battling the German soldiers who outnumbered them.
The memory of the paratroopers was honored by hundreds of people in front of the cathedral, including politicians and veterans. "It is necessary to perpetually commemorate these heroic deeds," Czech Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar (for ANO) told journalists.
The commemoration, according to Metnar, was in honor of the greatest resistance action of the Second World War in Europe, the military operation during which Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated. Accompanied by military music, Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD), the President of the Chamber of Deputies MP Radek Vondráček (ANO), and veterans Emil Boček and Miloslav Masopust laid flowers and wreaths by the window of the crypt in which the paratroopers were discovered in hiding.
Hundreds of people also assembled to watch the ceremony. First the Slovak national anthem was played in front of the cathedral, followed by the Czech national anthem.
A religious service for the dead was then held and a brief ceremony was conducted inside the crypt itself. After 12 noon, the fallen were commemorated by representatives of the city district of Prague 2 on the pavement opposite the church, assembling by the memorial plaques that were placed last year in the location where the paratroopers' bodies were carried out after the fighting.
The battle inside the church was preceded by the attack carried out by Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš from the Anthropoid group against the highest representative of Nazi German power in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich. "The executioner of the Czech nation", as Heydrich was called, was seriously injured in their attack.
Heydrich died several days later in hospital as a consequence of his injuries. Both of the paratroopers hid from the German authorities for three weeks in the crypt of the Orthodox church.
They took shelter there along with five other paratroopers - Josef Bublík, Adolf Opálka, Jan Hrubý, Jaroslav Švarc, and Josef Valčík. After several hours of battle against German troops who outnumbered them, some of the paratroopers fell, while others committed suicide given the hopeless situation.
Kubiš was seriously injured during the battle and died while being transported to hospital. The crypt where the paratroopers made their last stand was subjected to an examination earlier this year by experts from the Geo-cz company and the Military History Institute with the aid of modern technology.
According to news server Technet.cz, two heretofore unknown locations were found in the crypt where it can be demonstrated that somebody on the inside attempted to dig through the walls to what was apparently assumed to be an escape route. Whether those who did the digging were actually the paratroopers cannot be proven, according to historian Micahal Burian of the Military History Institute, but in his opinion, given the context of what happened, it would be a reasonable assumption.
In one location somebody attempted to dig through to the ventilation shaft that still leads to a bricked-up chimney today, although it would have been too narrow for the men to escape through. The experts also found an attempt had been made to expand a drainage canal from inside the crypt.
The investigation also confirmed that a Baroque-era corridor likely passes near the crypt underground. It is oriented in the same direction in which the paratroopers attempted to create an escape opening, and they were about a meter away from accessing it.
Another component of the survey was looking for bloodstains using ultraviolet radiation, not just in the crypt itself, but also elsewhere in the church. Burian said no traces of blood could be found, not even on the wooden parts of the church where, according to historical photographs, there were pools of blood, the Czech News Agency reported.
Historians plan to continue the survey. They will complete it by creating a three-dimensional model of the crypt.
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