Deaths of paratroopers who assassinated Nazi official in Czechoslovakia remembered
People gathered today to mark the anniversary of the death of seven Czechoslovak paratroopers in the Cathedral of St. Cyril and Methodius on Resslova Street in Prague. The men met their deaths in the crypt of the Orthodox church 72 years ago.
They included Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, who assassinated Deputy Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich. The event was attended by Czech President Miloš Zeman and representatives of the Army, the City of Prague, and various ministries.
Politicians, soldiers, and representatives of many NGOs laid dozens of wreaths at the memorial plaque located near the window into the crypt where the paratroopers hid. A religious service for the dead was then held in the cathedral.
The service was for the fallen paratroopers and for all of the victims of the revenge subsequently taken for Heydrich's assassination, a terror campaign that was unleashed by the Nazis in its wake. Part of that campaign included the razing of the village of Lidice.
Heydrich, who was considered irreplaceable by Adolf Hitler himself, arrived in what was then the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia at the end of September 1941 in order to break up the Czech resistance and revolt. During just four months of a state of emergency that was immediately announced, 486 death sentences were handed down and more than 2 100 Czechs ended up in concentration camps.
In mid-October deportations of Jews from the Protectorate began to Łódź in occupied Poland and Terezín was designated an appropriate place to concentrate them (the first transport arrived there in November). Romani people were interned in two concentration camps, one in Moravia at Hodonín and one in Bohemia at Lety by Písek; most were later transported to the extermination camp at Auschwitz.
The formation of special Czechoslovak paratroop groups in Britain began at the start of 1941. Young soldiers from the Anthropoid group led by Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš attacked Heydrich as his car rounded a curve in the Kobylisy quarter of Prague on 27 May.
"The Executioner of the Czech Nation", as Heydrich was called, was seriously injured in the attack. He died in hospital as a result of his wounds several days later.
The paratroopers then evaded the German authorities for three weeks. Their final hideout became the crypt of the Orthodox church of St. Cyril and Methodius.
The assassins took shelter there together with five other Czechoslovak paratroopers. After a fight lasting several hours in which they were outnumbered by the Germans, some of the paratroopers fell, while others committed suicide, seeing no way out of their predicament.
Kubiš was seriously injured in that battle and died en route to the hospital. After the assassination of the top Nazi official, martial law was declared and mass executions began.
Thousands never survived the terror of the subsequent weeks. The assassination and subsequet persecution prompted a global response, with the razing of Lidice primarily becoming a symbol of Nazi atrocities.
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