Operation Anthropoid was a World War II mission carried out by Czechoslovak exiles with the aim of assassinating Reinhard Heydrich.
Reinhard Heydrichh, one of the most powerful figures in Nazi Germany. Heydrich, known as the „Butcher of Prague“, was the head of the Reich Security Main Office and had been appointed as the Acting Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, the Nazi-occupied territory that included the Czech Republic.
The mission was named after Anthropoid, a Greek word meaning human-like, which referred to the shape of the two-part assassination plan. The operation was planned by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) in conjunction with the Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London.
The two soldiers selected for the mission were Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, Czechoslovak paratroopers who were trained by the SOE in the United Kingdom. On May 27, 1942, Gabčík and Kubiš were dropped by a British Royal Air Force Halifax bomber into Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. They were joined by other members of the Czechoslovak resistance who helped them to plan and carry out the assassination.
On May 27, 1942, Heydrich was on his way to the Prague Castle in his open-topped Mercedes-Benz, accompanied by a small convoy. Gabčík and Kubiš ambushed Heydrich’s car at a hairpin bend in the road and Gabčík fired at Heydrich with a Sten submachine gun, but missed. Heydrich ordered his driver to stop the car and got out to pursue Gabčík, who threw a bomb at him. The bomb exploded, injuring Heydrich and his driver.
Heydrich was taken to a hospital and initially seemed to recover, but his condition worsened due to an infection. He died on June 4, 1942, as a result of septicemia caused by the bomb fragments. The assassination of Heydrich was a major blow to Nazi morale and sparked a brutal crackdown on the Czech population.
The Nazi regime responded to Heydrich’s assassination with a campaign of terror against the Czech population. The village of Lidice, which was falsely accused of harboring the assassins, was completely destroyed by the Nazis. Over 300 people were killed, including women and children, and the rest of the population was sent to concentration camps.
The surviving members of the Czech resistance who were involved in Operation Anthropoid were hunted down by the Nazis. Seven of them were killed in a gun battle with German forces in a church in Prague, while others were captured and executed.
Operation Anthropoid was a bold and daring mission that ultimately succeeded in assassinating one of the most notorious figures of the Nazi regime. It was a key moment in the Czech resistance movement and demonstrated the courage and determination of those who risked their lives to fight against Nazi oppression. The legacy of Operation Anthropoid continues to inspire those who fight for freedom and justice in the face of tyranny and oppression.