Anonymous group to erect "unofficial" memorial to Heydrich assassins

Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik

It's 65 years since the assassination of the Reichsprotektor of Nazi-controlled Bohemia and Moravia Reinhard Heydrich, but surprisingly, there is no monument in Prague to mark the event. That, however, could be about to change, as a group of people plan to unveil a memorial - without the permission of the Prague authorities.

Reinhard Heydrich,  photo: Bundesarchiv,  Bild 146-1969-054-16 / Hoffmann,  Heinrich / CC-BY-SA / Wikimedia Commons 3.0
Sixty-five years ago, at 10.30 am on May 27th 1942, a pair of Czechoslovak parachutists - Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik - carried out one of the most audacious assassinations of the Second World War. As SS Obergruppen Fuhrer Reinhard Heydrich, governor of the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, made his way to his office from his villa outside Prague, the British-trained pair attacked his open car in the city's Kobylisy district.

The assassins' machine gun jammed, but Jan Kubis managed to throw a bomb at the car. At first Heydrich appeared uninjured, even giving chase to his attackers. But he was later taken to hospital, and died several days later from septicaemia caused by horsehair and upholstery fragments being embedded in his body by the explosion.

Heydrich's car after the assassination | Photo: Bundesarchiv,  Bild 146-1972-039-44,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0
Hitler's fury at Heydrich's killing led to some the most appalling acts of brutality committed by the Nazis in Czechoslovakia, including the now infamous destruction of the village of Lidice. The parachutists themselves committed suicide after a heroic last stand in the crypt of a Prague church.

However there is still no memorial marking the event. Even the spot where Heydrich was attacked has virtually disappeared, buried under a bypass built during the communist regime. Since 1989, politicians have long discussed building a memorial but the idea has never borne fruit. Ironically the only memorial that ever marked the spot was a plaque erected by the Nazis themselves, torn down in 1945.

Now, the Czech daily Pravo reports that an anonymous group of citizens, disgusted with their politicians' inactivity, plans to take matters into their own hands. A member of the group told the paper they plan to erect a memorial to Kubis and Gabcik without the permission of the Prague 8 authorities.

"The politicians have talked about building something so many times it seems they're the only ones who still believe it," the group member told the paper.

Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik
"If one day their children will be ashamed of them for doing nothing, that's their problem. But no-one is going to be ashamed of us."

A local official contacted by the paper said he had not heard of the plan. He said this was actually the first time since 1945 there had been the political will to finally resolve the problem, and that a meeting was planned in the near future to discuss building a monument.

That will do little to satisfy the group of amateur historians. They plan to go ahead with their unofficial memorial to Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik. And all the authorities can do is levy a 50,000 crown (2,400 dollar) fine.