Czech legislators discussing making Heydrich assassination “significant day”

Josef Gabčík, Jan Kubiš

Czech legislators are discussing whether to declare May 27 – the day of the assassination of the Nazi governor of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich, in 1942 – a “significant day”. The proposal is the result of an initiative launched by Prague 8 – the municipality where the assassination took place. The district mayor says he has high hopes for it will pass no matter how the government decides.

The assassination of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich by Czechoslovak paratroopers Josef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš is one of the most famous stories from World War II Czechoslovakia. The effort helped bring recognition for the country’s resistance against Nazi occupation, albeit at the cost of the lives of the parachutists, who died in a last stand months later when their hideout was betrayed to the Germans.

The memory of the successful operation is still very much alive in the country. In recent years, a memorial and specially commissioned street art commemorating the act have been created in Prague 8, the Prague municipality where the assassination took place. Meanwhile, the place where the assassins were eventually killed – the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius – was most recently honoured through a visit by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier this August.

Heydrich's car after the assassination | Photo: Bundesarchiv,  Bild 146-1972-039-44,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

Now May 27 may also become legally recognised as what is referred to as a “significant day”.

Legislators have proposed naming the anniversary “The Day of the Attack by the Czechoslovak resistance on Acting Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich” and the matter is currently being discussed by MPs.

Making the anniversary a significant day was initially suggested by the Prague 8 council. Local mayor Ondřej Gros, who is a member of the Civic Democrats, explains why councillors voted for the initiative.

“For a long time now, we have recognised this day as a very important anniversary in Czech and Czechoslovak history.

“We think that this day should be an important date for the Czech Republic, so we logically decided to go ahead with the initiative and hope that it will become a permanent addition to the Czech calendar.”

The proposal was put forward in the Chamber of Deputies by three ruling ANO party MPs. However, individual ministries, which present their opinion on legislation before the government vote, have all dismissed it.

Operation Anthropoid memorial | Photo: Radio Prague International

For example, the Ministry of Culture opposes the legislation on the basis that significant days should not carry the names of war criminals. Other arguments against the motion included the opinion that the country already officially commemorates days that are connected to the assassination, such as the ‘Remembrance Day for the Victims of the Extermination of the Village of Lidice’ held on June 10, or the ‘Day of Heroes of the Second [Wartime] Resistance’ on June 18.

Nevertheless, Mayor Ondřej Gros says he will remain optimistic even if the proposal is rejected.

“I think that the position of the outgoing government is not very important right now. The information that I have received from both chambers of Parliament is good.

“We did not propose any specific name for the anniversary, so, if they decide to leave out the name of Reinhard Heydrich from the final official designation for the date, I have absolutely no problem with that.

“I have information from the Senate for example that ‘The Day of National Resistance’ could eventually be proposed. We have no problem with that.”

Mr Gros may have reason to be optimistic. The Czech News Agency reports that the Senate proposal will be put to a vote in two weeks’ time in the upper house and, if it passes, will then be put forward to a vote in the post-election Chamber of Deputies, where the Civic Democrats are expected to be part of a majority coalition.

Whatever ends up happening, he says that Prague 8 is already busy preparing major celebrations for next year’s 80th anniversary of Operation Anthropoid.