Events marking 80th anniversary of Operation Anthropoid to commence this week
The successful assassination of high-ranking Nazi Reinhard Heydrich by Czechoslovak soldiers in Prague, code-named Operation Anthropoid, is one of Czechia’s proudest historical moments. This May 27 will be the 80th anniversary of the event, which is being commemorated with a special exhibition in Prague.
Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš were just 30 and 28 years old, respectively, when they died, less than a month after assassinating Nazi governor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich. This landmark historical event is being commemorated with an exhibition called ‘Nikdy se nevzdáme!’ (We Will Never Give Up), which were some of the last words the paratroopers called out before they were killed on 18 June 1942. The exhibition will have its grand opening in the National Museum on 27 May, the day that 80 years ago the assassination took place, and will be open to the public from the following day.
The exhibition is being produced in co-operation with the Military History Institute in Prague. Its director Aleš Knížek says that the exhibition aims to emphasise not just the military side of the operation, but also the heroism of the ordinary people who helped the Czechoslovak paratroopers.
“Without these people, the assassination would never have happened. It was the small acts of heroism, by young people, by people connected with Sokol or other organisations, and every one of them knew that if it came down to it, they could lose their lives. That was the immense power of the legacy of Masaryk’s Republic – that they fought not only for the paratroopers, but for the freedom of Czechoslovakia, for those First Republic ideas.”
Mr. Knížek says that the exhibition will be in multimedia form, although due to the secrecy that was necessary around the operation, there is not much material in the film archive.
“In certain parts of the exhibition there will be audio-visual materials, film projections to recreate the atmosphere of the protectorate. To be honest there isn’t much in the film archive around the operation itself or the domestic resistance – in fact, nobody at that time filmed anything. Yes, there are famous shots of Reinhard Heydrich arriving at Prague Castle in September 1941, there are famous shots of him moving around various locations in Prague, but the resistance itself was not filmed, of course. So the exhibition is very difficult to curate from an audio-visual perspective.”
However, according to Knížek, it will feature exhibits ranging from jumpsuits and parachutes used by the paratroopers, to personal items that were seized and confiscated by the Gestapo after the six-hour gun battle in the crypt of The Saints Cyril and Methodius Church, during which Kubiš and Gabčík, along with five other Czechoslovak paratroopers, were killed.
“These items became part of the assassination investigation, and then after the Second World War in 1945 or ‘46 they were transported to us at the Military History Institute from the former Gestapo HQ in Petschek Palace. So we re-identified them and we are showing them again because during the 1950s to ‘80s these items were not shown.”
In addition to the exhibition, a website www.1942.cz has also been launched, which will bring together all the events which are taking place around the country this year in connection with the events of 1942.