New monument to honour teenage girl who helped Heydrich assassins
Prague 8 has chosen the winner of a public tender for a memorial to Jindřiška Nováková, the 14-year old “girl with the bike” whose family hid the paratroopers that assassinated high-ranking Nazi Reinhard Heydrich. The memorial will be in the shape of a sphere made of multiple circles resembling bike wheels, with the illuminated figure of a girl sitting on top.
Although the key events surrounding Operation Anthropoid, the code name for the assassination of Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich, are relatively well-known, few people know the story of Jindřiška Nováková – the girl who wheeled away the bike of one of the assassins after the event. Operation Anthropoid was carried out by a team of Czechoslovak soldiers sent by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile and trained by British special forces, the best-known of which are Heydrich’s assassins, the Czech Jan Kubiš and Slovak Jozef Gabčík.
Vojtěch Kyncl is from the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences:
“Jindřiška was not even 15 years old when her parents helped to hide both Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík. She and her family were forced to move to Libeň in Prague, where her father Václav Novák very quickly joined the resistance against the Nazis – so intensively that he was willing to support and hide the future assassins of Reinhard Heydrich for many months.”
The assassination of Heydrich was carried out on May 27, 1942, at a well-known turn in the road in Libeň, which forced Heydrich’s car to slow down. Kubiš threw the grenade which injured the Reich-Protector, who died just over a week later, on June 4. Kubiš received a minor wound to his face from the shrapnel, but managed to get away on his bike. He left the bike, covered in blood, at a Bat’a shoe store, and then went to the home of the Novák family. When the teenage Jindřiška came home, she found her mother tending to the injured Kubiš. He asked her to get the bike as soon as possible, fearing that it would soon be linked back to him. Jindřiška went and got the bike – but two women, Žofie Čermáková and Cecílie Adamová, witnessed it, and asked her why she was taking it away. In response to their question, she said that it was her dad’s bike and she was just returning it to him. Via another informant, the women then passed this information on to the Gestapo.
“Both women said that the bicycle was taken away by a girl of about 14 or 15. The Gestapo seized on this information – they knew that the bike was probably linked to the assassination of Heydrich. On June 3, about 40 girls of that age from the whole Libeň area were taken to the Petschek Palace [Gestapo HQ]. There they had to walk with the bike in the cinema auditorium. Jindřiška was among the last 10 suspects, but still they were not able to determine who it was. The whole affair ended in a big victory for Jindřiška that day, because she didn’t reveal anything, she didn’t give anything away, and she endured enormous danger and pressure from the Gestapo.”
However, after 14 days, everything changed. One of the paratroopers involved in the mission, Karel Čurda, revealed information about it to the Gestapo. The resistance network collapsed, and Jindřiška, her parents and siblings were arrested on July 9, 1942.
“They were all executed in the Mauthausen concentration camp as part of a liquidation operation of collaborators in Heydrich’s assassination. So she is one of the youngest victims of the reprisals against the assassination, not counting the murdered children from Lidice and Ležáky. Had it not been for the statement of Karel Čurda, the resistance network probably would have survived the enormous onslaught of reprisals that followed the assassination of Heydrich.”
The new monument, which will commemorate not only Jindřiška Nováková and her family, but also other members of the resistance movement, will be unveiled in October 2023 in Zenklova Street in Prague 8. Local residents voted in an online poll for their favourite design out of a total of 19, but a different entry, designed by Lukáš Wagner, was unanimously selected as the winner by an expert panel.
The modern-looking memorial will be in the shape of a sphere made of multiple circles resembling bike wheels, with the illuminated figure of a girl sitting on top, which Wagner says is supposed to be reminiscent of the beloved children’s character The Little Prince, sitting on top of his lonely planet. It will hang in the air, suspended by wires.