UK Operation Anthropoid documents on display for first time in Czechia

Exhibition ‘We Will Never Give Up!’

For the first time, two unique documents about the events surrounding the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in May 1942 can be seen at the National Museum in Prague. They have been on display since Thursday as part of the special exhibition ‘We Will Never Give Up!’, which is being held as part of the 80th anniversary celebrations of Operation Anthropoid.

Two unique documents about the events surrounding the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in May 1942 | Photo: Michaela Vetešková,  Czech Radio

The two documents, one a letter from František Moravec to Brigadier Gubbins and the other a report to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, are usually kept in the collection of the British National Archives. But for three months they are available for the public to view in the historical building of the National Museum in Prague. According to the museum’s director, Michal Lukeš, it might be easy for visitors to miss the documents.

“Of course, they’re archive documents so visually they’re not that interesting – they’re just two typescripts.”

Exhibition ‘We Will Never Give Up!’ | Photo: Zuzana Jarolímková,  Czech Radio

But their significance for European history cannot be underestimated – they confirm how important an act the assassination on May 27 eighty years ago was.

“They evaluate Operation Anthropoid and the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich as successful, but also mention the terror unleashed by the fascists in the protectorate as a result.”

Mr. Lukeš says that for him as a historian, the documents are proof that the Czechs and Slovaks were not an occupied nation that remained silent and submitted to the occupiers. The assassination was the most significant military action of its kind in the occupied territories, and led to the retraction of the 1938 Munich Agreement and therefore to the post-war restoration of Czechoslovakia to its pre-1938 borders.

Michal Lukeš | Photo: Jana Myslivečková,  Czech Radio

However, acquiring the documents was not without its problems, he says.

“Here I have to thank historian Pavel Žáček, the former director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, who brought the documents to my attention. Because of that we contacted the British National Archives. It took some time to convince them to lend us the documents, not that they didn’t want to, but they protect their archives very carefully and only rarely lend things out. But in view of the fact that this year is the 80th anniversary of Operation Anthropoid and that we have this exhibition, in the end it worked out.”

Historian Michal Stehlík agrees that among the dozens of exhibits, two A4 typed documents behind glass in one of the many showcases may be easy to miss. But, he says, visitors can relate to the documents more if they try to visualize what was going on at the time.

František Moravec | Photo:  ČT24

“Try to imagine Colonel František Moravec sitting at his typewriter, writing a letter to Brigadier Gubbins on 30 May 1942. He is sitting in his office in London, describing the events that happened not quite three days ago.

“He talks about how the carefully planned operation went according to plan, that the assassination was carried out – he doesn’t say that Heydrich is dead, because at this point he is still alive – but he says that the Czechoslovak army with the help of the British did something which can serve as an inspiration for the whole of the European underground resistance movement.”