Prague skydivers honor 80th anniversary of Operation Anthropoid

Czechoslovak paratroopers who carried out the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich died at Prague's Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius on June 18, 1942.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 18.06.2022 14:38:00 (updated on 18.06.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Commemorations for the 80th anniversary of Operation Anthropoid culminated this morning in Prague as skydivers bearing the flags of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Great Britain descended on Zítkovy sady. Afterwards, government officials took part in a ceremony at the nearby Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

The ceremony honored a team of paratroopers led by Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík, who trained with Britain's Royal Air Force and secretly dropped into Nazi-ruled Prague in 1942 to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, one of Germany's highest-ranking officials.

Kubiš and Gabčík successfully carried out the mission, often cited as a turning point in WWII that showcased the vulnerability of the Nazi regime in occupied Europe. But it came at great cost: the village of Lidice was razed to the ground by Nazi forces, who executed hundreds of innocent civilians in their merciless search for the paratroopers.

Over the past weeks, ceremonies throughout the Czech Republic and across the globe have honored the 80th anniversary of the assassination of Heydrich as well as the Lidice massacre.

Today, events in Prague 2 honored the paratroopers, who holed up in the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius following the successful assassination. Ultimately, they were tracked to the location by Nazi forces, who attempted to flush them out.

"We are Czechs! We will never surrender, you hear? Never!" they reportedly shouted back.

On June 18, 1942, Gabčík (who was 30), Kubiš (29), Josef Valčík (28), Jaroslav Švarc (28), Adolf Opálka (27), Jan Hrubý (27), and Josef Bublík (22) died at the church following an extended firefight with hundreds of Nazi soldiers. Bullet holes from the battle can still be seen in the church's exterior.

This morning in Prague, a parachute jump honored the Czechoslovak paratroopers as well as their collaborators and other victims of Nazi terror. Skydivers jumped from a height of about one kilometer and descended into Prague's Zítkovy sady park (the actual paratroopers landed in a remote area in Nehvizdy, east of Prague).

Following the jump, Czech officials laid wreaths at the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius in memory of the men who carried out Operation Anthropoid, who lost their lives 80 years ago today. For the first time, the German Ambassador to the Czech Republic also took part in the Anthropoid commemorations.

"Doing the right thing - even if it can mean the ultimate sacrifice," Ambassador Andreas Künne wrote on Twitter.

"The paratroopers who successfully attacked Heydrich had such courage. Their act in 1942 was a light in the darkness of the Nazi dictatorship."

While official events commemorating the 80th anniversary of Operation Anthropoid have culminated, you can still learn more about the operation and its impact. An exhibition at Prague's National Museum tells the story of the Czech paratroopers through artifacts dating back to WWII.

The story of Operation Anthropoid has also been told in numerous films, including the recent Anthropoid, starring Jamie Dornan as Kubiš and Cillian Murphy as Gabčík and The Man with the Iron Heart, which starred Jack O'Connell and Jack Reynor as the paratroopers.

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