Prague set to mark 80 years since 'Operation Anthropoid' heroics

Czechoslovak paratroopers carried out the mission in Prague’s Libeň district in 1942 – this year sees a new exhibit, re-enactments, and film in honor.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 04.05.2022 13:19:00 (updated on 04.05.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

One of the most daring missions of World War II, the assassination of acting Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich by Czechoslovak paratroopers, took place 80 years ago this month.

Heydrich, one of the architects of the Holocaust, was known as the “Butcher of Prague” for his brutal crackdown on the Czech resistance.

During Operation Anthropoid, Czech paratroopers were dropped by Britain’s Royal Air Force on Dec. 28, 1941, to assassinate Heydrich, the third-highest Nazi official.

The operation, the only successful mission of its type during World War II, will be commemorated with exhibitions, tours, film screenings, and a re-enactment.

The National Museum, which will host a large exhibition called “We Shall Never Give Up,” is coordinating the events not only in Prague but across the Czech Republic with the launch of a new website called

Operation Anthropoid memorial in Prague 8. Photo: Raymond Johnston.
Operation Anthropoid memorial in Prague 8. Photo: Raymond Johnston.
  • The exhibition “We Shall Never Give Up” opens on May 28 at the National Museum. Visitors will see authentic objects related to paratroopers, the citizens of Lidice, and day-to-day life in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
  • In Prague, the main commemorative events are being held in Prague 8 where the assassination took place. A May 27 re-enactment of the assassination and a parade of the soldiers in period uniforms in Prague 8 takes place near the Anthropoid Memorial, from 9:30 am to noon.
  • In Thomayerovy sady on both May 27 and 28, live music and events for families will be followed by an evening screening of the 1964 film “Atentát” (Assassination). A replica Spitfire plane, exhibitions, and souvenir stands will be on display at Löwitův mlýn at the edge of Thomayerovy sady.

The paratroopers attacked Heydrich on May 27, 1942, as his car made a turn in Prague’s Libeň district. After a submachine gun jammed, one of the paratroopers threw a grenade, wounding Heydrich with shrapnel. He died of blood poisoning from the resulting infection on June 4.

Re-enactment of the Heydrich assassination in 2017. Photo: Praha 8.
Re-enactment of the Heydrich assassination in 2017. Photo: Praha 8.

Seven of the paratroopers – Jan Kubiš, Jozef Gabčík, Josef Valčík, Adolf Opálka, Josef Bublík, Jan Hrubý and Jaroslav Švarc – took refuge in the basement of the Church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Prague 2 hoping to be evacuated by the resistance.

They were betrayed by an eighth paratrooper, Karel Čurda, and tracked down by the SS on June 18. The seven were killed or committed suicide in the siege that involved over 750 attacking soldiers. Bullet holes can still be seen on the wall of the church. Čurda was given a reward by the Nazis and a new identity but was arrested after the war for treason and executed in 1947.

Marks from gunfire at the Church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. Photo: iStock, BrianPlrwin.

After the death of Heydrich, a state of emergency was declared and thousands of people were arrested. In total, 1,590 were executed. The villages of Lidice and Ležáky were destroyed, and the occupants either were executed or sent to concentration camps. A large memorial including statues of the executed people can be seen in Lidice.

Culture Minister Martin Baxa said Operation Anthropoid is one of the greatest rebuttals to the idea that Czechs are a kind of “Švejk nation” of lazy soldiers. He listed not only the paratroopers but also dozens of Sokol group and other resistance members who supported the mission.

Memorial to the Children Victims of the War in Lidice via iStock / hopsalka
Memorial to the Children Victims of the War in Lidice. Photo: iStock, hopsalka.

“Their stories are the definitive answer to all doubts that we are perhaps a nation without heroes,” he said.

He added that the story was suppressed in the communist era but needs to be remembered. “We have a debt to our heroes that we want to fix this year, when we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the successful Operation Anthropoid,” Baxa said.

A National Museum spokesperson said Operation Anthropoid was one of the most significant moments in modern Czech history and that the exhibition is among the National Museum’s most important projects in 2022.

Recent films such as “Anthropoid,” which premiered at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in July 2016, and “The Man with the Iron Heart,” released in 2017, are good starting points for learning about this chapter in Czech history. Both are in English and can be found on streaming services. The story of the liquidation of Lidice was told in the Czech film “Fall of the Innocent” (Lidice), released in 2011.

An earlier version of the events called “Operation Daybreak” was shot in Prague in English in 1975. There were several earlier versions dating back to the 1953 Hollywood film “Hangmen also Die!” by German-born director Fritz Lang.  

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