In the Third Part of Ben Mayne’s write-up series from his Trip to Prague and the Czech Republic we take a look in a two section article post at the story of Operation Anthropoid and the sites connected with it.
By now I think most of us will have seen the newly released film ‘Anthropoid’, if not I recommend a visit to the cinema. Until my recent trip to the Czech Republic I had very limited knowledge of the full extent of the Operation. This, by way of the SOE operation and the political background to it all. Questions will always remain a source of debate around the resulting consequences of what unfolded, we will all have our own opinions on this I’m sure. I wanted to share my journey of learning with you all again thanks to WW2 Nation.
The Operation setup by the British Special Operation Executive, to be carried out by Czech soldiers trained in the UK and parachuted back into their homeland with the task they were given was a tall order.
The task, ‘Anthropoid’ was to see the assassination of SS-Gruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the Reich Main Security office and Protector of Bohemia and Moravia of what is now the Czech Republic. Heydrich was also a main architect of the Nazi’s final solution. Much is written in history about him and his exploits during the war. I would say an evil man that did deserve to be part of an assassination plot.
I conducted yet another self guided and researched tour on the trail to learn of the brave heroic actions of the men that dropped in to carry out this mission. I’d like to point out my guide book for this was John Martin’s “The mirror caught the sun,” this is a must purchase book for anybody interested in the history or looking to visit.
I wanted to get a feel for the streets of Prague on foot, the architecture and how it must have been back in the last 30’s to early 40’s. Lots of the buildings have remained unchanged and it is such a lovely city to visit. I was constantly reminded of the war years in lots of locations, from memorial plaques on walls to the resistance or brass plaques on the floor outside front doors remembering Jewish families that had been taken, sadly all showing dates of death and location, several labelled Auschwitz.
A first point of call on the ‘Anthropoid’ trail was to locate a safe house, 10 Melantrichova, of the Svatos family, they helped in providing supplies to Josef Gabcik in the run up to the operation. This was easily located and a memorial plaque to the family is in place for recognition.
Sadly all the family paid with their lives for the help given. This flat is right in the heart of Prague city centre, down small alleyways and you are able to get a sense of how sneakily and stealthily the resistance would have used it to their advantage against the occupiers.
Walking around, I stopped off at several of the hotels used by the likes of Heydrich, one being the Hotel Esplanade. Heydrich upon his arrival to Prague stayed his very first night at this location. The hotel itself is very grand and has a certain ambience about it. It is worth stopping off in the lobby bar for a coffee to take it in. You really can get a feel for how the German Officers would have visited and sat here over long evenings eating, drinking and womanising.
Not far from the hotel is the powerful building of the Petschek Palace, this was the home of the feared Gestapo. Within this basement remains the cell block where unspeakable and horrific acts would have been carried out. After the assassination of Heydrich any person suspected of being linked or involved would have been bought here.
It is a dark and sinister building, a plaque on the side of the building reminds people today of what took place here ending in the words ‘People Watch Out’. This is now the Czech ministry of foreign trade, I believe by private appointment tours inside can be arranged to further explore this building and the cells.
Thank you to Ben for sharing with us his experience of the first part of his tour of Prague looking at the history of Operation Anthropoid.
You can find out more about Ben and his regular WW2 related trips by following him on Twitter : @BattlefieldBen or on Facebook : Battlefield Ben.
The second and final part of Ben’s tour looking at Operation Anthropoid in Prague with follow very shortly…
Until then, why not listen to the final part of the interview on the Veterans Podcast Archive with former WW2 Tank Commander, Captain David Render.