Jump to content
The Education Forum
Sign in to follow this  
Lee Forman

Assassination of Heydrich

Recommended Posts

One of the most facinating elements of the history of the Third Reich and WWII concerns the resistance by the Czech exile Government, working closely with Soviet and British Intelligence in resistance of the occupation of Czechloslovakia following the putrid Munich agreement of 1938. Benes and Moravec, pressured to demonstrate the value of the Czech state, and to potentially offset the damage done by the colloborative forces who were only too quick to embrace the Nazi occupation of the 'Protectorate,' proceeded with a series of exile attacks on the Reich, through the form of paratrooper teams. On team in particular, known as Operation Anthropoid, was created for the sole purpose of assassination. Anthropoid consisted of two team members, Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik. Working together with the Jindra underground resistance movement and other paratrooper operations [notably Silver A - Alfred Bartos & Josef Valcik and Outdistance, Adolf Opalka], Reinhard Heydrich was selected as the target, and the assassination attempt was made May 27, 1942.

Running out of time, the team moved on May 27th, because Heydrich was to exit Czech, and take up responsibilities in Paris, the following day. In training and in reality, similar to the assassination of John F Kennedy, a hairpin turn was selected as the location for the site, as this would force the car to slow down to make the turn.

One detail of the event is quite interesting, in that I can find little corroboration - the girlfriend of Gabcik, Rela Fafek, was alleged to have been part of the plan - she was alleged to have driven ahead of Heydrich, and provided key information to the hit team with respect to security; if Heydrich was accompanied by a Police escort, Rela would be wearing a hat. Rela was supposed to have preceded Heydrich to provide advance warning on that day, and her bonnet was on the seat beside her - signalling a lack of security. This is detailed by Jan Weiner, in his 'The assassination of Heydrich.'

Upon receiving a hand signal by mirror from Josef Valcik, Gabcik stepped into the street with a British made and supplied Sten machine gun, covered by a raincoat. As the car containing Heydrich and his driver rounded the corner, Gabcik pulled up the sten gun and pulled the trigger. The gun failed to fire. He tried again with no success. Jan Kubis quickly stepped up to assist his friend, hurling a British made bomb at close quarters, which impacted the right rear of the Mercedes.

There are some mixed reports here as to what happened next.

Why Adolf Opalka did nothing, when he was positioned across the street, armed and ready to assist, is unknown.

Why Gabcik and Kubis would not have finished off Heydrich with their handguns is another unknown.

Gabcik's stengun failed to fire - it is believed that this was caused by interfering blades of grass - since the gun was transported in a brokendown state, ready for immediate assembly, but camoflauged in a briefcase filled with grass [since the German occupation, Czechs had begun to rely upon the raising of rabbits and other animals for food - it was not uncommon to carry grass to feed these domestic pets]. But is this really why the gun jammed?

One version of the events that followed has Heydrich, wounded, leaving the vehicle and engaging in a hot gun battle with Gabcik, until Heydrich was unable to continue and returned to the car and collapsed.

Another version has Heydrich exiting the vehicle, but rapidly deteriorating in condition and collapsing on the hood of the car.

One version has Gabcik firing after Heydrich's pursuing chaffeur, Klein, hitting him in the legs - while another has Klein first chasing Kubis, who clears the area of spectators by firing in the air, and makes off on his bicycle when Klein's gun also jams. When Klein returns to the scene, Heydrich sends him after Gabcik. Gabcik runs first into a Butcher's shop, where he was quickly given away by it's owner. Discovering no other exit from the shop, Gabcik collided with the chaffeur in the doorway, and shoots him in the legs.

On the last, the latter explanation seems to hold a lot of weight, since Heydrich was abandoned to his fate alone - until a pro-Nazi woman recognized him and began a panic to assist the Reich 'Protector.' Had Klein been able, one would assume he would have returned to assist the fallen Heydrich.

Afterwards, Heydrich is taken to the hospital. Here begins the most contested piece of the puzzle. Shards of the bomb had penetrated Heydrich's side - unbeknownst to either Gabcik or Kubis [who suffered from flying fragments himself, and could hardly see to escape - which may also help explain why he would not have administered a coup de grace or eliminated Heydrich's pursuing chaffeur]. Heydrich is first examined by a Czech doctor, Vladimir Snajdr - but filled with mistrust even after being seen by the German director of the hospital, Dr Dick, begins to insist on a surgeon from Berlin. He settles for the top Nazi consultant in Prague, Professor Hollbaum. Dick and Hollbaum appear to have done a good job with the surgery, removing bomb fragments from Heydrich's spleen, etc, however, instead of improving, Heydrich's condition grows worse. Gebhardt, who appears to have been one of Himmler's doctors? Who is in charge of Heydrich's case, administers experimental sulphanomide to control the poisoning, as Heydrich develops peritonitis. He refuses to operate to remove the spleen. Large amounts of morphine are used, and repeated blood transfusions. Himmler flies to visit Heydrich on June 2nd. Heydrich expires June 4th.

Death occurred as a consequence of lesions in the vital parenchymatous organs caused by bacteria and possibly by poisons carried into them by the bomb splinters and deposited chiefly in the pleura, the diaphragm and the tissues in the neighborhood of the spleen, there agglomerating and multiplying.

I have read that it has been thought that horsehairs, which allegedly were part of the seat of Heydrich's open car Mercedes, may have contributed to this poisoning - however, this is not mentioned in the official diagnosis.

From Wikipedia:

The autopsy stated Heydrich's death was the result of septicemia caused by bacteria and toxins from horsehair and upholstery fragments from the car seats and driven into his blood stream by the bomb fragments. Penicillin had already been discovered by this time and would have saved his life but, ironically, it could not be procured in time by the otherwise all-powerful Nazi regime.

Further, there is the open possibility of the bomb's having carried some type of poison itself, however, Kubis was injured about the face, and did not succumb to any sickness from having been poisoned following the nearly botched assassination effort.

But the controversy here really surrounds Heydrich's death, based upon the final prognosis above. Heydrich was initially wounded on May 27th. Operated on that same day with a healthy and positive prognosis, he rapidly declined until his death on June 4th. Heydrich was an opportunist and a shrewd stratgist. Between himself and his direct superior Himmler, Heydrich had managed many internal coups, always rising in power to a possible point of succeeding Hitler. He partnered with Wilhelm Canaris, until this relationship was no longer useful. Although he managed the majority of his success with his relationship to Himmler, he also worked around Himmler with a relationship to Martin Bormann. Bormann was in all likelihood much more responsible for Heydrich's successful 'North Woods' type sabotage against the prior ruler of the 'Protectorate' - Freiherr Neurath.

Following Heydrich's death, a real martyr was created in Heydrich for the Third Reich. Hailed as the perfect Nazi, Heydrich was given an enormous funeral, and provided a plethora of material for propaganda, and a role model for Hitler's SS.

Did Himmler act in an overt manner to assure Heydrich's death? Did Himmler seek to remove a potential rival, who had risen to a point where he was no longer controllable, but an equal, or even a superior? Is there a chance that Heydrich was allowed to expire in order to create the drama - which would allow for a much tighter control of the 'Protectorate' - something Heydrich had been planning anyway, and the ability to create a 'superman' myth for the good of the Reich?

possibly by poisons carried into them by the bomb splinters...
Which poisons were carried into the organs by the bomb splinters?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Stephen Turner

Good piece Lee, British intellegence have always claimed to have trained, and sent in the assassins. Perhaps Himmler knew of the plan and withheld the knowledge from Heydrich.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Good piece Lee, British intellegence have always claimed to have trained, and sent in the assassins. Perhaps Himmler knew of the plan and withheld the knowledge from Heydrich.

Hey Stephen!

It's kind of crowded in this room - glad you could squeeze in!

Now there's a thought. The way in which the spy vs spy games were being played, it's hard to know who could have known what - however, in the case of Anthropoid, I think it's a fairly good guess that this one was kept close to the chest. Those guys were in-Country for months before finally executing on plan on the last possible day. Meanwhile, Heydrich, who was repeatedly chastized by his man Himmler for lack of security and precautionary measures, felt it necessary to keep up the pysch appearance by continuing to place himself in the spotlight as one unafraid. Himmler cared a great deal for his protege, however, as time went on, one can't help but wonder if he suspected Heydrich of seeking to rise to a position outside of Himmlers control and authority. Certainly his relationship with Bormann wouldn't have boded well - however, given the reaction to the assassination - I think that they were totally taken aback by it - clueless that it was going to happen. Just the madness that followed - plus the immediate reaction by Hitler [which wasn't carried out], and going by memory, I believe that Himmler wept when Heydrich died. I think that it's all an interesting spin on history, but the more it sinks in, the more I think that they just failed to save his life through wont of penecillin, and a Doctor who put too much faith in his abilities.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Good piece Lee, British intellegence have always claimed to have trained, and sent in the assassins. Perhaps Himmler knew of the plan and withheld the knowledge from Heydrich.

This is also the same theory put forward in Norman Baker's book on "The Strange Death of David Kelly". While writing the book he received information that British intelligence allowed Iraqi agents to kill Kelly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Stephen Turner
Good piece Lee, British intellegence have always claimed to have trained, and sent in the assassins. Perhaps Himmler knew of the plan and withheld the knowledge from Heydrich.

Hey Stephen!

It's kind of crowded in this room - glad you could squeeze in!

Now there's a thought. The way in which the spy vs spy games were being played, it's hard to know who could have known what - however, in the case of Anthropoid, I think it's a fairly good guess that this one was kept close to the chest. Those guys were in-Country for months before finally executing on plan on the last possible day. Meanwhile, Heydrich, who was repeatedly chastized by his man Himmler for lack of security and precautionary measures, felt it necessary to keep up the pysch appearance by continuing to place himself in the spotlight as one unafraid. Himmler cared a great deal for his protege, however, as time went on, one can't help but wonder if he suspected Heydrich of seeking to rise to a position outside of Himmlers control and authority. Certainly his relationship with Bormann wouldn't have boded well - however, given the reaction to the assassination - I think that they were totally taken aback by it - clueless that it was going to happen. Just the madness that followed - plus the immediate reaction by Hitler [which wasn't carried out], and going by memory, I believe that Himmler wept when Heydrich died. I think that it's all an interesting spin on history, but the more it sinks in, the more I think that they just failed to save his life through wont of penecillin, and a Doctor who put too much faith in his abilities.

Points well taken Lee, its Ok, I believe, to think outside the box, as long as you don't take up permenant residence there :angry:

Yes, the Nazi's reaction to Heydrick's assassination were brutal in the extreme, hundreds put to death by firing squad, if memory serves, and I think the burning down of a village. Heydrick's role in "The final solution" cannot be overstated, he was a major player at the Wannsee conference, the closest that the Nazi's ever got to admitting mass genosidal plans. I doubt his vaunted ambition, and gigantic ego would have allowed him to rest in his final position. He was also, of course, a stone cold psychopath.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rupert Butler writes in his book, An Illustrated History of The Gestapo ,that

after Heydrich's assassination, Karl Daluege (whom Heydrich despised)

took his place, which I find a suspicious move as well as presenting Heydrich

as a martyr and a perfect example of the Nazi ideals.

IMO, given the oddities of the case, this might well have been a plot

to strengthen the hatred against the Jews.

http://www.amazon.com/Illustrated-History-...r/dp/0879388013

Edited by Cigdem Eksi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×