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Remembering Lidice and Lezaky

Story ID:9807
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Prague Bohemia
Year:1941
Person:Gabcik/Kubis
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All this past week in June there were numerous programs recalling the 70-
year Normandy invasion anniversary to free Europe from Nazi control. Despite
our superior forces and equipment, it was heart-breaking to witness on TV
one of the invasion landings on an open Omaha beach where our soldiers were
being gunned down mercilessly. Yes, we paid a high price that day on that
beach and in other places in our quest to free Europe from Nazi control and
assure freedom for ourselves as well.

LIDICE and LEZAKY, CZECH REPUBLIC

I had forgotten the sad story of the Czech towns of Lidice and Lezaky - the
former most often being sited where retribution was carried out by Hitler for
a heroic act carried out by two soldiers – one Czech and the other Slovak. But
just today I received a Slovak Heritage newsletter which reported the whole
story about what wrongfully happened there.

The two soldiers -Josef Gabcik (Slovak) and Jan Kubis (Czech) could not have
known that when they fled their country and joined the Czechoslovak government-
in-exile in England that they would be involved in a history–making endeavor.

A decision had been made to assassinate one of the most vicious and feared
Nazis –Reinhard Heydrich. He was the overall head of security in Nazi Germany
and the leading architect of the Final Solution. In January of 1942 -Heydrich
chaired the infamous Wannasee Conference which planned the enslavement
and murder of 8 million European Jews.

In 1941 he had been appointed “Protector” of Bohemia and Moravia, but his
treatment of Czechs earned him the title “Butcher of Prague.”

The Benes government was under increasing pressure to prove that the Czechs
were aligned with the Allies so that after the war Czechoslovakia would again be
re-united.

The assassination plan dubbed Operation Antropoid was now becoming a reality,
and it was decided that one Czech and one Slovak would carry out the mission of
assassinating Heydrich as a symbol of the hoped-for unity of Czechs and Slovaks.

Trained by Britain’s Special Operations Exceutive (SOE), the two men were air-
lifted on December 28, 1941 with five other soldiers to Prague. But it would be
on May 27, 1942 when the actual attempt was made on Heydrich’s life as he was
making his daily commute from his home in a Prague suburb to his office in Prague
Castle.

On this day Heydrich was riding in an open-topped Mercedes convertible –showing
absolute contempt for the Czechs -believing himself invulnerable from any threat
from them. Gabcik, after receiving a mirrored signal of the car’s approach by a
third soldier (Valcik) stepped in front of the car as it slowed to take a sharp curve.
Then he raised his Sten submachine to fire on Heydrich, but the gun jammed!
What a terrifying experience that must have been for him to face this monster
helpless.

Heydrich ordered his driver Stein to stop the car and stood to shoot Gabcik when
Kubis threw a modified anti-tank grenade at the vehicle. Its fragments ripped
through the car’s right rear bumper. Shrapnel and fibers from the upholstery
became embedded in Heydrich’s body and also injured Kubis.

Although Kubis and Gabcik fired their handguns at Heydrich who staggered
out of the car -they missed. Would anything be going right they probably
wondered. Now a dazed Heydrich even tried to chase Gabcik before finally
collapsing.

Stein, the driver, chased Kubis who escaped on a bicycle. Then he chased Gabcik
on foot into a butcher shop where Gabcik shot him twice -wounding him in the leg.
Gabcik then escaped to a safe house using a tram.

Both men felt they had failed their mission because it seemed at first that
Heydrich would survive. But seven days later he died -probably from a
systemic infection.

Hitler was furious over the death of Heydrich and ordered an investigation.
False intelligence linked the assassins to the villages of Lidice and Lezaky.
Per the writer of this account: “Lidice was destroyed on June 9, 1942; 199
men were executed, 95 children and 195 women deported to extermination
camps. In Lezaky all adults, children, and women were murdered and both
towns were burned. The ruins of Lidice were leveled. News of these atrocities
galvanized hatred of the Nazis and sparked sympathy for the Czechs worldwide.”

THE FATE OF THE PARATROOPERS

For awhile it seemed that Kubis and Gabcik would evade the search for them
by the Nazis. They had initially hid with two Prague families and later took
refuge in St. Cyril and Methodius Eastern Ordthodox Church

They were safe until a traitor, Karel Curda, gave the names of the team’s local
contacts for 500,000 Reichsmarks.

The safe houses were raided, and 17-year-old Ata Moravec whose mother
commintted suicide with a cyanide capsule revealed the final hiding place
(the church) after being tortured.

On June 18, 1942- 700 Waffen SS troops laid siege to the church. But though
they were ordered to take the paratroopers alive this would not happen.

The paratroopers put up a fight, but after a two hour gun battle, Kubis, Adolf
Opalka, and Jaroslav Svarc were killed. Gabcik and three other were hidden in
an under-ground crypt. But when the SS attempted to smoke the men out and
flood the crypt with a fire truck hose, the four committed suicide with their last
bullets.

If one report is accurate, the men were able to kill 14 SS and wound 22 others
before taking their own lives.

BISHOP GORAZD

For those of the Orthodox Church you may be well aware of the sacrifices of
Bishop Gorazd who tried to minimize the reprisals among his flock by taking the
blame for the actions in the church.

He was arrested on June 17, 1942, tortured, and on September 4, 1942 faced
a Nazi firing squad along with the church’s priests and senior lay leaders.
The church was closed and the Czech Orthodox Church declared illegal.

Today there is The National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror.
Considered a place of reconciliation, it is located beneath the Orthodox
Cathedral of SS. Cyril and Medodius at Resslova 9, Prague

A bronze plaque on the wall lists the names of the parachutists and the
Bishop. The crypt was opened to the public in 1947.

Bishop Gorazd was made a saint of the Orthodox church. Lidice was a second
memorial site and place of plilgrimage.