Now It Can Be Told! - How 'Hangman' Heydrich Met His End

The War Illustrated, Volume 9, No. 222, Page 534, December 21, 1945.

Czech parachutists, flown from Britain, killed Reinhard Heydrich, notorious Nazi “hangman”, it was learned on November 1, 1945, when the full story of the assassination of the Gauleiter of Bohemia and Moravia was told by an eye witness. The details of the assassination (as revealed here by Associated Press) were disclosed by a young Czech liaison officer attached to the War Crimes Commission at Wiesbaden, formerly a policeman in Prague, who worked with the Underground Movement.

A special mission of parachutists, armed with British weapons, was assigned to the task of hunting down Heydrich. They were led by Lieutenant Jan Opletal (aged 30), who was well known in Czech circles in London during the war. All three members of the special unit, with four companions, killed themselves when they were trapped in a church after carrying out their mission.

They were dropped in Bohemia in December 1941, and for five months waited their chance. Heydrich was known to take the same route every day from his country house to his Prague headquarters. On the morning of May 27, 1942, he was riding with his S.S. chauffeur. One of the Czechs, stationed at a corner a little distance away, signalled to his companions with a mirror. A tram coming from the opposite direction forced Heydrich's car to turn in near the kerbstone, and that was the patriots' opportunity.

One of the parachutists started firing at the hangman's car with a Bren gun, but it jammed. Then another of the agents threw a British bomb underneath the car from a few yards distance. Heydrich tried to draw his revolver, but he collapsed before he could fire. Twelve days later he died.

Heydrich's assailants escaped by fleeing in different directions. The Nazis launched a reign of terror, and an intensive house-to-house search was begun. A cordon was thrown around the city. The three Czech parachutists, with four companions who had been dropped earlier to make preparations, hid in the Prague church of Karel Boromejsky, where they were fed by clergymen. The Nazis offered a reward for clues, and threatened reprisals against the whole population unless the killers were found by June 18.

The parachutists' hide-out was given away by another Czech parachutist, who turned traitor at the last moment when taken prisoner by the Gestapo. For ten hours the seven Czech patriots in the church held off the Nazis who had surrounded them – three of them firing from the tower and the other four from the basement. Finally, when the Gestapo threatened to set fire to the building, the trapped men inside killed themselves.

Articles in the Now It Can Be Told! category