Jan Kubiš & Jozef Gabčik
Most Notorious Assassins
Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík
Jan Kubiš was born in 1913 in Dolní Vilémovice, Moravia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Jan was a Boy Scout.
Jan Kubiš, having previously been an active member of Orel, started his military career as a Czechoslovak army conscript on 1 November 1935 by 31st Infantry Regiment "Arco" in Jihlava. After passing petty officer course and promotion to corporal, Kubiš served some time in Znojmo before being transferred to 34th infantry regiment "Marksman Jan Čapek" in Opava, where he served at guard battalion stationed in Jakartovice. Here, Kubiš reached promotion to platoon sergeant.
During the Czechoslovak mobilization of 1938, Kubiš served as deputy commander of a platoon in Czechoslovak border fortifications in the Opava area. Following the Munich Agreement and demobilization, Kubiš was discharged from army on 19 October 1938 and returned to his civilian life, working at a brick factory.
At the eve of World War II, on 16 June 1939, Kubiš fled Czechoslovakia and joined a forming Czechoslovak unit in Kraków, Poland. Soon he was transferred to Algiers, where he entered the French Foreign Legion. He fought in France during the early stage of World War II and received his Croix de guerre there.
A month after the German victory in the Battle of France, Kubiš fled to Great Britain, where he received training as a paratrooper. The Free Czechoslovaks, as he and other self-exiled Czechoslovaks were called, were stationed at Cholmondeley Castle near Malpas in Cheshire. He and his best friend, Jozef Gabčík, both befriended the Ellison family, from Ightfield, Shropshire, whom they met while in Whitchurch, Shropshire.
In 1941, Kubiš was dropped into Czechoslovakia as part of Operation Anthropoid, where he died following the successful assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. His remains were buried secretly in a mass grave at the Ďáblice cemetery in Prague. Since this was unknown after World War II, Karel Čurda, the member of their squad who betrayed them to the Nazis, was coincidentally also buried at the cemetery. However, in 1990 mass graves were excavated and a memorial site with symbolic gravestones was established instead. In 2009, a memorial was built at the place of the attack on Heydrich.
The elimination of Heydrich in Prague
Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš were airlifted along with seven soldiers from Czechoslovakia's army-in-exile in the United Kingdom and two other groups named Silver A and Silver B (who had different missions) by a Royal Air Force Halifax of No. 138 Squadron into Czechoslovakia at 10pm on 28 December 1941. In Prague, they contacted several families and anti-Nazi organizations who helped them during the preparations for the assassination.
On 27 May 1942, Heydrich had planned to meet Hitler in Berlin. German documents suggest that Hitler intended to transfer Heydrich to German occupied France, where the French resistancewas gaining ground. Heydrich would have to pass a section where the Dresden-Prague road merged with a road to the Troja Bridge. The junction, in the Prague suburb of Libeň, was well-suited for the attack because motorists have to slow for a hairpin bend. At 10:30 AM, Heydrich proceeded on his daily commute from his home in Panenské Břežany to Prague Castle. Gabčík and Kubiš waited at the tram stop on the curve near Bulovka Hospital in Prague 8-Libeň. As Heydrich's open-topped Mercedes-Benz neared the pair, Gabčík stepped in front of the vehicle, trying to open fire, but his Sten gun jammed. Heydrich ordered his driver, SS-Oberscharführer Klein, to stop the car. When Heydrich stood up to try to shoot Gabčík, Kubiš threw a modified anti-tank grenade at the vehicle, and its fragments ripped through the car's right-rear fender, embedding shrapnel and fibres from the upholstery into Heydrich's body, even though the grenade failed to enter the car. Kubiš was also injured by the shrapnel. Heydrich, apparently unaware of his shrapnel injuries, got out of the car, returned fire and tried to chase Gabčík but soon collapsed. Klein returned from his abortive attempt to chase Kubiš, and Heydrich ordered him to chase Gabčík. Klein was shot twice by Gabčík (who was now using his revolver) and wounded in the pursuit.
A Czech woman went to Heydrich's aid and flagged down a delivery van. Heydrich was first placed in the driver's cab, but complained that the van's movement was causing him pain. He was placed in the back of the van, on his stomach, and taken to the emergency room at Bulovka Hospital. Heydrich had suffered severe injuries to his left side, with major damage to his diaphragm, spleen, and lung. He had also fractured a rib. Dr Slanina packed the chest wound, while Dr Walter Diek tried unsuccessfully to remove the splinters. He immediately decided to operate. This was carried out by Drs Diek, Slanina, and Hohlbaum. Heydrich was given several blood transfusions. A splenectomy was performed. The chest wound, left lung, and diaphragm were all debrided and the wounds closed. Himmler ordered Dr Karl Gebhardt to fly to Prague to assume care. Despite a fever, Heydrich's recovery appeared to progress well. Dr Theodor Morell, Hitler's personal physician, suggested the use of sulfonamide (an antibacterial drug), but Gebhardt, thinking Heydrich would recover, refused. On 2 June, during a visit by Himmler, Heydrich reconciled himself to his fate by reciting a part of one of his father's operas.
Heydrich slipped into a coma after Himmler's visit and never regained consciousness. He died on 4 June, probably around 04:30. He was 28. The autopsy concluded that he died of sepsis. Heydrich's facial expression as he died betrayed an "uncanny spirituality and entirely perverted beauty, like a renaissance Cardinal," according to Bernhard Wehner, a Kripo police official who investigated the assassination.
Attempted capture of the parachutists
Kubiš and his group were found on 18 June in the Church of St Cyril and St Methodious in Resslova Street in Prague. In a bloody battle that lasted for six hours, Kubiš was wounded and died shortly after arrival at the hospital. The other parachutists committed suicide to avoid capture after an additional four-hour battle with the SS.
In revenge, the Nazis murdered 24 family members and close relatives of Jan Kubiš in the concentration camp Mauthausen: his father, both own and half-siblings, including their wives and husbands, cousins, aunts and uncles.
Honours and awards
Shortly after his successful mission, Kubiš (as well as Gabčík) was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant in memoriam. After the liberation of Czechoslovakia he was further promoted to the rank of staff captain in memoriam. During the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the assassination of Heydrich in 2002, Kubiš was again promoted in memoriam, to the rank of colonel.
Apart from the Czechoslovak Military Cross 1939 and Croix de Guerre (both he received in 1940), Kubiš was posthumously decorated with the Commemorative Medal of the Czechoslovak Army, F, GB (1944), another two Czechoslovak Military Crosses (1942, 1945), King's Commendation for Brave Conduct (1947), Czechoslovak Military Order for Liberty (1949), Military Order of the White Lion "For Victory" 1st Class (1968), Order of Milan Rastislav Štefánik (1992) and Cross of Defence of the Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic (2008).
There are streets named after Jan Kubiš in the cities of Prague (close to the Operation Anthropoid Memorial), Pardubice, Tábor, Třebíč and other places. In 2013 (100th anniversary of Kubiš's birth) a small memorial and museum was open in the house where Jan Kubiš was born. Since 2010 a National memorial and museum dedicated to all heroes related to the assassination of Heydrich is open in the crypt of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in Prague.
Gabčík was born 1912 in Poluvsie, part of Rajecké Teplice, Žilina district, Slovakia. He learned to be a farrier, as well as a blacksmith. He was also taught clock making at the village of Kostelec Nad Vltavou (Bohemia). He was taught by local master blacksmith J. Kunike. He lived with the Kunike family in their house of which still stands together with the outbuilding and yard which was used as a smithy. The house is located some 50 meters down a small hill which leads from the village centre where the church stands. In 1927 so the school records show that he attended School in Business Studies at Kovarov near to Kostelec Nad Vltavou. The building which housed the school is today the Municipal Office. A marble plaque was erected in 2010, together with historical documents on the wall there. These documents were all placed there by the citizens of Kovarov. Jozef at one time was working at a chemical plant in Žilina until 1939. He fled Czechoslovakia during World War II for Great Britain, where he was trained as a paratrooper. He became a rotmistr (approx. UK Staff Sergeant) in rank. The Free Czechoslovaks, as he and other self-exiled Czechoslovaks were called, were stationed at Cholmondeley Castle near Malpas in Cheshire.
The assassination in Prague
Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš were airlifted along with seven soldiers from Czechoslovakia's army-in-exile in the United Kingdom and two other groups named Silver A and Silver B (who had different missions) by a Royal Air Force Halifax of No. 138 Squadron into Czechoslovakia at 10pm on 28 December 1941. In Prague, they contacted several families and anti-Nazi organisations who helped them during the preparations for the assassination.
On 27 May 1942, at 10:30 AM, Heydrich proceeded on his daily commute from his home in Panenské Břežany to Prague Castle. Gabčík and Kubiš waited at the tram stop on the curve near Bulovka Hospital in Prague 8-Libeň. As Heydrich's open-topped Mercedes-Benz neared the pair, Gabčík stepped in front of the vehicle, trying to open fire, but his Sten gun jammed. Heydrich ordered his driver, SS-Oberscharführer Klein, to stop the car. When Heydrich stood up to try to shoot Gabčík, Kubiš threw a modified anti-tank grenade at the vehicle, and its fragments ripped through the car's right-rear fender, embedding shrapnel and fibres from the upholstery into Heydrich's body, even though the grenade failed to enter the car. Kubiš was also injured by the shrapnel. Heydrich, apparently unaware of his shrapnel injuries, got out of the car, returned fire and tried to chase Gabčík but soon collapsed. Klein returned from his abortive attempt to chase Kubiš, and Heydrich ordered him to chase Gabčík. Klein was shot twice by Gabčík (who was now using his revolver) and wounded in the pursuit. The assassins were initially convinced that the attack had failed. Heydrich was rushed to Bulovka Hospital, where it was discovered that he was suffering from blood poisoning. There Heydrich went went into shock, dying on the morning of 4 June 1942.
In the aftermath of the assassination of so-called "Heydrichiade," a rigorous investigation was instigated. The investigation determined the assassination was planned and carried out by the Czech Resistance with assistance of the British. The oppression and persecution of the defiant Czechs reached its peak following the failure of Nazi soldiers to capture the assassins alive. More than 13,000 people were ultimately arrested and tortured, including the girlfriend of Jan Kubiš, Anna Malinová, who died at Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. First Lieutenant Adolf Opálka's aunt, Marie Opálková, was executed in Mauthausen on 24 October 1942. His father, Viktor Jarolím, was also killed. Among the unfortunate was the native of Kostelec nad Vltavou, JUDr. Jan Fleischmann. It was known locally that Jozef visited Jan Fleischmann who was a friend in Kostelec nad Vltavou before the assassination of Heydrich. After the assassination, the visit was found out as Karel Čurda had informed Gestapo and the Nazis arrested Jan Fleischmann and took him to Pankrác where he was tortured and finally executed.
The Nazi officials in the Protectorate carried out an extensive search for the two men. Eventually, the Germans found them, along with other paratroopers, hiding in Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in Prague. After a six-hour gun battle, in which the Germans lost 14 and sustained wounds to 21 others, Gabčík and the others, with the exception of Kubiš, who was seriously wounded by a grenade, committed suicide before the Nazis could take them alive in the Church catacombs. Kubiš was wounded in the gun battle and died shortly after arrival at the hospital.
The town of Gabčíkovo in southern Slovakia is named after Gabčík, and one of the biggest dams on the Danube next to the village is named after the town. Jozef Gabčík's name was also given to the 5. pluk špeciálneho určenia ("5th special operations regiment of Jozef Gabčík") part of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic, based in Žilina.
With the aim of commemorating the heroes of the Czech and Slovak Resistance, the Slovak National Museum in May 2007 opened an exhibition presenting one of the most important resistance actions in the whole Nazi-occupied Europe.
Gabčík is portrayed by Anthony Andrews in the 1975 film Operation Daybreak, and by Cillian Murphy in the 2016 film Anthropoid. Coinciding with the release of the latter film, campaigners called for Gabčík's body to be exhumed from the mass-grave at the cemetery in Ďáblice, northern Prague, and to be given a dignified burial fitting "the heroes of anti-Nazi resistance".
On 26 May 2017 he was in memoriam promoted to the rank Major General by President of the Slovak Republic Andrej Kiska