European history

Lezaky village martyr

The Lezak River in Lezaky (credit: CSJiří Sedláček aka Frettie)
The Lezak River in Lezaky (credit: CSJiří Sedláček aka Frettie)

(BRUSSELS2) It was June 24, 1942, a small, quiet village in Eastern Bohemia, Ležáky, located near Chrudim (a town which today houses a paratrooper battalion). The village was the subject of a “raid” operation carried out by an SS division. Around fifty residents were taken away, the adults shot immediately. Most of the children were sent to the Chelmno extermination camp and ultimately died in the gas chambers. Two will be saved at the last minute and entrusted to a German family. The buildings were looted and burned, the village razed. The town has never been rebuilt. Lidice had suffered the same fate 15 days earlier, with several hundred dead. The reason for this murderous fury? The (successful) attack against Reinhard Heydrich, then Reich Protector in Bohemia-Moravia and head of the Reich security forces, assassinated by two Czechoslovakian paratroopers. The Nazi power ordered reprisals which caused some 5000 victims.

Code name of this operation: “Anthropoid”

Operation Antropoid is a still little-known episode of the European “resistance” against Nazism. At least not well enough known, especially in Western Europe, even if it has given rise to films (notably “Seven Men at Dawn” or “Operation: Daybreak” by Lewis gilbert). It was prepared by British commandos and approved by the Czech government in exile in London. He seems eager to show that, despite three years of complete annexation to the Reich, Czechs and Slovaks are still resisting. Two officers were chosen for the operation: a Slovak Jozef Gabčík and a Czech Jan Kubiš, parachuted just after Christmas to the east of Prague. The operation was not carried out until several months later. It is May 27, 1942. The idea is to reach Heydrich, between his home and Prague Castle, while he is traveling in his car, a Mercedes. But the Sten machine gun of one of the paratroopers jams, and it is finally with an anti-tank grenade that Heydrich is hit, by grenade fragments. He died several days later in hospital from these injuries.

A strong element of the Nazi regime

Heydrich is not just anyone. Deputy of Heinrich Himmler, he joined the Nazi ranks very early, in the 1930s, and was a very active member, always pushing the desire for destruction of opponents and Jews alike. He created the SD, Sicherheitsdienst, the party's intelligence service, responsible for monitoring opponents and party members alike. He participated in the Anschluss in Austria chasing away opponents, in Kristallnacht in November 1938 against the Jews, staged the false attack on German radio in Gleiwitz in September 1939 which served as a pretext for the invasion of Poland , created the Einsatzgruppen responsible for “cleaning” Poland, was one of the architects of the creation of Jewish ghettos, then of the extermination of the Jews. In short, he is not a pure executor but a designer of the “final solution”.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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