Sunday Times - Heydrich Assassination Exhibition at the Wiener Library

Discussion in 'SOE & OSS' started by Jedburgh22, Apr 23, 2012.

  1. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    A dramatic and dangerous act of resistance to Nazi rule - The Wiener Library's new exhibition documents the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich
    Times, The (London, England)-April 21, 2012
    Author: Chris Bowlby

    Reinhard Heydrich's death at the hands of Czech and Slovak parachutists in Prague in 1942 was the only successful assassination attempt on a leading Nazi, a moment of triumph for opponents of Nazi rule, yet an act which triggered appalling retribution.

    A new exhibition at the Wiener Library in London, marks the 70th anniversary of his killing. It seeks, says the library's Toby Simpson, to offer a "re-examination of the significance of Heydrich" ? both his influential role in shaping the genocidal Nazi state, and the brutal occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in which he was a dominant figure. And it also uses images and documents ? some from the library's collection, some from that of the cocurator, Czech historian and filmmaker Jan Kaplan ? to illuminate the background to the assassination.

    Testimony from a Jewish former civil servant in Germany shows how Prague was at first a place of refuge from Nazism in the 1930s, until in March 1939 the Germans occupied Bohemia and Moravia, and the Gestapo set to work on its local "enemies". Some managed to escape west and made their way eventually to Britain, where military units were formed from exiled Czechs ? as well as Slovaks who had seen their part of Czechoslovakia turned into a puppet state sympathetic to the Nazis.

    Czech pilots fought bravely and crucially for the RAF during the Battle of Britain. But when it came to actions by exiled Czechoslovak forces behind enemy lines, securing permission and resources was always more difficult. However, the British Government was said to have been keen to atone for the shame of the prewar Munich Agreement, which had ceded Czechoslovak territory to Nazi Germany. When Heydrich, a prominent SS officer and already head of the Reich's main security office, was made acting Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia in 1941, he was an obvious target. His aim was to terrorise opposition but also to co-opt sections of Czech society into the Nazi war effort. The exhibition includes a poster appealing to Czech youth.

    The Special Operations Executive (SOE), helped to train a Czech, Jan Kubiš and a Slovak, Josef Gabcik, for "Operation Anthropoid" ? an attempt on Heydrich's life, one of the most dramatic acts of resistance possible. It was, clearly, a dangerous mission. The exhibition includes, movingly, a letter from Kubiš before his departure appointing an English family he knew as executor of his will should he not return. The two men were parachuted into Bohemia and made final plans for their attack on Heydrich in May 1942 as he made his routine way in an opentopped car to his office in the Hradcany castle above Prague.

    The attack nearly failed. Gabcik's gun jammed at the crucial moment, but Kubiš managed to throw a grenade and Heydrich died of his wounds some days later. The assassins initially escaped, but their location was betrayed by another agent and they eventually committed suicide as the Nazis tried to flush them out from their hiding place in a Prague church. Nazi rage and desire for retribution was intense. The exhibition shows notices of executions and material relating to the destruction of Lidice, a Czech village which, the Nazis claimed, was linked to the assassins. Its adult male inhabitants were shot, its women and children deported to concentration camps, and the village itself razed in an attempt ? subsequently defied by international campaigns ? to remove punitively any memory of its existence.

    It was a bitter foretaste of the way in which the murderous ambition of Nazi rule would spread systematically across Central and Eastern Europe. The response ordered by Hitler to Heydrich's death, as well as the macabre funeral ceremonies held for him in Berlin, indicated how significant a role he had been playing in the preparation of the Holocaust. In the year after his death, a million and a half Jews were murdered in the death camps at Belzec, Sobibór and Treblinka in a genocidal operation named by the Nazis "Operation Reinhard" in Heydrich's honour.

    The Wiener Library makes use of its extensive collection of materials gathered for the Nuremberg trials after the war to indicate Heydrich's broader influence. There are examples here of letters sent by him, calling together meetings of various agencies, including the notorious Wannsee Conference, to plan an Endlösung ? a "final solution" ? for the Jews. It is not only the horribly euphemistic language but also the bureaucratic banality of such communications that is shocking.

    This is one of the first exhibitions to be staged by the Wiener Library in its new home in Russell Square, a welcome move to more space and better storage conditions for its collection of books, newspaper cuttings, photographs, posters and propaganda material relating to Nazism, the Holocaust and genocide. The collection was begun by a German Jew, Alfred Wiener, and made its way to London via Amsterdam after the Nazi seizure of power in Germany in 1933.

    It was used to inform the British Government about Nazi Germany during the war, and to research the prosecution of Nazi war criminals after it. After a period when the library's funding and future was in doubt, it is now on a more secure footing. It aims to continue to acquire material, making its presence felt more strongly in research about the Nazi catastrophe, the Holocaust and the broader history of genocide.

    Operation Anthropoid: Britain, Heydrich and the Holocaust runs until June 8. Visit
  2. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    As far as the run of the mill guys who surrounded Hitler, Heydrich was something else he was in a different league highly intelligent , utterly ruthless and as cold as much so his own feared him as much as those whom he would set himself against.
    Had he survived and been put on trial you have to wonder what he might have been able to say to justify his misdeeds , the system he served was corrupt, twisted and dishonest yet Heydrich must have known that through what he was part of.
    Cultured in the arts, a devoted father and husband but able to organise genocide and sleep well at night - a man who could size people up manipulate them by whatever means were most appropriate, a man who relished control, power,status and was always on the make for his own self advancement.
  3. Eric Brothers

    Eric Brothers Junior Member

    The attack on Heydrich had repercussions on the resistance in Berlin. The attack took place around the same time that the Herbert Baum group was being rounded up after the "Soviet Paradise" action. The Baum group was mostly Jewish anti-fascists in Berlin who attempted to fire bomb a massive anti-Soviet and anti-Semitic Nazi exhibition called "Soviet Paradise." Goebbels wrote in his diary, in a combined response to the "Soviet Paradise" action and attack on Heydrich,

    We still don't know the background on the any case we will retaliate against the Jews. I've fulfilled my plan to imprison 500 Jews in Berlin and to let the leaders of the Jewish community know that as a reaction to any Jewish plot or attempted revolt 100 or 150 Jews that are held by us will be shot. As a result of the attempted assault on Heydrich, a large group against which we had proof has been shot dead in Sachsenhausen. (page 173, Berlin Ghetto)

    For those who are interested, my book is Berlin Ghetto: Herbert Baum and the Anti-fascist Resistance.

  4. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    What a swine he was. I am really glad that my own people did him in.

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