Was Operation Anthropoid a success? Was killing a monster like Heydrich worth the lives of several thousand people?
On the morning of May 27, 1942, the most dangerous man in Nazi Germany went for his last ride.
Reinhard Heydrich was tall, slender, blue-eyed and blond, a perfect specimen of the ideal Nazi man. In his green Mercedes 320 Convertible B that morning, he might have been mistaken for a European playboy, or a rich, spoiled aristocrat.
But SS Obergruppenführer Heydrich was no more romantic than a hangman’s noose or a gas chamber. Ruthless and ambitious, he had risen to become chief of the Reich Main Security Office—second only to Heinrich Himmler in the Nazi security apparatus—and controlled such infamous agencies as the Gestapo. He chaired the Wannsee Conference in 1942 that finalized plans for systematic extermination of European Jews. And to add one more accomplishment to his bloody résumé, in September 1941, he was appointed Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, the Czech provinces that Germany had occupied in 1939.
(This first appeared in 2017.)
The Czechs learned soon enough what Heydrich’s “protection” meant. As soon as he arrived in Prague, he sought to make the Czech heartland a productive resource for the Reich. He would accomplish this through sheer terror.
“Within days of his arrival buildings across the Protectorate were splattered with red posters listing the names of people—ninety-two in the first three days of Heydrich’s rule—sentenced to death by newly established summary courts,” writes historian Chad Bryant. “The summary courts allowed only three possible verdicts: the death sentence, shipment to a concentration camp, and release.” By February 1942, five thousand people had been tried.
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