7 – His Death Led to the Execution of Thousands
Heydrich was effectively the dictator of Bohemia and Moravia, but instead of being security conscious, he openly flaunted his power. He routinely traveled between his country home and his HQ in Prague in an open top green Mercedes with no security attachment. Heydrich believed he was untouchable and that the local population was too frightened to try anything. He was sorely mistaken.
On May 27, 1942, his car had to slow down as it came around a bend near Prague and suddenly, two resistance fighters, Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, attacked the car. Gabcik tried to shoot Heydrich with his sten gun but the weapon jammed. Heydrich foolishly told his driver to stop when he had the chance to escape, and Kubis used the opportunity to throw a grenade at the car. Although wounded by the explosion, Heydrich chased Kubis and tried to shoot the injured Czech. Kubis escaped on his bike and Heydrich collapsed after chasing the would-be assassin for half a block.
At Bulovka Hospital, it was revealed that Heydrich suffered severe injuries to his spleen, diaphragm and one of his lungs. A doctor decided to perform surgery immediately, and Heydrich received multiple blood transfusions. Initially, he seemed to be recovering and even received a visit from Himmler on June 2. However, he fell into a coma soon after and died on June 4, 1942. There were two funerals; one in Prague on June 7 and another in Berlin on June 9. Hitler gave the eulogy and placed Heydrich’s medals and awards on his funeral pillow. Privately, Hitler blamed Heydrich’s stupidity for his death.
Even in death, Heydrich caused carnage. The Gestapo and SS hunted down anyone suspected of involvement in the assassination. Over 1,000 died during these recriminations, and in addition, 3,000 Jews at Theresienstadt were executed. Finally, 500 Jews were arrested in Berlin and 152 were executed on the day of Heydrich’s death. A traitor in the Czech resistance revealed the location of the two assassins and several other operatives, and after being surrounded in a cathedral in Prague, the surviving members of the resistance committed suicide in the church’s crypt.
Even now, the Nazis were not finished punishing the Czechs. After receiving a fake report that people in a town called Lidice were involved in the murder, Hitler ordered the town’s liquidation. All 172 males in the town aged 16+ were executed, and the females were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp where most of them perished. The village was destroyed and leveled; then the Nazis planted salt over the soil. Overall, a total of 13,000 people were arrested, deported and sent to camps in the aftermath of Heydrich’s death.