Czechs can be heros: Sts Cyril and Methodius Church and the Heydrich assassination

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Yes, those are real bulletholes. The memorial to the Czechs who held their last stand against the Nazis in Cyril and Methodius Church after their involvement in the Heydrich assassination

The Czechs love an anti-hero.

There’s Svejk of course, the bumbling soldier with a talent for finding ingenious ways not to make it to the front while appearing to try his incompetent best to get to the action. Then there’s Jara Cimrman, the celebrated Czech genius responsible for the invention of yogurt, the CD (which stands for Cimrman’s disc), dynamite and roller skates. Impressive, considering he never existed. And until more recently there was Vaclav Havel, one of the most strikingly self-effacing politicians ever to appear on the world stage despite his achievements.

Don’t be fooled though: the Czech nation has produced heroes too. If you need proof, pay a visit to the crypt of Sts Cyril and Methodius Church, where the Czechs (and Slovaks) who played a part in the Heydrich assassination had their last stand.

The story, for those of you who don’t know it already, is this. In 1942, a group of British trained Czech and Slovak soldiers attempted to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi responsible for ruling over the Czech lands. Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš played the main roles in the attack which they initially thought had failed. Although he was not killed instantly , Heydrich did eventually die eight days later.

Retribution for the assassination was brutal. The villages of Lidice and Lezaky were wiped out in retaliation; the inhabitants were either killed or deported to concentration camps. Over 1000 others were executed during the period of martial law which followed Heydrich’s death.*

The parachutists were hidden in the basement of Sts Cyril and Methodius Church on Resslova Street until their whereabouts was betrayed.

Today you can visit the crypt of the church where the men held their dramatic last stand. Despite surrounding the building with hundreds of soldiers, the Nazis failed to take them alive. That last sentence may sound corny but what Gabčík, Kubiš and his comrades did is extraordinary. Perhaps that’s why so many contemporary visitors have left messages of condolence there along with flowers and even a guitar plectrum.

The crypt of the church where the partisans had their last stand

If you’re strolling along the street from Karlovo Namesti to see Frank Gehry’s Fred and Ginger, make sure you stop to look around this remarkable place.

While we’re on the topic of the Heydrich assassination, British comedian Alexei Sayle’s recent autobiography includes a very funny account of his family being shown the location at Kobylisy where the attack took place when they are escorted around Prague by their Communist hosts who thought this was a landmark of far more interest to their British guests than say Petrin or Prague Castle.

The book’s called Stalin Ate My Homework. I receive no commission for making this recommendation.


*These figures are quoted from Wikipedia so they must be true.


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23 Responses to Czechs can be heros: Sts Cyril and Methodius Church and the Heydrich assassination

  1. Michael

    It’s a bit more serious post today.
    I have just one comment which can help especially non-Czech audience. Reinhard Heydrich wasn’t only Deputy Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. He most notably was a chairman of the Wannsee Conference, which laid out plans for the final solution to the Jewish Question and therefore one of the major architects of the Holocaust.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Michael,

      I think I had read somewhere during my research that Heyrdich was a key player at the Wannsee Conference but thanks for mentioning it here. I was going to write something in the post like “he wasn’t exactly fluffy even by Nazi standards” but that seemed too flippant somehow. Still, I guess it doesn’t hurt to tackle a more serious topic sometimes and I do highly recommend that those readers who haven’t visited the church already make the time to do so.


  2. In fact, R.Heydrich was the highest nazi killed during the war. Some consider him as No.2 in the nazi hierarchy – just after Hitler.


    • girlinczechland

      Hi Julius,

      Again, I might have stumbled across this fact during my research and then forgotten it but thanks for adding a bit more background information – it really does show what an important act of resistance the assassination was.


  3. Most informative post as always GIC – Thank you! As well as the exhibition in the crypt, there are also some interesting photos & other documents on display in Bar- Restaurace U Parašutisů, across the road from the Church – actually, across the road from the Cathedral, as it is the Cathedral of the Czech Orthodox Church.

    Michael in his first comment is quite correct. In fact many Czechs believed that once all Jews & Gypsies had been eliminated, Czechs were next on Heydrich’s list!

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ricky,

      I didn’t realise that there was documentation related to the assasination on display in the bar opposite the church – although you know it’s any excuse for a nice drink and a sit down with me, so I’ll definitely go and check it out in the near future!

      Regarding the last part of your comment, it surprises me that there are any neo-Nazis in the Czech Republic at all – haven’t they read a history book?


    • girlinczechland

      Hello there!

      Yes, General Zizka certainly was a badass (although that’s American slang which means using the word feels slightly unnatural to me, like doing a high 5…). And of course one of the supposedly coolest parts of Prague – Zizkov – is named after him. Is it really the new Brookyn though just because there are a couple of interesting bars and it’s a bit grungy?


  4. Ginge

    ‘Stalin Ate My Homework’ is a great read. Especially enjoyed it as it references life growing up in the NW of England as well as all the places visited in Prague. Great music/fashion/grammar school references.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ms Ginge,

      Glad you liked the Sayle. There aren’t many former celebrities who can actually write so it was a relief to find his biography was an entertaining read.


  5. John Smith

    Slightly off topic, but what did the people in Czech land think of the Olympic opening ceremony?

    I was bit confused by some of it myself, and not sure if it was brilliant or a load of cobblers?

  6. Hi, thanks for this article… absolutely agree – The Czechs love an anti-hero´s. But… by my opinion the reason WHY is a little bit more complicated… Did we have a choice (during last 300 years) to be HERO´s except the “hidden ones”?

  7. This Baroque church was first consecrated to St Charles Borromeus and built together with a house for emeritus priests in 1730-1739. The church and the house were abolished in 1783 and used for several purposes. It took nearly 150 years before the church was given to the Orthodox Church and consecrated to Sts Cyril and Methodius.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Mercadeo,

      Your comment somehow ended up in my spam folder but fear not I have rescued it! Thanks for the additional info concerning the history of this fascinating church.


  8. Ondřej

    All the man who died in this church were from Moravia except Gabčík who was Slovakian, and in Moravia are living Moravians. Is the same like name Scots like English.

    • I don’t think it’s the same. Perhaps close, but not the same. You have a different name, not “England”, for the whole of Britain, but you don’t for the whole of Czech Republic/Czechia/Czechland/whatever. You always have the “Czech” part there and can’t avoid it. (Whether you want to is another issue, and completely off topic, so please don’t go there.)
      Besides, in English this distinction between the historical countries and the whole, whatever it’s currently called, is actually very clear – she did not call them “Bohemians”, did she?

  9. mrs.baez

    In case you are interested, I can recommend few movies featuring assassination and following events. Here goes: Vyšší princip, Atentát, Protektor, Operace Silver A, Lidice.

    And in fact, all the soldiers were CZECHOSLOVAK, I feel there is no need to make a distinction among Czechs that are living in Bohemia, Moravia or Silesia (reaction to note that Ondřej made). Back then, they all came from the same country, which was called Czechoslovakia.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello again Mrs Baez,

      Thanks for the film recommendations: watching Czech movies is an excellent way to find out more about the culture (I’m a big Sverak fan). I’ve seen Protektor (great!), Lidice (not so good) and a black and white film about the assassination which was shown on Czech TV this year (Atentat I think?) which was excellent.

      And re the Czech/Slovak issue, I tend to agree with you Mrs Baez, but I know this is a thorny issue – I heard about the (in)famous ‘dash war’ after the Revolution via my students last week and I wouldn’t want to spark off a similar conflict!


      • Soodkuhla Tee

        … not to mention the slavicized Moravian Valachs, carrying the genes of Roman soldiers, Dacian women and other assorted humans … 😉

  10. mrs.baez

    And calling people from Moravia Czechs is in no way same as calling Scots English. Simply because they are Czechs. I am from Moravia and I call myself Czech. But that’s off-topic anyway.

    • Ondřej

      I’m from Moravia so I’m Moravian. And no one Czech will persuade me that I’m Czech. It’s the same like English tried to do this to Scots or Spaniards to Catalans. Our moravian culture is singular and diferent from czech culture and we want to preserve our culture like any other nation.

      • coward

        Yea, let’s call the whole republic Morče (as for Morava-Čechy) now! I guess the plastic word “Česko” comes from people like you. Oh wait and then somebody from Slezko would come just in. Wait! I’m from South Bohemia. I don’t wanna be just “Čech” too! This is so ridiculous. I don’t think “your” culture doesn’t differ that much on European scale.

  11. Z

    Just… “Lidice and Ležáky,” no “Lezaky.”

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