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Anthropoid: History vs. Hollywood

Starring Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Charlotte Le Bon | based on Operation Anthropoid, a mission carried out by Czechoslovak soldiers-in-exile to assassinate SS officer Reinhard Heydrich, a main architect of the Final Solution

Detlef Bothe
Born: July 24, 1965
Brunswick, Lower Saxony, Germany
Reinhard Heydrich
Born: March 7, 1904
Birthplace: Halle an der Saale, German Empire
Death: June 4, 1942, Prague-Libeň, Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia (sepsis after being wounded by explosion)
Jamie Dornan
Born: May 1, 1982
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
Jan Kubiš
Born: June 24, 1913
Birthplace: Dolní Vilémovice, Moravia, Austria-Hungary
Death: June 18, 1942, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (mortally wounded in church battle)
Cillian Murphy
Born: May 25, 1976
Douglas, Cork, Ireland
Josef Gabčík
Born: April 8, 1912
Birthplace: Poluvsie, Rajecké Teplice, Austria–Hungary
Death: June 18, 1942, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (suicide by gunshot to prevent capture)
Charlotte Le Bon
Born: September 4, 1986
Montréal, Québec, Canada
Marie Kovárníková
Born: February 16, 1914
Birthplace: Ohrazenice, Central Bohemia, Austria-Hungary
Death: October 24, 1942, Mauthausen Concentration Camp, Austria (shot)
Anna Geislerová
Born: April 17, 1976
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Liběna Fafková
Birthplace: Austria-Hungary
Death: October 24, 1942, Mauthausen Concentration Camp, Austria (shot)
Toby Jones
Born: September 7, 1967
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK
Jan Zelenka-Hajský
Born: March 3, 1895
Birthplace: Stone Újezd, Austria-Hungary
Death: June 17, 1942, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (suicide by poison to escape capture)
Marcin Dorocinski
Born: June 22, 1973
Milanówek, Mazowieckie, Poland
Ladislav Vaněk
Born: June 19, 1906
Birthplace: Olomouc, Moravia, Austria-Hungary
Death: October 1993, Prague, Czech Republic
Václav Neuzil
Born: October 4, 1979
Plzen, Czechoslovakia
Josef Valčík
Born: November 2, 1914
Birthplace: Valašské Klobouky, Zlín, Austria-Hungary
Death: June 18, 1942, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (suicide by gunshot to prevent capture)
Harry Lloyd
Born: November 17, 1983
London, England, UK
Adolf Opálka
Born: January 4, 1915
Birthplace: Rešice, Austria-Hungary
Death: June 18, 1942, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (suicide by gunshot to escape capture)
Sam Keeley
Offaly, Ireland
Josef Bublík
Born: February 12, 1920
Birthplace: Bánov, Czechoslovakia
Death: June 18, 1942, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (suicide by gunshot to escape capture)
Mish Boyko
Jan Hrubý
Born: March 4, 1915
Birthplace: Austria–Hungary
Death: June 18, 1942, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (suicide by gunshot to prevent capture)
Alena Mihulová
Born: May 4, 1965
Brno, Czechoslovakia
Marie Moravcová
Born: August 24, 1898
Birthplace: Prague, Austria-Hungary
Death: June 17, 1942, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (suicide by cyanide capsule to prevent arrest)
Bill Milner
Born: March 4, 1995
Surrey, England, UK
Vlastimil "Aťa" Moravec
Born: March 17, 1921
Birthplace: Čerčany, Czechoslovakia
Death: October 24, 1942, Mauthausen Concentration Camp, Austria (executed)
Jiří Šimek
Born: 1991
Tabor, Slovenia
Karel Čurda
Born: October 10, 1911
Birthplace: Austria–Hungary
Death: April 29, 1947, Prague, Czechoslovakia (hanged for treason)
Roman Zach
Born: January 1, 1973
Ústí nad Labem, Czechoslovakia
Vladimír Petřek
Born: June 19, 1908
Birthplace: Olomouc, Moravia, Austria-Hungary
Death: September 5, 1942, Kobylisy, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (executed)
Certain Czech circles are behaving in a very friendly manner toward the Jews, especially in recent times. They are mainly the Czech elements that are trying to demonstrate their anti-Reich thinking. I am ordering the State Police to intervene against the Czechs who openly demonstrate their friendship with the Jews in the streets and public places (protective custody!) -Reinhard Heydrich, September 29, 1941

Questioning the Story:

What was Operation Anthropoid?

Prepared in early October of 1941 by the British Special Operations Executive and approved by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, Operation Anthropoid was a Czechoslovakian-led mission to assassinate the Nazi's third in command, SS officer Reinhard Heydrich, the main architect behind the Final Solution and the head of Nazi forces in Czechoslovakia. In order to carry out the assassination, soldiers from the Czechoslovakian army-in-exile, including Josef Gabčík (Cillian Murphy in the film) and Jan Kubiš (portrayed by Jamie Dornan), parachuted into their occupied homeland of Czechoslovakia during the night of December 28-29, 1941. In a city on lockdown, the paratroopers recruited the help of local loyalists in order to blend in and lay low while figuring out how to carry out the assassination.

The real Reinhard Heydrich (left) and his movie counterpart, Detlef Bothe (right).

Were the Nazis aware of the arrival of the Czechoslovak parachutists?

Yes. The Anthropoid true story confirms that the arrival of the Czechoslovak parachutists did not escape the watchful eye of the German Luftwaffe, which patrolled the airspace over Czechoslovakia (renamed the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia while under German control). SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich was immediately made aware of the drop-plane's route. Wehrmacht units combed the grounds under the flight path in search of the paratroopers. -Assassination book

Did Josef Gabčík really injure himself when he parachuted into his occupied homeland?

Yes. Like in the movie, the real Josef Gabčík injured himself during the jump, and he received medical attention through a reliable member of the resistance movement. -Assassination book

Was Jan Kubiš really so terrified that his hands shook whenever he aimed his pistol?

No. In the Anthropoid movie, Jan Kubiš (Jamie Dornan) is initially so scared of his assignment that his hands shake whenever he aims his weapon. While fact-checking Anthropoid, we learned that this is an entirely fictional character trait given to Dornan's character to make him seem even more courageous in the movie's climax. -The A.V. Club

The real Jan Kubiš (left) wasn't as wrought with nerves as the movie makes him out to be. Jamie Dornan (right) portrays Kubiš in the film.

Did some members of the Czechoslovakian resistance really oppose the plan to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich?

Yes. After learning of the plan to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich (the Nazis' third in command behind Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler), members of the resistance attempted to contact London to tell them to call off the operation or to pick a target that would result in less German retaliation. One such warning from the resistance, which was intercepted by the Gestapo, stated that the "assassination would not help the Allies and would bring immense consequences upon our nation... we ask you to give an order through SILVER not to carry out the assassination."

In the movie, Czech resistance figure Ladislav Vaněk (Marcin Dorocinski) is vocal in his opposition to Operation Anthropoid after learning the details of the mission. In researching the Anthropoid true story, we learned that after the real Ladislav Vaněk was arrested by the Gestapo on September 4, 1942, he turned on his fellow countrymen, giving the Gestapo a full confession and helping to indict other members of the resistance. -Assassination book

Did Gabčík's machine gun really fail during the assassination attempt?

Yes. As SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich's black Mercedes 320 C convertible (chauffeured by SS-Oberscharführer Johannes Klein) slowed down to round a sharp curve leading into V Holešovičkách Street, Josef Gabčík jumped in front of the vehicle holding a STEN machine gun. As he was about to fire at Heydrich, his machine gun failed. Resorting to plan B, Jan Kubiš pulled a special bomb from his briefcase that had a highly sensitive impact fuse. He pulled the pin and with an underhand motion he attempted to toss it into the Reich Protector's convertible. Instead, the bomb exploded above the car's running board, just forward of the right rear fender. It punctured the body and blew open the right door, but seemingly did nothing else (Assassination book). Watch a recreation of the Reinhard Heydrich assassination attempt.

The real Jan Kubiš and Josef Gabčík (top) and their movie counterparts, Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy (bottom).

Did Josef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš not realize that Reinhard Heydrich had been wounded in the blast?

Yes. After the grenade-style bomb thrown by Jan Kubiš exploded next to the convertible and not in it, Kubiš and Josef Gabčík quickly made their escape as Reinhard Heydrich and his driver began to fire at them, not realizing that the blast had caused a small portion of the car's shell to puncture the right front seat, critically injuring the Nazis' third in command. A passing supply truck stopped and took the injured Heydrich to nearby Bulovka Hospital, while his driver pursued Gabčík on foot. -Assassination book

What were the extent of SS officer Reinhard Heydrich's injuries from the assassination attempt?

The May 27, 1942 assassination attempt left Reinhard Heydrich with critical but seemingly survivable injuries. At 3:26 pm on the day of the blast, SS-Standartenführer Horst Böhme reported the results of Heydrich's first operation to Berlin via teleprint: "…a lacerated wound to the left of the back vertebrae without damage to the spinal cord. The projectile, a piece of sheet metal, shattered the 11th rib, punctured the stomach lining, and finally lodged in the spleen. The wound contains a number of horsehair and hair, probably material originating from the upholstery. The dangers: festering of the pleura due to pleurisy. During the operation the spleen was removed." Roughly eight days later, Heydrich died from sepsis after infection had set in. -Assassination book

The bomb thrown by Jan Kubiš caused a piece of the convertible's sheet metal to tear through the right front seat and into the side of Reinhard Heydrich, critically injuring the SS officer.

How long did the paratroopers remain in hiding?

All seven paratroopers involved in carrying out the May 27, 1942 assassination eventually sought refuge in the Orthodox Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius (also known as the Karel Boromejsky Church) on Resslova Street in Prague. The paratroopers included the primary assassins, Jan Kubiš and Josef Gabčík, in addition to Josef Valčík, Josef Bublík, Jan Hrubý, Jaroslav Švarc and Adolf Opálka. The true story reveals that they hid in the church until the morning of June 18, 1942, when SS forces had the building surrounded and began searching its grounds. The battle began when the Gestapo and SS made their way into the inner section of the church, where they encountered Jan Kubiš, Adolf Opálka and Josef Bublík keeping guard in the choir and gallery. -Assassination book

The seven paratroopers, including Josef Gabčík (left), were discovered hiding in the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius on June 18, 1942. Cillian Murphy (right) portrays Gabčík in the Anthropoid movie.

Was young Aťa Moravec really tortured and shown his mother's head?

Yes, like in the movie, the Gestapo tortured Aťa Moravec and stupefied him with alcohol. He broke after they showed him his mother's head floating in a fish tank. Aťa revealed the whereabouts of the parachutists when he told the Gestapo that his mother had instructed him to go to the catacombs of the Karel Boromejsky Church if he was ever in trouble. -The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich

Did the Nazis retaliate for the death of Reinhard Heydrich?

Yes. In fact-checking the Anthropoid movie, we learned that the Nazis massacred the Czechoslovakian villages of Lidice and Ležáky, literally wiping Lidice from the map. A false lead had led the Nazis to believe that two Czech pilots from Lidice had been involved in the assassination of Heydrich. Even after learning the truth, the fate of Lidice had been decided. All men between ages 15 and 84 were executed (173 total). 53 Lidice woman died in concentration camps. 81 children who were deemed racially inappropriate for Germanization were murdered by the exhaust fumes of modified trucks at the Nazi extermination camp in Chelmno on Ner. The village houses were burned to the ground, along with the Lidice shop buildings and St. Martin's church. The town's cemetery was completely destroyed, the village trees were cut down, and the village pond was filled in with debris, leaving nothing to remain of the town.

German retaliation for Reinhard Heydrich's assassination didn't end there. Hundreds of Czech patriots were condemned to death following the May 27, 1942 assassination attempt (which ultimately proved fatal). In under a month's time, from May 28 to June 24, the Nazis condemned 695 Czech loyalists to death, including 589 men and 106 women. In the end, more than 13,000 were arrested and as many as 5,000 were murdered in reprisals. Jan Kubiš' girlfriend Anna Malinová was one of those arrested. She subsequently died in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. -Assassination book

Did the Nazis really attempt to flush the paratroopers out of the church crypt using teargas and water?

Yes. As the Nazis swarmed the inside of the church, the battle shifted to the church crypt, with the only visible entrance being a small ventilation opening on the outside of the church. By now, Adolf Opálka and Josef Bublík had shot themselves in order to prevent capture after being wounded. Jan Kubiš eventually bled to death from multiple wounds from grenade blasts. The Nazis then attempted to use teargas and fire brigade water hoses to fill the crypt. Before long, a secret door to the underground chamber was discovered under a carpet near the altar. The Germans blew up the stone slab door with explosives, revealing a steep staircase leading down to the crypt. Before the Germans could reach them, the four remaining paratroopers took their own lives with their pistols. -Assassination book

The Gestapo uses Prague fire brigade trucks to flood the underground crypt of the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Prague where the paratroopers were holed up.

Did paratrooper Karel Čurda really betray his fellow countrymen, leading to them being discovered at the church?

Yes. Karel Čurda, who had left Prague immediately after the assassination and hid out with his mother, eventually succumbed to his fear of being caught and decided to betray his fellow soldiers (he claims he did it for the reward money - 1,000,000 Reichsmarks). He first tried sending a letter in which he pointed out Jan Kubiš and Josef Gabčík as being the assassins of Reinhard Heydrich. When the letter failed to get the Nazis' attention, Karel Čurda went to Prague on June 16, 1942 and reported his information directly to the Gestapo (as shown in the movie). He not only betrayed his fellow paratroopers, he also told the Gestapo the names of everyone who had helped them. The information resulted in the deaths of dozens of Czech patriots and their families, including the Moravec family, whose Prague apartment had been the paratroopers' main sanctuary. Brutal interrogations of patriots the following day led to the Gestapo discovering where the paratroopers were hiding.

During our investigation into the Anthropoid movie true story, we discovered that, like in the film, Karel Čurda was present with the Nazis at the church on the day of the attack and identified the paratroopers' bodies when they were brought out. He was given a new identity (Karl Jerhot). He married a German woman and collaborated with the Nazis for the remainder of the war. After Germany fell to the Allies and the war ended, Čurda was hunted down and hanged for treason on April 29, 1947. -Assassination book

Operation Anthropoid Documentary & Reinhard Heydrich Videos

Watch a short documentary detailing the day of the assassination, then view a Reinhard Heydrich biography that features home movie footage of the high-ranking Nazi official with his wife and children.

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