|Born||8 April 1912
Rajecfürdő, Kingdom of Hungary, Austro-Hungarian Empire
(Present-day Rajecké Teplice, Slovakia)
|Died||18 June 1942 (aged 30)
Cyril and Methodius Cathedral, Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
(Present-day Czech Republic)
|Service/branch||Czechoslovakian army in-exile|
|Years of service||1939–42 †|
|Rank||Rotmistr (Staff Sergeant)|
|Unit||Special Operations Executive|
|Battles/wars||Second World War|
Jozef Gabčík (8 April 1912 – 18 June 1942) was a Slovak soldier in the Czechoslovak army involved in Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of acting Reichsprotektor (Reich-Protector) of Bohemia and Moravia, SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich.
Gabčík was born 1912 in Poluvsie, part of Rajecké Teplice, Žilina district, Slovakia (former Slovak territory of Austria-Hungary). He learned to be a farrier, as well as a blacksmith. He was also taught clock making at the village of Kostelec Nad Vltavou (Bohemia). He was taught by local master blacksmith J. Kunike. He lived with the Kunike family in their house of which still stands together with the outbuilding and yard which was used as a smithy. The house is located some 50 meters down a small hill which leads from the village centre where the church stands. In 1927 so the school records show that he attended School in Business Studies at Kovarov near to Kostelec Nad Vltavou. The building which housed the school is today the Municipal Office. A marble plaque was erected in 2010, together with historical documents on the wall there. These documents were all placed there by the citizens of Kovarov. Jozef at one time was working at a chemicial plant in Žilina until 1939. He fled Czechoslovakia during World War II for Great Britain, where he was trained as a paratrooper. He became a rotmistr (approx. UK Staff Sergeant) in rank. The Free Czechoslovaks, as he and other self-exiled Czechoslovaks were called, were stationed at Cholmondeley Castle near Malpas in Cheshire.
The assassination in Prague
Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš were airlifted along with seven soldiers from Czechoslovakia’s army-in-exile in the United Kingdom and two other groups named Silver A and Silver B (who had different missions) by a Royal Air Force Halifax of No. 138 Squadron into Czechoslovakia at 10pm on 28 December 1941. In Prague, they contacted several families and anti-Nazi organisations who helped them during the preparations for the assassination.
On 27 May 1942, at 10:30 AM, Heydrich proceeded on his daily commute from his home in Panenské Břežany to Prague Castle. Gabčík and Kubiš waited at the tram stop on the curve near Bulovka Hospital in Prague 8-Libeň. As Heydrich’s open-topped Mercedes-Benz neared the pair, Gabčík stepped in front of the vehicle, trying to open fire, but his Sten gun jammed. Heydrich ordered his driver, SS-Oberscharführer Klein, to stop the car. When Heydrich stood up to try to shoot Gabčík, Kubiš threw a modified anti-tank grenade at the vehicle, and its fragments ripped through the car’s right-rear fender, embedding shrapnel and fibres from the upholstery into Heydrich’s body, even though the grenade failed to enter the car. Kubiš was also injured by the shrapnel. Heydrich, apparently unaware of his shrapnel injuries, got out of the car, returned fire and tried to chase Gabčík but soon collapsed. Klein returned from his abortive attempt to chase Kubiš, and Heydrich ordered him to chase Gabčík. Klein was shot twice by Gabčík (who was now using his revolver) and wounded in the pursuit. The assassins were initially convinced that the attack had failed. Heydrich was rushed to Bulovka Hospital, where it was discovered that he was suffering from blood poisoning. There Heydrich went into shock, dying on the morning of 4 June 1942.
Aftermath and attempted capture of the assassins
In the aftermath of the assassination of so-called "Heydrichiade," a rigorous investigation was instigated. The investigation determined the assassination was planned and carried out by the Czech Resistance with assistance of the British. The oppression and persecution of the defiant Czechs reached its peak following the failure of Nazi soldiers to capture the assassins alive. More than 13,000 people were ultimately arrested and tortured, including the girlfriend of Jan Kubiš, Anna Malinová, who died at Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. First Lieutenant Adolf Opálka's aunt, Marie Opálková, was executed in Mauthausen on 24 October 1942. His father, Viktor Jarolím, was also killed. Among the unfortunate was the native of Kostelec nad Vltavou, JUDr. Jan Fleischmann. It was known locally that Josef visited Jan Fleischmann who was a friend in Kostelec and Vltavou before the assassination of Heydrich. After the assassination, the visit was found out as Karel Čurda had informed Gestapo and the Nazis arrested Jan Fleischmann and took him to Pankrác where he was tortured and finally executed.
The Nazi officials in the Protectorate carried out an extensive search for the two men. Eventually, the Germans found them, along with other paratroopers, hiding in Cyril and Methodius Cathedral in Prague. After a six-hour gun battle, in which the Germans lost at least 14 killed and 21 wounded, Gabčík and the others, with the exception of Kubiš, who was seriously wounded by a grenade, committed suicide before the Nazis could take them alive in the Church catacombs. Kubiš was wounded in the gun battle and died shortly after arrival at the hospital.
The village of Gabčíkovo in southern Slovakia is named after Gabčík, and one of the biggest dams on the Danube next to the village is named after the village. Jozef Gabčík's name was also given to the 5. pluk špeciálneho určenia (5th special forces regiment of Jozef Gabčík) part of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic, based in Žilina.
With the aim of commemorating the heroes of the Czech and Slovak Resistance, the Slovak National Museum in May 2007 opened an exhibition presenting one of the most important resistance actions in the whole Nazi-occupied Europe.
- Burian et al 2002, pp. 48 – 49
- Burgess, Alan, Seven Men At Daybreak, p. 160. ISBN 0-553-23508-7
- Burian et al 2002, p. 64
- Ray R. Cowdery with Peter Vodenka: Reinhard Heydrich: Assassination. Victory WW2 Publishing Ltd. (1994) Lakeville, MN, USA
- McDonald, Callum, The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich: The SS Butcher of Prague. ISBN 0-306-80860-9