An English country estate, Moreton Paddox in Warwickshire, was where Operation Anthropoid was planned. In 1942, the killing of Hitler’s chief architect of the ‘Final Solution’ was planned.
Czech paratroopers were to drop into their homeland where, the ‘Man with the Iron Heart, SS Officer Reinhard Heydrich ruled for the Nazi Reich.
The original house, built in Edwardian times, was requisitioned by the military during World War Two to billet four-thousand Czechoslovakian soldiers.
After the War the main house was demolished and eighteen new properties were built, the largest of which is now up for sale, and is a far cry from the draughty old manor house that was privy to the plot.
In May 1942, two Czechoslovakian soldiers were parachuted into Prague with the sole aim of removing Hitler’s right-hand man, Heydrich, who was an enthusiastic follower who played a key role in Kristallnacht.
The British trained soldiers lay in wait by a hairpin bend. Heydrich was known for his defiant self-confidence and travelled during the summer months in an open-top limousine.
At the bend Heydrich’s driver slowed, giving the Czech soldiers ample time and a clear shot at his passenger, but Josef Gabčík’s machine gun jammed.
His partner, Jan Kubiš, threw an adapted anti-tank mine at the rear of the vehicle. It went off, injuring Heydrich who, despite interventions from doctors and surgeons, later died in hospital from sepsis.
Nazi investigators decided that the villagers of Lidice and Ležáky had produced the Czech paratroopers and exacted a terrible revenge on the population.
All of the men aged sixteen or over, were taken out and shot. Four pregnant women were taken to the hospital where Heydrich had taken his last breath and given forced abortions before being taken to Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp.
Only the children of Ležáky survived. At the end of the retaliation the butcher’s bill for the assassination had been met by more than 1,300 men, women and children.
The events were made into a movie in 1975, The Price of Freedom (Operation Daybreak in the UK), based upon Operation Anthropoid and starring British actors Anthony Andrews, Timothy Bottoms and Martin Shaw.
It was adapted from Alan Burgess’ book ‘Seven Men at Daybreak’. Actor George Sewell played two roles in the movie, a German officer, and Adolf Hitler.
Shot on location in Prague the film came under fire for several historical inaccuracies but it was the costume department that bore the brunt of the criticism with historians confirming that the uniforms worn by both Heydrich and Hitler throughout the movie were pre-war Nazi Party and SS uniforms.
When Heydrich died in 1942 the uniform would have been grey field uniform, not the black SS uniform with swastika armband as depicted in the movie.
Despite this the film makers did use Czech Army equipment and did win praise for duplicating the WWII German Tiger Tanks.
It was almost another twenty-five years before Steven Spielberg went to the same effort in Saving Private Ryan in 1998.
Another discrepancy was that the machine gun in the movie was a Mark II, whereas Josef Gabčík’s machine gun was a Mark III.
Some historians are now considering the theory that the gun jammed due to rabbit food. As meat was in short supply in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation, locals bred rabbits to augment supplies.
In practice this meant that broken down for carriage, guns would have been concealed in bags also used to collect grass for rabbit food. It would not have taken much to stop the bolt from closing and the gun failing to fire.
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Back to Moreton Paddox, now the home to a number of English families, there are doubtless many more wild rabbits running around the grounds than there are Czech freedom fighters, and you can join them for a mere $2 Million and being sold by www.mrandmrsclarke.com
We still think the 2016 movie Anthropoid told the story a lot better.