Reinhard Heydrich’s Mercedes – Found In A Garage, Carefully Restored, Then Sold at Auction

One of Reinhard Heydrich's cars, similar to the one he was mortally wounded in, Military Technical Museum of the Military Historical Institute, Prague. FunkMonk - CC BY 3.0
One of Reinhard Heydrich's cars, similar to the one he was mortally wounded in, Military Technical Museum of the Military Historical Institute, Prague. FunkMonk - CC BY 3.0

On June 26th, the Danish Auction Company, Campen Auctioneer, auctioned off what may very well be the car that Reinhard Heydrich owned and suffered fatal wounds in. While the sale price is not known, the history of the car attracted international attention.

The car is a 1938 Mercedes-Benz, Cabriolet Type-B, model 320. There were only 34 of these cars made, and of those 34, only this one was produced at Mannheim Mercedes-Benz. This particular car was found in 1980, inside a barn, by a Danish man named Lauritz Lauritzen. The car was pretty banged up, including damage to the rear of the passenger side but luckily, Lauritzen was a Mercedes mechanic and was able to fully restore the vehicle. It took him more than 6,500 hours over 11 years to finish the restoration. He has put over 100,000 kilometers on the vehicle since restoring it.

This Mercedes is one of a kind, as it was when it was initially released. Features include visors, carpets, horn, boot scraper and a six cylinder engine capable of going 140 kilometers with 78 horsepower. While the car’s then top-of-the-line amenities make it a rare vehicle, its story is even more intriguing.

The Attack

This particular vehicle is noted as likely being the vehicle that Reinhard Heydrich was in when he was attacked outside of Prague in 1942. Heydrich was a high-ranking Nazi official who was one of the main architect’s of the Holocaust. He was referred to by  Adolf Hitler as “the man with the iron heart.”

Heydrich was on his way to meet Adolf Hitler in Berlin on May 27th, 1942 when his vehicle was suddenly ambushed. According to documents found, it appears as though Adolf Hitler was meeting with him to send him to France, where Germany was losing ground fast. The Czechoslovakian government in exile had been looking to kill Heydrich for some time, having chosen two men to carry out the attacks. The two men were Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, who had been trained by British special forces. The two lived in hiding from December 27th until May 27th, scouting and preparing the assassination.

The route Heydrich and his driver took on May 27th to Berlin required them to pass through Liben (a suburb of Prague). On the route, there was a tight turn, which was the perfect spot for the ambush. As the car rolled round the turn, Gabcik tried to use his sub-machine gun to shoot up the vehicle, but the gun jammed.

Heydrich's Mercedes after the bombing. The damage to the rear wheel on the passenger side can be seen here. Photo via Wikipedia
Reinhard Heydrich’s car (a Mercedes-Benz 320 Convertible B) after the 1942 assassination attempt in Prague. Heydrich later died of his injuries.

Heydrich ordered his driver not to drive off. Instead, Heydrich tried to face the attackers directly. Kubis then threw a bomb at Heydrich, which blew up the rear of the passenger side. The bomb was a re-purposed anti-tank mine. Both Heydrich and Kubis suffered serious injuries.

Shortly after this, Heydrich chased Kubis with a gun in his hand. But Heydrich was too badly wounded to chase him, and he fell to the ground. Meanwhile, Heydrich had ordered his driver to chase after Gabcik. This ended with the driver being shot in the leg and Gabcik getting away.

Jozef Gabčík.
Jozef Gabčík.

Following this, a woman found Heydrich wounded on the side of the road and got a delivery van to take him to a hospital. He suffered serious injuries to his lungs, diaphragm, and spleen. The doctors were able to pack his chest but were unable to remove the splinters from the blast that had lodged inside of his body. Because of this, they operated immediately, removing his spleen and the dead tissue caused by the bomb.

At first, it appeared as though Heydrich would make a full recovery, but on June 2nd he fell into a coma and never regained consciousness. On that same day, Hitler’s physician had suggested a new anti-bacterial drug to fight infection, but another physician believed that Heydrich was making good progress and would fully recover. He died on June 4th from sepsis, a condition where the body’s response to an infection ends up hurting its own tissues and organs.

One of Reinhard Heydrich's cars, similar to the one he was mortally wounded in, Military Technical Museum of the Military Historical Institute, Prague. Photo Credit.
One of Reinhard Heydrich’s cars, similar to the one he was mortally wounded in, Military Technical Museum of the Military Historical Institute, Prague. FunkMonk – CC BY 3.0

The Assailants Are Found

The attackers lived in safehouses and took refuge at a church in Prague. After some time, their location was revealed to the Germans who surrounded the church and attempted to get the men out with guns and tear gas. This was unsuccessful, and the Germans eventually ended up breaking through the walls of the church to get in. Rather than face the Germans, the two men shot themselves. Several supporters of the men were also killed at this time, including the Bishop of the church.

Hitler was furious that Heydrich had died and initially wanted to kill 10,000 Czechs who would be selected at random. He eventually was talked down from this idea.

Bullet holes show where the two men were cornered at the church. Photo via Wikipedia
Bullet holes show where the two men were hiding at the church.

Is This The Car That Heydrich Was Fatally Wounded In?

While it’s not 100 percent sure that it is the same car, it appears as likely. There are a few reasons, including the fact that there was only one 1938 Mercedes-Benz, Cabriolet Type-B, Model 320 manufactured at Mannheim-Mercedes Benz – the one Heydrich was in when he was attacked. Heydrich actually drove the special addition vehicle home from the factory.

Reinhard Heyrdich in 1934. Photo Credit.
Reinhard Heydrich. Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Furthermore, Lauritzen’s vehicle showed the same rear right damage as Heydrich’s did when Lauritzen went to restore the vehicle. The vehicles also share the same features.

While the vehicle’s story has gained attention, its look and style have got it into the film industry on several occasions. The car has been used in several movies including Hamsun and The Hvidsten Group.

The vehicle was sold at auction on June 26th for an unspecified amount, but the vehicle’s story lives on.

Lincoln Riddle

Lincoln Riddle is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE