Jozef Gabčík

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Jozef Gabčík
Operace Anthropoid - Jozef Gabčík.jpg
Born(1912-04-08)8 April 1912
Died18 June 1942(1942-06-18) (aged 30)
Prague, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Years of service1939–1942
RankRotmistr (Staff Sergeant)
UnitSpecial Operations Executive

Jozef Gabčík (Slovak pronunciation: [ˈjɔzɛv ˈɡaptʃiːk]; 8 April 1912 – 18 June 1942) was a Slovak soldier in the Czechoslovak Army involved in Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of acting Reichsprotektor (Imperial-Protector) of Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich.



Gabčík was born 1912 in Poluvsie, part of town Rajecké Teplice, Trencsén County, Kingdom of Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary, now in northwestern Slovakia). He learned to be a farrier, as well as a blacksmith. He was also taught clock making at the village of Kostelec nad Vltavou (in central 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. In 1927 the school records show that he attended school in business studies at village Kovářov 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 (A marble plaque was erected in 2010, together with historical documents on the wall there – these documents were all placed there by the citizens of Kovářov.)

In 1937, he began work at a military chemical plant in Žilina; after an accident, however, he was transferred to the gas storage facility (which belonged to Czechoslovak army) in Trenčín.

In exile[edit]

The breakup of the Czechoslovak Republic and the subsequent emergence (in March 14, 1939) of the clero-fascist and anti-Czech Slovak State he didn't accept – when German Wehrmacht took over the military depot, he made sabotage in it. To escape punishment, he fled to Poland (on June 6, 1939) where joined forming Czechoslovak military unit in Polish service (Czechoslovak Legion). Then, with other comrades, was transferred via ship to France and entered there the 1st Regiment of the Foreign Legion. In September 26, 1939 was drafted in Agde into the emerging Czechoslovak foreign army in France and included as deputy commander of the machine gun platoon at the 1st Infantry Regiment of the 1st Czechoslovak Infantry Division in France (1re division d'infanterie tchécoslovaque en France). Three months later was promoted to rank četař (sergeant) and during Spring 1940 participated in the Battle of France.

After the fall of France was, together with remnants of Czechoslovak troops, evacuated (July 12, 1940) to Great Britain. There 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.

Assassination of R. Heydrich[edit]

Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš were airlifted along with seven soldiers from Czechoslovak 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.[1]

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 fragmentation and fibres from the upholstery into Heydrich’s body, upon detonation, wounding him. Kubiš was also injured by the shrapnel. Heydrich staggered out of the car, apparently unaware of his shrapnel injuries, with his gun in his hand; Gabčík and Kubiš fired at Heydrich with their Colt M1903 pistols but, themselves shocked by the explosion, failed to hit him.[2] Heydrich then chased Kubiš and tried to return fire. Kubiš jumped on his bicycle and pedaled away. Heydrich ran after him for half a block but became weak from shock and collapsed. Heydrich, still with pistol in hand, gripped his left flank, which was bleeding profusely. He ordered Klein to chase Gabčík on foot. Klein was shot twice by Gabčík (who was now using his revolver) and wounded in the pursuit.[3][4] 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.


Bullet-scarred window of the Church of St. Cyril and St. Methodious in Prague where Gabčík and his compatriots were cornered

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.[5] His father, Viktor Jarolím, was also killed.[6] Among the unfortunate was the native of Kostelec nad Vltavou, JUDr. Jan Fleischmann. It was known locally that Jozef visited Jan Fleischmann who was a friend in Kostelec nad 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 14 and sustained wounds to 21 others, 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.[7] Kubiš was wounded in the gun battle and died shortly after arrival at the hospital.[8]

Posthumous recognition[edit]

The town 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 town. Jozef Gabčík's name was also given to the 5. pluk špeciálneho určenia ("5th special operations 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.

Coinciding with the release of the 2016 film Anthropoid, campaigners called for Gabčík's and Kubiš's bodies to be exhumed from the mass-grave at the cemetery in Ďáblice, northern Prague, and to be given a dignified burial fitting "the heroes of anti-Nazi resistance".[9]

Gabčík in film and fiction[edit]

Gabčík is portrayed in four films which describe (more or less accurately) the assassination of Heydrich:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Burian et al 2002, pp. 48–49
  2. ^ "Nová tajemství muže, který zabil Reinharda Heydricha". Aktuálně.cz - Víte co se právě děje.
  3. ^ Burgess, Alan, Seven Men At Daybreak, p. 160. ISBN 0-553-23508-7
  4. ^ Burian et al 2002, p. 64
  5. ^ "Rešice". Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Vémyslice". Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  7. ^ Ray R. Cowdery, with Peter Vodenka: Reinhard Heydrich: Assassination. Victory WW2 Publishing Ltd. (1994) Lakeville, MN, USA
  8. ^ McDonald, Callum, The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich: The SS Butcher of Prague. ISBN 0-306-80860-9
  9. ^ Charter, David (20 August 2016). "Fight to honour heroes who killed top Nazi". The Times. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  10. ^ Hawksley, Rupert (31 August 2016). "The incredible true story behind World War Two film Anthropoid". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 August 2016.