PRAGUE – A British-made radio antenna used in the World War II plot to kill Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich has surfaced in a Czech village.
In April 1942, Jiri Potucek, a resistance fighter, parachuted into Czech territory by the Royal Air Force and hooked his radio up to the antenna to plan details of the attack, said Adolf Vondrka, who discovered the wires in the attic of a building on his fish farm in Lazne Bohdanec, 100 km (62 miles) east of Prague.
Potucek was among members of the Czechoslovak army-in-exile dropped into the country near the end of 1941. His broadcasts helped organize Operation Anthropoid, the attack on Heydrich. On May 27, 1942, paratroopers Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis attacked Heydrich’s car with a hand grenade. The Nazi official died from his wounds a week later.
“It was one of the most successful resistance operations in our country,” Vondrka said, “a moment we can be proud of.”
The antenna — two separate wires several meters long — ran along the walls of an unused attic without windows or electricity, high enough to assure reception from the British Isles, Vondrka said. It was one of several locations used by Potucek to transmit information about resistance activity in the Nazi-occupied Czech territory.
“The antenna is professional, clearly made in England,” said Vondrka, who discovered it last August but waited for technical appraisal before making it public last week. “There was no way it could have been fabricated by the resistance.”
While the assassination of Heydrich, widely considered Adolf Hitler’s right hand, dealt a severe blow to the Nazi leadership, the reprisals were severe.
Two villages in central Bohemia, falsely linked to the attack, were razed. Almost all the men were murdered and most of the women and children were sent to concentration camps; a few were given to families of Nazi loyalists in Germany for “Aryanization.” Across the country, more than 13,000 people were arrested and tortured in retaliation for the attack.
The Gestapo hunted radio operator Potucek through the forests of eastern Bohemia in the week after the attack. Starving and exhausted, he was discovered and shot by a Czech policeman two days before Heydrich’s death.
Gabcik, Kubis and other paratroopers managed to stay ahead of the Nazis until June 18, 1942, when they were cornered in the catacombs of a Prague church. Vastly outnumbered by German troops trying to flush them out, they all either committed suicide or were killed.