Place photography, Resslova street-New Town-Prague-2
Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius
Built in the 1730s, this Baroque church was taken over and restored by the Czech Orthodox Church in the 1930s. A plaque and memorial outside, together with numerous bullet holes, still attract tributes and flowers today, and are a clue to what happened inside during World War II.
On 29 December 1941, two Czech paratroopers who had trained in England were flown into Bohemia together with five colleagues in order to carry out, among other resistance acts, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia and also the man who chaired the infamous 1942 Wannsee Conference on the Final Solution. Josef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš eventually ambushed Heydrich as he drove to work on 27 May 1942. Gabčík's gun jammed, but Kubiš threw a grenade at the car, which seriously wounded the SS man; he died in agony a week later.
Gabčík, Kubiš and their co-conspirators were given sanctuary in the crypt of the church, but they were eventually betrayed to the Germans. In the early hours of 18 June, 350 members of the SS and Gestapo surrounded the church and spent the night bombarding it with bullets and grenades. The men, who managed to survive until dawn, used their final bullets to shoot themselves. However, the incident didn't end there: the recriminations were swift, brutal and arbitrary. Hundreds of people, many of them Jews, were rounded up in Prague and shot immediately, and five villages and most of their inhabitants were liquidated, the most famous being Lidice.
The events brought about a turning point in the war, as Britain repudiated the Munich Agreement and Anthony Eden declared that Lidice had 'stirred the conscience of the civilised world'. The story of the assassination and its aftermath is movingly told in the crypt of the church, where the paratroopers made their last stand. You can also see the tunnel through which the assassins tried to dig their way out in a bid to reach the city sewer, coming within centimetres of reaching their goal.