Anthropoid tells the explosive real life story of two Czechoslovakian resistance operatives dropped behind enemy lines with the aim of assassinating SS officer Reinhard Heydrich, the main architect behind the Final Solution and third in command of the Nazi forces behind Hitler and Himmler. The agents were dropped in enemy territory with limited official intelligence and even less by way of assistance from a country under lockdown, but nevertheless had to find their way to Heydrich against the odds and change the course of war in Europe before it was too late.
The set-up makes for the perfect spy thriller – step forward Anthropoid, available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms now, courtesy of Icon Film Distribution – but crucially, the story is rooted in a chilling reality, illustrated by the timeline below:
Munich Agreement is signed by Western Allies, allowing Hitler to assume the northern territories of neighbouring Czechoslovakia, the final act of appeasement by the Allies – this backfired
The majority of industry in the now-German Sudetenland allows Hitler’s forces to occupy all of Czechoslovakia, ensuring that the company remains, in effect, a prison camp for the duration of World War II
SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, second in command only to Hitler and Himmler, is put in charge of the occupying forces in Czechoslovakia. Nicknamed The Butcher Of Prague, he proceeded to crush the Czech people with his brutal regime
Warrant Officer Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš are selected, Kubiš replacing another officer who experiences a head injury during training, to head up a mission to show the occupying forces, and the occupied people of Czechoslovakia that both sides of the country were united against the Nazi forces.
The assassination of Heydrich, who regularly drove around in an open topped car as a show of faith in the occupying forces, is chosen as the operation to progress
Gabčík and Kubiš first plan to kill Heydrich aboard a train. They then decide on attacking his convoy as it moves through woodland, finally deciding to mount an attack in Prague itself
The attack on the car does not go to plan. Nevertheless, the pair still manages to hit the car with a grenade concealed in a briefcase, causing shrapnel damage to Heydrich
Heydrich’s death was a slow one, with theories existing that he died of botulism, possibly as the result of a toxic payload being included in the grenade thrown by the Czech pair
Heydrich’s death would be a devastating blow to the Germans and a profound victory, both psychologically and strategically, for the Allies.
The assassination of Heydrich was one of the most significant moments of the resistance in Czechoslovakia. The act led to the immediate dissolution of the Munich Agreement (called the “Munich diktat” by the Czechs) signed by the United Kingdom, France, and Germany’s ally Italy. The UK and France agreed that, after the Nazis were defeated, the annexed territory, or Sudetenland, would be returned to Czechoslovakia.
Two large funeral ceremonies were performed for Heydrich as one of the most important Nazi leaders: first in Prague, where the route to Prague Castle was lined by hundred of SS members, and then in Berlin attended by all leading Nazi figures, including Hitler, who placed the German Order and Blood Order medals on the funeral pillow.
Anthropoid is available digitally and on Blu-ray and DVD now courtesy of Icon Film Distribution