WW2 Museum - Memorial to Resistance

If you are looking for a WW2 Museum in Prague, you are looking for the Cathedral of St. Cyril and Methodius. The museum is located in its crypt and is officially called National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror.

The museum exhibition is centered around The Anthropoid Operation, but also briefly explains the occupation of Czechoslovakia and other events that surrounded this core event of Czechoslovak WW2 history.

  • Opening Hours: 9 am - 5 pm, opened every day, except for Monday
  • Price: voluntary donation

Resistance & Anthropoid

Czechoslovakia was torn by Nazis piece by piece.

  1. On September 29th and 30th 1938, the Munich Agreement was discussed and signed. The agreement stated, that Nazi Germany can under certain conditions annex the borders of Czechoslovakia. The agreement was signed by the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Third Reich (Nazi Germany). Czechoslovakia was excluded from these discussions.
  2. On March 14th, 1939 Slovakia declared independence, starting a fascist state, that cooperated with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
  3. On March 15th, 1939, the rest of nowadays the Czech Republic was occupied and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was created.

During this time, many resistance groups started to be formed. Generally, the resistance is divided into two groups:

  1. Domestic resistance, which was formed from political groups that opposed the Nazis, like the Communist Party, and other groups which were formed from former soldiers, journalists, political members, and many civilians from all social classes and of many different jobs.
  2. Foreign resistance, which was formed by politicians in exile and soldiers that joined foreign armies.

It is in the foreign resistance where the Anthropoid plan was born.

Operation Anthropoid

Anthropoid was a code name for a top-secret operation, which was organized from the United Kingdom but was operated by a Czechoslovakian government in exile. The word Anthropoid means "human-like".

  • The target of the operation was to kill either the Secretary of the State, Karl Hermann Frank, or the Reichsprotektor, Reinhard Heydrich. It was up to the paratroopers, who were picked for this operation, to choose. They chose the so-called "Butcher of Prague", Reinhard Heydrich.
  • There were two soldiers selected for this mission: Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis.

The two soldiers, who were picked for this mission, were first trained for weeks in all known techniques of assassinations known to the British army back then, and on December 1941, they were successfully air-dropped nearby Prague. First, they had to contact the domestic resistance and with their help prepare for the assassination. After a few weeks of observations, they were ready to commence.

On the 27th of May 1942, the two paratroopers attacked the car of Reinhard Heydrich which was on its way to Prague Castle. Reinhard Heydrich did not have any armed escort and left himself wide open for the attack.

There were multiple complications that occurred during the attack. The Sten Gun that Jozef Gabcik wanted to shoot Heydrich but the gun malfunctioned and didn't fire. In the end, a bomb that was thrown by Kubis had injured Heydrich enough to send him to a hospital, where on the 4th of June 1942, the butcher of Prague died. Operation Anthropoid was successful.

The Cathedral of St. Cyril and Methodius was the place where the paratroopers regrouped later, and here, hidden in the crypt, they were waiting for their extraction. After a few weeks of searching, the Nazis uncovered their location, and on the 18th of June, they surrounded the whole area with more than 700 men. The paratroopers were severely outnumbered and trapped in the church crypt.

The exhibition inside of the cathedral will lead you through the story of Anthropoid and will allow you to enter the crypt, where the paratroopers died.

Three Kings

The most famous group of domestic resistance were the Three Kings. This was a group of three men: Josef Masin, Vaclav Moravek, and Josef Balaban.

The three men worked independently and even kept the names of their confidants hidden from each other, that way making it harder for the Nazis to find them.

What made this group famous is that they not only managed to gather a huge amount of useful information and transmit this information to the United Kingdom but also the fact that they teased Nazis, sending them messages, blowing up trucks right in front of the Gestapo headquarters and other feats.

Josef Masin and Josef Balaban were captured, tortured, and executed, while Vaclav Moravek died during a shootout.

History of the Church

The museum is located inside of the crypt of the Cathedral of St. Cyril and Methodius.

Originally the church was called The Church of St. Charles Borromeo and was constructed between the years 1730 and 1736.

In 1783 the church was deconsecrated and was used as a part of military barracks and as a storage.

Finally, in 1935 it was consecrated again, this time to St. Cyril and Methodius. Today the church belongs to the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia and serves as a cathedral. The official name is the Cathedral of St. Cyril and Methodius.

Names in front of the WW2 Museum

The names you see in front of the entrance to the cathedral, above the steps to the crypt, are the names of people, mainly civilians, who were executed in the aftermath of the Anthropoid Operation.

These were people who helped in many ways, from washing the clothes to bringing food or gathering information on the routine of Reinhard Heydrich.

It is estimated that in the end, around 5000 people were killed as revenge for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.

Film and Movies

The Anthropoid operation, which is the topic for this museum exhibition has been an inspiration for a couple of movies.

  • Anthropoid (2016)
  • The Man with the Iron Heart (2017)
  • Operation Daybreak (1975)
  • Hangmen Also Die (1943)

All of these were inspired by the true events of Anthropoid. None of them is fully historically correct.

To the foreign audience, we recommend The Anthropoid movie as it is at least partially historically correct. The church museum was used in the movie for the scenes of the last confrontation between paratroopers and Nazi soldiers.

Prague WW2 Museum Walking Tour

If you would like to learn more about Prague WW2 history and see the most important sites connected to this period, we invite you to join our Free WW2 Tour, which covers the Second World War history and Sites, and also includes the WW2 museum. It is a pay-what-you-wish type of tour and covers most of the crucial topics of the World War 2 period.

We also provide a Private Prague WW2 Tour.

See more of our Prague Travel Tips.


 Author: Vaclav Zahradnik and Valeriia Zahradnikova, Prague guides certified by Prague City Tourism agency. Valeriia and Vaclav have worked in tourism for over 6 years and have guided thousands of Prague visitors.

Sources

  • Pruvodce Protektoratni Prahou by Jiri Padevet
  • Jan Kubis by Eduard Stehlik