The Heydrich Terror


The online collection called THE HEYDRICH TERROR consists of 29 newsreel pieces, mostly segments of Českého zvukového týdeníku Aktualita (Czechoslovak Aktualita Sound Newsreel) from 27 September 1941, when SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich became the Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, until the first anniversary of his assassination, which was carried out on 27 May 1942 by paratroopers of the Czechoslovak Exile Army.

The first part of the collection features official events in the immediate aftermath of Heydrich’s arrival in Prague. In addition to showing the actual act of the transference of power over the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia at Prague Castle, the reports in this part cover political and social events directly initiated or attended by Heydrich. Heydrich’s arrival in Prague resulted in the escalation of Nazi persecution and the systemic annihilation of the Czech resistance movement, particularly that branch of it associated with Prime Minister Alois Eliáš. One of the segments shows the funeral of Karel Lažnovský, a pro-German journalist and the editor-in-chief of České slovo (The Czech Word), who died on 10 October 1941 when he succumbed to poisoning after eating open sandwiches at an audience at General Eliáš’s office (the so-called “open sandwich affair”) and whose death was labelled by Nazi propaganda as a political murder.

Other segments depict Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the SS and Chief of the Gestapo, during a visit to Prague on 29 October 1941; a meeting of the Southeast European Economic Society and German Economic Society in the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle; the opening of a propagandistic anti-Soviet exhibition, ironically entitled The Soviet Paradise, at the Prague Exhibition Grounds; the Memorial Day of Heroes event held as part of the celebration of the anniversary of the Protectorate at the German Opera in Prague; the handover of an ambulance train to the German army at Prague’s Main Railway Station on the day of Adolf Hitler’s birthday; or the National Health Week event, which served to implement Heydrich’s plan for the racial mapping of the Protectorate territory under the guise of TBC prevention.

Heydrich’s legendary “carrot-and-stick” policy, under which Czech workers, particularly those working in the arms industry, enjoyed a number of coveted privileges, is seen in the newsreel segments from workers’ holidays organised by the Reinhard Heydrich Foundation for Workers’ Recuperation. Individual reports show workers’ retreats in Luhačovice, Český Šternberk, the village of Věšín u Blatné, and the Gymnasion Health Resort in Jarov u Dolních Břežan.

The next part consists of a selection of newsreel segments from the aftermath of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich on 27 May 1942. It is introduced by a film segment that marked the beginning of an aggressive Nazi campaign, which intensified a general mood of fear, enhanced by the daily publication of the names of the executed. The film, compulsorily screened in all cinemas in the Protectorate, was compiled from footage of objects forgotten at the assassination site and it encouraged citizens to help the police catch the perpetrators. In the following weeks, the campaign continued with forced participation in ostentatious acts of collaboration with the Nazi regime and public condemnation of the assassination and all activities of the government in exile in Great Britain. In an attempt to “normalise” relations with the Reich, the Protectorate Government organised a series of staged mass demonstrations. People and corporations were forced to pass resolutions, sign protest petitions and otherwise express their loyalty and subservience to the German Reich.

The first so-called “Manifestation of the Czech People for the Reich” took place on 2 June 1942 on Old Town Square in Prague, two days before Heydrich’s death. Another public manifestation of the loyalty of the Czech nation – the spectacularly organised funeral of Heydrich – was conceived as a typical German military parade, with a torchlit ceremony on Charles Bridge, a funeral service in the quadrangle of Prague Castle, and a funeral procession through Prague to the Main Railway Station. Subsequent public demonstrations of loyalty, records of which have been preserved in newsreel footage, were held in the railway workshops in Pilsen on 10 June 1942; at the Cabbage Market (Zelný trh) in Brno and on Pilsen’s Main Square on 12 June 1942; in Tábor on 20 June 1942; at the National Theatre in Prague (“Pledge of Czech Theatre Professionals to the Reich”) on 24 June 1942; at the Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua in Moravian Slovakia on 28 June 1942; in Moravská Ostrava on 30 June 1942; and the largest, with 200,000 people in attendance, on Wenceslas Square in Prague on 3 July 1942. In contrast to the preceding material, the collection includes unedited, unpublished film footage from Lidice on 10 June 1942, which shows the destruction of the village under the supervision of SS officers, a Reich Labour Service unit, and members of the Gestapo led by the head of the Kladno branch, Harald Wiesmann.

To build up the Heydrich cult, a large-scale action was prepared with the participation of nineteen cities of the Protectorate to rename important thoroughfares, squares and parks after him. The online collection includes segments from the ceremonies associated with the renaming of a part of the Prague waterfront as Reinhard-Heydrich-Ufer on 18 September 1942 and the renaming of Pilsen’s Klatovská Avenue as Reinhard Heydrich-Strasse on 31 May 1943. On 21 September 1942, a unit of the Reich Labour Service in Brno was also renamed after Reinhard Heydrich.

The collection concludes with a segment consisting of several Nazi events held on 4 June 1943 on the occasion of the first anniversary of Heydrich’s death. It includes a commemorative act in V Holešovičkách, the Prague street that was the scene of his assassination; a ceremony held in the Prague City Council’s reception hall at the Municipal Library at which the City of Prague Foundation’s Reinhard Heydrich Memorial Award for spreading the ideas of the Reich was presented; footage from a workers’ holiday organised by the Reinhard Heydrich Foundation for Workers’ Recuperation; and a grandiose celebration to honour Heydrich’s memory held in the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle.

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