Murder of Reinhard Heydrich: a new monument for “the girl with the bicycle”

Although the key events surrounding Operation Anthropoid – code name of the assassination of the protector of the Reich of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich – are relatively well known, few know the story of Jindřiška Nováková, the teenager who rode the bicycle of one of the killers after the fact.

Operation Anthropoid, whose 80th anniversary will be celebrated at the end of the month, was led by a squad of Czechoslovakian soldiers sent by the Czechoslovakian government in exile and trained by British special forces, the best known of which are those who killed Heydrich. the Czech Jan Kubiš and the Slovak Jozef Gabčík.

Vojtěch Kyncl, of the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences: “Jindřiška was not even 15 when his parents helped hide both Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík. She and her family were forced to move from the Sudetenland to Prague, in the district of Libeň, where her father Václav Novák joined the resistance against the Nazis very early, so actively that he was ready to support and hide the future assassins of Reinhard Heydrich for many months. “

Heydrich’s assassination took place on May 27, 1942, on a notorious bend in the road in Libeň, which forced Heydrich’s car to slow down. Kubiš was slightly injured in the face by the shrapnel, but he managed to escape on a bicycle. He left his bicycle, covered in blood, in a Baťa shoe shop and then went to the Novák family home.

Jindřiška Novakova |  Photo: Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

When the teenager Jindřiška returned home, she found her mother taking care of the injured Kubiš. She asked her to retrieve the bike as soon as possible, fearing that she would allow him to be tracked.

Jindřiška went to get her bike, but two women attended and asked her why she was taking it away. In response to their question, she said that it was her father’s bike and that she would come and bring it back. Through another informant, the women then passed this information on to the Gestapo.

Vojtech Kyncl: “Both women said that the bike was taken away by a girl of about 14 or 15. The Gestapo seized this information: the Germans knew that the bicycle was probably linked to Heydrich’s murder. On June 3, around 40. girls of this age from the whole district of Libeň were taken to Petschek Palace [QG de la Gestapo]. There they had to walk with their bicycles into the screening room. Jindřiška was among the last 10 suspects, but they have not yet been able to determine who she was. The whole affair ended that day with a great victory for Jindřiška, because he revealed nothing, said nothing and endured enormous dangers and pressure from the Gestapo. . “

Karel Kurda |  Photo: VHA Bratislava

However, after two weeks, everything changed. One of the paratroopers involved in the mission, Karel Čurda, revealed information about this to the Gestapo. The resistance network collapsed and Jindřiška, her parents and siblings were arrested on 9 July 1942. She was executed “on 24 October between 11 and 12 in the morning”, as evidenced by the death certificate in the Nazi archives.

Photo: Arolsen Archive

Vojtech Kyncl: “They were all executed in the Mauthausen concentration camp as part of an operation to liquidate the collaborators in Heydrich’s assassination. He is therefore one of the youngest victims of reprisals after the murder, not counting the murdered children of Lidice and Ležáky. Without Karel Čurda’s denunciation, the resistance network would likely have survived the massive onslaught of reprisals following Heydrich’s assassination. “

The new monument, which commemorates not only Jindřiška Nováková and his family, but also other members of the resistance movement, will be inaugurated in October 2023 on Zenklova Street in Prague 8. Local residents voted in an online poll for their design favorite of a total of 19, but a different entry, designed by Lukáš Wagner, was unanimously chosen as the winner by an expert jury.

The memorial, with a modern look, will have the shape of a sphere composed of several circles similar to bicycle wheels, with the illuminated figure of a seated girl on top, which, according to the author, should recall the character of the Little Prince, seated alone on his planet. The memorial will be suspended in the air by wires.

Viewing the Jindřiška Nováková memorial |  Photo: Centrum Libeňský svět

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