Posts Tagged ‘assassination’

Czech resistance radio antenna used in Reinhard Heydrich assassination discovered

January 12th, 2015

Operating from a safe-house in Lazne Bohdanec, a small town some 60 miles east of Prague, Potucek was in charge of radio communications for the operation.

“I found the aerials last August when we were putting in electricity. Nobody had visited the attic because there had been no power in it,” said Adolf Vondrka, the owner of the former safe house. “I hesitated before making the find public. I wanted to be sure that the aerials are the short-wave aerials that were part of a transmitter from World War Two. Experts have now confirmed this.”

“Potucek made 148 broadcasts totalling 24 hours,” he added.

The radio operator was part of Silver A, a group of agents parachuted into Czechoslovakia in 1941, charged with doing the groundwork for the assassination attempt that was due to take place the following year.

Sometimes broadcasting from a quarry where he had a job as nightwatchman, Potucek had the vital task of linking the Czech resistance with MI6, the organiser of the operation.

“He managed to make contact with London and maintain communications for five months,” said Milous Cervencl, an expert on the assassination.

Broken into parts for storage, the aerials measures 40 feet and 32 feet long, and Mr Vondrka said Potucek needed at least 31 feet of antenna for his signal to reach Britain.

Following the death of Heydrich, a shocked Nazi regime instigated a savage “rat hunt” to track down anybody involved in the assassination, and exacted a bloody revenge on the Czech people.

In Prague around 10,000 people were arrested and 1,300 executed, before the hunt moved to the village of Lidice, which the Nazis, incorrectly, believed had harboured agents.

German forces rounded up and shot dead all male villagers over the age of 16 – totalling 173 – and then transported the women and children to concentration camps from which very few survived.

The village itself was razed to the ground.

The Germans soon tracked down Kubis, Gabcik and other agents to a church in Prague’s old town. Kubis died in a firefight with the SS, while the survivors took refuge in the church’s crypt.

Unable to get in without incurring losses, the Gestapo got the fire brigade to flood the Czech’s holdout. Down to their last rounds of ammunition, the agents committed suicide.

As the net closed in on Potucek, he made one last broadcast on June 26, telling London the game was up. On the run, he survived one shoot-out with the Gestapo before being shot dead by Czech police in a forest near the eastern town of Pardubice.

World War Two

Grandson of Hitler assassination plotter in bid to reclaim estate confiscated by Nazis

July 20th, 2014

The prince, 50, says his grandfather was imprisoned, tortured and forced by the Gestapo to sign a legal declaration ultimately handing over control to his land to Heinrich Himmler. Despite the circumstances in which the document was signed its legal standing is accepted by officials today and treated like “a document signed today in a lawyer’s office”.

He said: “They are saying well the wording in this document is okay, he signed it, so what’s the problem?

“If my grandfather hadn’t signed they would have murdered his entire family, so there was no option.”

The July 20 plot involved a series of high ranking Germany army officers, including Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, who was played by Cruise in Valkyrie. Prince Friedrich III hosted meetings of the conspirators on his estates.

On July 20 1944 Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a suitcase under a table in Hitler’s headquarters, known as the “wolf’s lair”, in what is now Poland. The bomb exploded, but Hitler escaped with little more than a burst eardrum.

Stauffenberg and about 5,000 other people were executed in the following days. Prince Friedrich believes his grandfather was kept alive by chance – because he was the uncle of the Swedish crown princess and Himmler was attempting to negotiate a truce with the Allies with the help of Sweden’s royal family.

He says that his father fought for the land and property from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 until his death in 2006. The family bought back Castle Baruth, its seat in the state of Brandenburg in eastern Germany, shortly after the wall came down.

In 2003 the family reached a settlement with German authorities to reclaim a large part of his grandfather’s estate.

Now Prince Friedrich is fighting to win back the remaining properties and land, which he says amounts to up to around 19,000 acres. The estate mainly comprises forestry and includes two manor houses currently under the ownership of local authorities.

The estate falls within the remit of two separate local authorities within Brandenburg – Cottbus and Potsdam, just outside Berlin.

Last month at a hearing at an administrative court in Cottbus, Prince Friedrich was told that evidence about the prince’s grandfather including expert testimony from Antony Beevor, the Second World War historian, would not be admitted because it was for the court to judge the historical circumstances of the case.

Last week the court rejected the claim. The prince said he had expected the result because the court refused to accept “any of the evidence we submitted.”

Separately Prince Friedrich’s claim in Potsdam was rejected by the county’s administrative court, which ruled that his grandfather had handed over control of his estate in a legal transaction and denied that he was a victim of Nazi persecution. Instead it said that the measures taken against his grandfather, including imprisonment, were simply of an “investigative nature”.

He has now lodged an appeal at Germany’s federal constitutional court in Karlsruhe.

Meanwhile, Natascha Engel, a German-born MP who chairs the backbench business committee, has written to Lord Astor, the defence minister, asking if he can aid the prince’s efforts.

Lord Goldsmith also urged the Foreign Office to provide “every assistance possible” to help locate evidence which might satisfy the court and “help settle this case once and for all.”

Prince Friedrich said: “What is being done here flies in the face of the constitution – not [allowing us] to present evidence and disregarding the historical circumstances blatantly. We have protested that we have been denied a fair hearing, which is the minimum we can say.

“We are confident the judges at the constitutional court will have the wisdom to recognise this and correct the mistakes made by the lower courts. If not, Germany will – after 70 years – still not have learnt the lessons from its troubled past.”

The claims are being defended in court by the Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues. A spokesman declined to comment.

World War Two