As you walk up Resslova from Karlovo Namesti in Prague you pass on your left the Orthodox church of St Cyril and Methodius. Over a sealed opening into the crypt is a memorial to the paratroopers who assassinated the brutal Nazi Reinhard Heydrich and to the priest who hid seven of them in the church's crypt. The bullet holes beneath the memorial are silent witness to the ultimate sacrifice the men made for their bravery.
The story of Operation Anthropoid as the assassination was codenamed is now the subject of a feature film (trailer below). The church now houses a museum about the operation. The first room is lined with information panels about the operation and also the terrible retribution that the Nazis inflicted on the Czech resistance and the wider Czech people. It is chilling to realise that not only were the resistance members risking their own lives but also those of their families.
To get to the second room in the museum you pass through a door shaped like a cross-section of a spitfire's wing. You press on the door and it swings open to reveal the crypt itself. The air in the crypt is chill and damp. There are busts of the men, candles and bouquets of flowers. It is hard to comprehend what they must have felt confined in the crypt, waiting whilst outside the Nazis tortured their accomplices in order to find the hiding place. These were men of action and yet they had to wait and do nothing, reliant on others and one suspects increasingly afraid that there was no way out. Only a few hours before they were due to be transferred to another hiding place, the crypt was stormed by 750 Gestapo and SS. Despite the odds the battle lasted two hours until the Germans flooded the crypt and the parachutists ran out of ammunition. The four parachutists still alive committed suicide rather than be taken alive.
As you turn to leave the crypt you are confronted once more by the door. This time it does not swing easily open at a mere touch. For a few seconds the sense of being trapped induces a sense of panic, until you regain your composure and realise that the opening is counter intuitive.