New Czech novel inspired by story of paratroopers who eliminated Heydrich


Not long ago Jiri Sulc was unknown in Czech literary circles, but those days appear to be over. The former member of Czech counter-intelligence, is making a name for himself as an up-and-coming author. His first novel "Dva Proti Risiquot; (Two Against the Reich) was published after Mr Sulc won a prestigious Czech literary prize, and already his novel has gotten rave reviews. His story is set during the Second World War, focusing on the assassination of Nazi governor and "Hangman of Bohemia" Reinhard Heydrich. At the time Czechoslovak paratroopers - most famously Josef Gabcik and Jan Kubis - coordinated the assassination, all were eventually hunted down and killed.

Just a few days ago Jan Velinger caught up with author Jiri Sulc and asked him how difficult it was to get into the mindset of his characters:

"It's true that it was quite complicated but on the other hand there are quite a lot of records from people who remembered them, who survived the war. In general their characters were captured through memories of living people: I just tried, say, to get into their skin, inventing their behaviour and dialogue in particular situations. When I was writing the book I spent quite a lot of time at the sites where the events actually took place and I tried very hard to imagine what a man waiting for such an operation, waiting for a target, might feel. What a person in an extreme situation is able to do and willing to do."

JV: Is this a topic that you were interested in earlier, say back to your days as a student?

"The roots of my idea to write the novel were in my past: I was a student at a secondary school opposite the church where the final battle between the paratroopers and the Nazis took place. I passed by that famous church two, three, four times a day for a period of four years. Let's say that at this time the war was just a period in textbooks for me, one I didn't like, but I began to understand at that time that the war was also about people and about peoples' lives."

JV: One of the things which has often been discussed was whether it was 'worth it', given the murderous acts by the Nazis which followed.

"I think it is necessary to see the operation in the period it took place because the decision to mount the operation, to assassinate Heydrich was taken in a period when the fascists were marching towards Moscow and the Nazis ruled almost the whole of Europe. It was not clear how the war would one day end. Heydrich, in my opinion was one of the most 'efficient' in the hierarchy of the Nazi regime: his death represented a great loss for Hitler and his fellows."