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Silver A in Pardubice Home

Influence of the Silver A paratroopers in Pardubice. Finding important contacts among determined patriots. Informers as the enemy. Journey to Ležáky.

Events from May and June in 1942 indelibly engraved in the Czech history and have been affecting the memories of Czechs of the war for four generations now. The time of the second martial law was such a crucial intervention that in the Protectorate society after twenty years after the end of the war it became the subject of one of the most extensive investigations of the Czechoslovak and West Germany judiciary. But let’s get back to the time of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich and the resulting consequences.

The operation of the Anthropoid (Jan Kubiš, Josef Gabčík) and Silver A (Alfréd Bartoš, Josef Valčík, Jiří Potůček) paratroopers began straight after their landing on the territory of the Protectorate in the night of 28th – 29th December 1941. Their tasks could be divided into two parts. Anthropoid was preparing an attack on the most powerful man of the Protectorate, Silver A was gathering valuable intelligence information and with their mutual communication and cooperation the military centre in London was to be informed about their progress. The plan of attack was a subject to confidentiality and not a single member of the Czechoslovak government in exile knew about it. Such significant tasks could not be fulfilled without the help of local resistance groups. But who could the paratroopers depend on when the domestic resistance groups, after Heydrich’s intervention in autumn 1941, stopped being reliable. Their structure was scattered and the leaders together with regular members were being arrested en mass? It still remains a historical fact that after the return of Alfréd Bartoš to Prdubice he was recognized by a number of locals, but not one of them had reported his return from exile to the security authorities.

The foreign military officials did take into account the dangerous situation back at home; therefore the paratroopers received addresses of some less known resistance fighters or reliable friends of former politicians. It was not any different with Silver A paratroopers who received addresses and help from Social-Democrat leader Bohumil Laušman who was born in a small village Žumberok the edge of Bohemian-Moravian Highlands. His ex-driver and primarily a friend, František Švadlenka, welcomed the paratroopers in his house and helped them to find another safe hide out. It is quite surprising that the group found a place for their radio “Libuše” only in one week.  The string of friends and the Nazi regime opposing Czechoslovaks formed for young people from England two dozen hide outs. One of the most important ones was the quarry Hluboká of František Vaško and in a nearby mill of Jindřich Švanda in Ležáky (7). On 9th January 1942, “Libuše” made contact for the first time, but due to malfunction it could not receive the answer from London. On 15th January they established connection that was maintained for incredible six months. The radio became the epicentre of meetings of the foreign and home resistance, where the message was always spread in a designated direction. The location of radio operator Jiří Potůček and Libuše was notionally the home and foreign resistance in one.

However, the groups had a very powerful enemy. The Nazis were ready for similar actions of paratroopers. A report on a lone enemy aircraft that appeared in the night sky of the Protectorate on 29th December landed on Heydrich’s table in the next couple of days. The patrol knew very well that the event was rather unusual and it called for great attention of the security forces. The Gestapo managed to step by step unravel mutual contacts of home resistance fighters and newly coming groups. After a shoot-out near the Charles Bridge with Captain Morávek, the Gestapo captured a photograph of Josef Valčík and launched a search for him. 

Two APF members, quarrier Karel Andrák from Dřeveše (ordinary member) and worker Karel Holfeuer from Blatno u Hlinska (district leader), wrote at the beginning of 1942 a letter denouncing miller Jindřich Švanda from Ležáky. In the letter that has been preserved only in a testimonial form, not a written one, they were accusing Švanda of being in contact with organised resistance. This dangerous denunciation that had revealed the Pardubice resistance movement was fortunately concluded by the Gestapo as unfound. 

The apprehensive mood after the successful attack on Heydrich on 27th May 1942 filled with executions and the tragedy in Lidice on 10th June brought Karel Čurda one of the paratrooper of the Out distance group, to the Gestapo (8). Only then the Secret Police started to uncover almost thirty two shelters and hide outs of both parachute units together with their collaborators. On 19th June, the Gestapo had showed in Ležáky for the first time, resp. in a village Dachov. They were finding the number of inhabitants, their occupations, wealth and just about everything that was necessary for burning down their settlement and killing the people. Even though the radio station and Jiří Potůček had left the mill few days prior, but just by helping they violated a number of points of a brutal decree of Deputy Protector Kurt Dalueg. It should be noted that it was the first time in the history of Central and Western Europe when the representative of armed forces officially proclaimed the principle of so called Sippenhaft, ie responsibility of family extended members for the conduct of its members. This “legal standard”, according to an old Germanic law, “entitled” the Nazi units to act against the whole village as they showed in Lidice. On 24th June 1942, Ležáky was raided by the Gestapo and a safety police unit from Pardubice, the mill and eight houses were emptied, looted and burned. Thirty people died that evening at a shooting range in the barracks area of the safety police at the Manor House in Pardubice (9). Thirteen children were kidnapped by the Nazis during the following days to Lodz, Poland. The group of eleven children from Ležáky who could not be germanised was joined by one girl from Lidice on 25th July 1942 and their footsteps end in gas cars of the extermination camp Chelmno. 2nd July 1942 was the last day of forty resistance fighters from Pardubice.