I’ve been working my way through his biography (slowly, the time I usually spend reading has largely been consumed by watching The Great War and Between Two Wars), and I’ve got some additional details, which might provide some more threads for those of you with more history knowledge to pull on if you’re digging into this:
Origins: Vladimir Krajina was born in Moravia, studied botany at Charles University in Prague, had a solid academic career and was an early adopter of the concepts that developed into ecology. He married a woman named Marie, and their daughter Marie was born in 1935.
Operational Security: Most resistance groups in Czechoslovakia early on were led by members of the old Czech Maffia (yes, 2 f’s), a resistance group formed in the region against Austrian rule during WWI, but the Nazi’s were better at rooting out such groups, which led to most of those groups being caught fairly quickly. Eventually several groups merged under Krajina’s leadership into a single group called ÜVOD, which seems to be the primary non-Communist resistance organization in Czechoslovakia. Krajina followed a very strict rule about controlling information, limiting the amount of people in the group who knew others names. As leader of an organization that seems to have had several hundred members, he only knew 11 of them. On average, ordinary members knew only 2. Meetings were held while walking together in a secluded area, usually one-on-one, preventing large gatherings for the Gestapo to try to disrupt.
Messages were written in code as well as encrypted (one, for example, refers to one group of the resistance as musicians and another as singers, and requests that the “musicians” be instructed to focus on “music” (their business) rather than singing (the singer’s business) - still obviously resistance communication if it’s decrypted, but with just enough information obfuscated that it doesn’t give away any useful information to identify resistance members or organizations to someone who doesn’t know the list of what terms refer to what things.
Krajina and his group primarily acted as a conduit of information from Czechoslovakia to Britain. They themselves provided info like production of weapons, troop movements, and weather info (used for air operations), but most of their best intel came from Abwehr agent Paul Thümmel (mentioned in Episode 11 (Nov 10, 1939) - Krajina’s agents were his connection to the Czechoslovak government-in-exile.) Intel from him includes the following:
December 1940: confidential speech from Marshal Keitel indicating Germany would hold off on attacking the USSR until Britain was dealt with. Krajina wanted to ensure Britain was still in the game when this attack occured. Thummel leaked a list of Nazi agents in the USSR to Krajina, who handed it over to the Soviet consul in Prague. No apparent reaction by Soviets (Date unclear: biography refers to this as December 1941, but refers to anticipating Britain would be vulnerable to invasion in Spring 1941, which suggests December 1940 makes more sense)
“Later that same year” (1941?): Another message from Thummel warning that Wehrmacht units moving from shores of the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, positioned for an invasion towards Crete, Cypress, Syria, stretching towards Egypt and the Suez Canal. British recieved warning 2 months in advance of the attack and took sufficient steps to foil the attack.
2 warnings sent to Stalin (via British) warning of Nazi attacks on the Soviet union on April 18 1941, providing advice about a planned aerial surprise attack to cripple the Soviet air force and advising they relocate to bases further away from the front line. Ignored to Stalin’s distrust of non-Communist sources, and attack was eventually delayed to secure the Balkans first, further discrediting the information. Second warning sent in June 1941, again ignored, and the Luftwaffe attack destroyed much of the Soviet air force
The introduction of the biography also mentions him passing on word of Hitler’s decision to cancel the invasion of the British Isles, and the planned date for the attack on the Balkans.
No mention is made of my father’s anecdote regarding the Battle of Britain (see original post), which is not the only omission. Given the biography is rather small and covers a bunch of ground outside of WWII, it’s very possible that some details were omitted.
Eventually, Krajina’s group began to break apart. He had already been in hiding, having supplied his wife with forged proof that they had separated due to his supposed infidelity. Once Krajina was identified, the Gestapo summoned his wife, Marie, and arrested her (their daughter was taken in by grandparents for the rest of the war). They offered a deal that they would release Marie if he turned himself in, but he refused.
He was still in hiding in Prague in May 1942, when Heydrich was assassinated. Heydrich had been appointed as the German overseer of the Czechoslovak Protectorate, and had immediately led a harsh crackdown on resistance efforts in the region, and Czech government and British authorities planned his assassination (presumably as a reprisal for his excessive crackdown). Krajina and ÜVOD tried to convince them to call it off, correctly predicting the resulting retaliation would be far more severe. Krajina even met with the parachutists who carried out the assassination, though they steadfastly refused to give any indication that was indeed their mission. Krajina came to believe they had sworn themselves to the mission to President-in-Exile Beneš. And they were ultimately successful, their attack on May 27th leaving Heydrich mortally wounded. He died 8 days later.
The biography mentions that Krajina’s brother was among those killed in the reprisals, but suggests he was a random victim of the crackdown. My father tells an alternate story, suggesting that the Gestapo had taken him hostage, threatening to execute him if Krajina didn’t turn himself in. Krajina would have done so, but was convinced by his comrades that the Gestapo would just as likely execute them both. I’m not sure if my father has conflated the earlier arrest of Marie Krajina and the death of Vladimir Krajina’s brother, or if this was a case of the Gestapo trying the same trick with a different family member.
Krajina was on the run for quite some time, several times evading Gestapo agents by hiding in obscure locations during simple checks. One case accounted by Hans Otto Gall, a Gestapo agent who later began working with the Gestapo has him running zig zag through a field while being fired on by Gestapo agents who had surrounded his hiding place. Apparently one bullet came so close that it put a hole through Krajina’s hat. The Gestapo’s subsequent pursuit became the subject of a poem composed by a vacationing Czech poet, resulting in “The Ballad of the Czech Paradise.” (The poet, however, did not know the identity of the man they pursued.)
He was eventually captured by SS Officer Willi Leimer in January 1943, who eventually surrendered to Krajina in 1945 at the end of the war.
I’m still reading about his time in captivity, but it seems unlikely that his time in captivity will have much impact for the purposes of discussing the war as a whole.
My two main sources on this are a first hand account from my father, who was a student of his studying ecology at the University of British Columbia. They became close enough that Krajina shared a fair bit of detail of his life back in Europe, both during and after the war (he was apparently involved in government in Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of WWII before Soviet influence led him to flee to Canada, and his biography: “Vladimir Krajina: World War II Hero and Ecology Pioneer” by Jan Drabek. (Jan Drabek is the son of another agent of the Czech resistance, one of the 11 Krajina knew by name as he was a friend of the family before the war.)
It’s due to the closeness of these sources to Krajina himself that I’m not 100% trusting of the accuracy of the claims made. The intel side of WWII is a vastly confusing network of operations, and it’s very possible that Krajina could have been mistaken about the effects of some of his work. Indeed, by my father’s account of the information on Nazi agents in the USSR being sent to Stalin, Krajina seemed quite convinced that this move led to a purge of these agents, which provided Hitler sufficient urgency to attack the Soviets early, without having first removed Britain as a threat, as such a purge could be seen as a removal of untrustworthy individuals in preparation for a Soviet surprise attack. The biography, on the other hand, indicates that this message was outright ignored, having been classified as information coming from a non-communist source and thus not trustworthy.