The Lidice massacre was a complete destruction of the village of Lidice, in what is now the Czech Republic, in June 1942 on orders from Adolf Hitler and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. In reprisal for the assassination of Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich in the late spring of 1942, all 173 men over 15 years of age from the village were executed on 10 June 1942. Another 11 men who were not in the village were arrested and executed soon afterwards, along with several others already under arrest. The 184 women and 88 children were deported to concentration camps; a few children considered racially suitable for Germanisation were handed over to SS families and the rest were sent to the Chełmno extermination camp where they were gassed to death. About 340 people from Lidice died because of the German reprisal (192 men, 60 women and 88 children) and after the war ended, only 153 women and 17 children returned.
Assassination of Heydrich
From 27 September 1941, SS-Obergruppenführer and General of Police Reinhard Heydrich had been Acting Reichsprotektor of the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. This area of the former Czechoslovakia had been occupied by Nazi Germany since 5 April 1939.
On the morning of 27 May 1942, Heydrich was being driven from his country villa at Panenské Břežany to his office at Prague Castle. When he reached the Kobylisy area of Prague, his car was attacked (on behalf of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile) by the Slovak and Czech soldiers Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš. These men, who had been part of a team trained in Great Britain, had parachuted into Bohemia in December 1941 as part of Operation Anthropoid. After Gabčík's Sten gun jammed, Heydrich ordered his driver, SS-Oberscharführer Klein, to stop the car. When Heydrich stood up to shoot Gabčík, Kubiš threw a modified anti-tank grenade at Heydrich's car. The explosion wounded Heydrich and Kubiš. Heydrich sent his driver, Klein, to chase Gabčík on foot and in an exchange of fire, Gabčík shot Klein in the leg, below the knee. Kubiš and Gabčík managed to escape the scene. On 4 June Heydrich, having refused to be operated on by non-Germans, died in Bulovka Hospital in Prague from septicaemia caused by pieces of upholstery and his clothing entering his body when the bomb exploded.
Late in the afternoon of 27 May, SS-Gruppenführer Karl Hermann Frank proclaimed a state of emergency and a curfew in Prague. Anyone who helped the attackers was to be executed along with their family. A search involving 21,000 men began and 36,000 houses were checked. By 4 June, 157 people had been executed as a result of the reprisals but the assassins had not been found and no information was forthcoming.
The mourning speeches at Heydrich's funeral in Berlin were not yet over, when on 9 June, the decision was made to "make up for his death". Karl Hermann Frank, Secretary of State for the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, reported from Berlin that the Führer had commanded the following concerning any village found to have harboured Heydrich's killers:
- Execute all adult men
- Transport all women to a concentration camp
- Gather the children suitable for Germanisation, then place them in SS families in the Reich and bring the rest of the children up in other ways
- Burn down the village and level it entirely
Horst Böhme, the SiPo chief for the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia, immediately acted on the orders. Members of the Ordnungspolizei and SD (Sicherheitsdienst) surrounded the village of Lidice, blocking all avenues of escape. The Nazi regime chose this village because its residents were suspected of harbouring local resistance partisans and were falsely associated with aiding Operation Anthropoid team members.
All men of the village were rounded up and taken to the farm of the Horák family on the edge of the village. Mattresses were taken from neighbouring houses where they were stood up against the wall of the Horáks' barn to prevent ricochets. The shooting of the men commenced at about 7.00 am. At first the men were shot in groups of five, but Böhme thought the executions were proceeding too slowly and ordered that ten men be shot at a time. The dead were left lying where they fell. This continued until the afternoon hours when there were 173 dead. Another 11 men who were not in the village that day were arrested and murdered soon afterwards as were eight men and seven women already under arrest because they had relations serving with the Czech army in exile in the United Kingdom. The only adult man who survived this tragedy was František Saidl (1887–1961), who had been arrested at the end of 1938, because on 19 December 1938 he accidentally killed his son Eduard Saidl. He was imprisoned for four years and had no idea about this massacre. He found out that when he was coming home on 23 December 1942.
Women and children
A total of 203 women and 105 children were first taken to Lidice village school, then the nearby town of Kladno and detained in the grammar school for three days. The children were separated from their mothers and four pregnant women were sent to the same hospital where Heydrich died, forced to undergo abortions and then sent to different concentration camps. On 12 June 1942, 184 women of Lidice were loaded on trucks, driven to Kladno railway station and forced into a special passenger train guarded by an escort. On the morning of 14 June, the train halted on a railway siding at the concentration camp at Ravensbrück. On their arrival the Lidice women were first isolated in a special block. The women were forced to work in leather processing, road building, textile and ammunition factories.
Eighty-eight Lidice children were transported to the area of the former textile factory in Gneisenau Street in Łódź. Their arrival was announced by a telegram from Horst Böhme's Prague office which ended with: the children are only bringing what they wear. No special care is desirable. The care was minimal and they suffered from a lack of hygiene and from illnesses. By order of the camp management, no medical care was given to the children. Shortly after their arrival in Łódź, officials from the Central Race and Settlement branch chose seven children for Germanisation. The few children considered racially suitable for Germanisation were handed over to SS families.
The furore over Lidice caused some hesitation over the fate of the remaining children but in late June Adolf Eichmann ordered the massacre of the remainder of the children. On 2 July, all of the remaining 81 Lidice children were handed over to the Łódź Gestapo office, who sent them to the Chelmno extermination camp 70 kilometres (43 miles) away, where they were gassed to death in Magirus gas vans. Out of the 105 Lidice children, 82 died in Chełmno, six died in the German Lebensborn orphanages and 17 returned home.
The village was set on fire and the remains of the buildings destroyed with explosives. All the animals in the village—pets and beasts of burden—were slaughtered as well. Even those buried in the town cemetery were not spared; their remains were dug up, looted for gold fillings, jewellery and destroyed. A 100-strong German work party was then sent in to remove all visible remains of the village, re-route the stream running through it and the roads in and out. They then covered the entire area the village had occupied with topsoil and planted crops. A film was made of the process by Franz Treml, a collaborator with German intelligence. Treml had run a Zeiss-Ikon shop in Lucerna Palace in Prague and after the Nazi occupation, he became a film adviser for the Nazi Party.
The small Czech village of Ležáky was destroyed two weeks after Lidice after Gestapo agents found a radio transmitter there of an underground team who parachuted in with Kubiš and Gabčík. Men and women of the village were shot and the children were sent to concentration camps or Aryanised. The death toll resulting from the effort to avenge the death of Heydrich is estimated at over 1,300 people. This count includes relatives of the partisans, their supporters, Czech elites suspected of disloyalty and random victims like those from Lidice.
Nazi propaganda had openly and proudly, announced the events in Lidice, unlike other massacres in occupied Europe which were kept secret. The information was instantly picked up by Allied media. In September 1942, coal miners in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire in Great Britain led by Barnett Stross, a doctor, who in 1945 became a local MP, founded the organisation Lidice Shall Live to raise funds for the rebuilding of the village after the war.
Soon after the razing of the village, towns in various countries were renamed, San Jerónimo Lídice in Mexico City, Barrio Lídice and its hospital in Caracas, Venezuela, Lídice de Capira in Panama and towns in Brazil so that the name would live on in spite of Hitler's intentions. A neighbourhood in Crest Hill, Illinois was renamed from Stern Park to Lidice. A square in the English city of Coventry, devastated by Luftwaffe bombing, is named after Lidice. An alley in a very crowded area of downtown Santiago, Chile is named after Lidice and one of the buildings has a small plaque that explains its tragic story. A street in Sofia, Bulgaria is named to commemorate the massacre and the Lidice Memorial in Phillips, Wisconsin was built in memory of the village.
In the wake of the massacre, Humphrey Jennings directed The Silent Village (1943), using amateur actors from a Welsh mining village, Cwmgiedd, near the small South Wales town of Ystradgynlais. An American film was made in 1943 called Hitler's Madman but it contained a number of inaccuracies in the story. A more accurate British film, Operation Daybreak, starring Timothy Bottoms as Kubiš, Martin Shaw as Čurda and Anthony Andrews as Gabčík, was released in 1975.
American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote a book-length verse play on the massacre, The Murder of Lidice, which was printed in its entirety in the 19 October 1942, edition of Life magazine and published as a book that year by Harper.
In 2010, the connections between Lidice and Stoke-on-Trent were brought to new generations as Artbay owner Alan Gerrard discovered and championed the story of Barnett Stross while researching the history of mining in North Staffordshire. A commemoration service was organised by Fentonians Alan Gerrard, Cheryl Gerrard, Glenn Parkes and others at Fenton Cenotaph on 10 June 2011.(see external reference) This was covered as an international live radio broadcast by local community radio station 6 Towns Radio. In 2013, Lidice - A Light Across The Sea, a documentary film project featuring the story of Lidice and its link to Stoke-on-Trent was made by Staffordshire firm Inspired Film and Video. The research carried out by Alan Gerrard was shared and the film made, it featured original compositions by music students at Keele University.
Local response and the new Lidice
Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů composed his Memorial to Lidice (an 8-minute orchestral work) in 1943 as a response to the massacre. The piece quotes from the Czech St Wenceslas Chorale and in the climax of the piece, the opening notes (dot-dot-dot-dash = V in Morse code) of Beethoven's 5th Symphony.
Women from Lidice who survived imprisonment at Ravensbrück returned after the Second World War and were rehoused in the new village of Lidice that was built overlooking the original site. The first part of the new village was completed in 1949. Two men from Lidice were in the United Kingdom serving in the Royal Air Force at the time of the massacre. After 1945 Pilot Officer Josef Horák and Flight Lieutenant Josef Stříbrný returned to Czechoslovakia to serve in the Czechoslovak Air Force. After the Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948 the new Communist government would not allow them to apply to be housed in the new Lidice, because they had served in the forces of one of the western powers. Horák and his family returned to Britain and the RAF; he died in a flying accident in December 1948.
A sculpture from the 1990s by Marie Uchytilová, overlooks the site of the old village of Lidice. Entitled "The Memorial to the Children Victims of the War" it comprises 82 bronze statues of children (42 girls and 40 boys) aged 1 to 16, to honour the children who were murdered at Chełmno in the summer of 1942. A cross with a crown of thorns marks the mass grave of the Lidice men. Overlooking the site is a memorial area flanked by a museum and a small exhibition hall. The memorial area is linked to the new village by an avenue of linden trees. In 1955 a "Rosarium" of 29,000 rose bushes was created beside the avenue of lindens overlooking the site of the old village. In the 1990s the Rosarium was neglected but after 2001 a new Rosarium with 21,000 bushes was created.
- Gerwarth 2011, p. 280.
- Jan Kaplan and Krystyna Nosarzewska, Prague: The Turbulent Century p. 241
- Jan Kaplan and Krystyna Nosarzewska, Prague: The Turbulent Century p. 214
- Michel, Wolfgang, Britische Spezialwaffen 1939–1945: Ausrüstung für Eliteeinheiten, Geheimdienst und Widerstand, p. 72 ISBN 3-8423-3944-5
- Williams 2003, pp. 145–147.
- Williams 2003, p. 147.
- Burian, Michal; Aleš (2002). "Assassination — Operation Arthropoid, 1941–1942" (PDF). Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
- Jan Kaplan and Krystyna Nosarzewska, Prague: The Turbulent Century p. 239
- Jan Kaplan and Krystyna Nosarzewska, Prague: The Turbulent Century p. 246
- "NS-Massaker : Nicht die SS, Polizisten mordeten in Lidice – Nachrichten Kultur – Geschichte – DIE WELT". Welt.de. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
- Williamson, Gordon, Loyalty is my Honor p. 87
- Wechsberg, Joseph (24 June 1948). "The Love Letter That destroyed Lidice". The Milwaukee Journal. p. 20. Retrieved 25 May 2016 – via Google News Archive.
- Lynn H. Nicholas, Cruel World: The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web p 254 ISBN 0-679-77663-X
- Gerwarth 2011, p. 285.
- "Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 8". 22 February 1946
- Millay, Edna St. Vincent. The Murder of Lidice. New York: Harper: 1942.
- Mihule J. Liner note to Supraphon CD 11 1931-2 001, which includes the work played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Karel Ančerl.
- David Vaughan. "Josef Horak, a twentieth-century Czech hero". Český Rozhlas. 24 July 2002.
- "Lidice Memorial: History". Lidice-memorial.cz. 10 July 1945. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
- "The History of Lidice Memorial Before Year 2000". Lidice Memorial.
- Gerwarth, Robert (2011). Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11575-8.
- Jan Kaplan and Krystyna Nosarzewska, Prague: The Turbulent Century, Koenemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Koeln, (1997) ISBN 3-89508-528-6
- Joan M. Wolf: Someone Named Eva. 2007. ISBN 0-618-53579-9
- Eduard Stehlík: Lidice, The Story of a Czech Village. 2004. ISBN 80-86758-14-1
- Zena Irma Trinka: A little village called Lidice: Story of the return of the women and children of Lidice. International Book Publishers, Western Office, Lidgerwood, North Dakota, 1947.
- Maureen Myant: The Search. Alma Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-84688-103-9
- Williams, Max (2003). Reinhard Heydrich: The Biography, Volume 2—Enigma. Church Stretton: Ulric Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9537577-6-3.
- Williamson, Gordon (1995). Loyalty is my Honor. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-7603-0012-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lidice.|
- Hitler's Madman at the Internet Movie Database – A fictional account of the death of Reinhard Heydrich and the reprisals against Lidice.
- The Silent Village at the Internet Movie Database – The true story of the massacre of a small Czech village by the Nazis is retold as if it happened in Wales.
- Alan Heath : on YouTube
- (English) (Czech) (German) (Russian) Lidice Memorial
- (Czech) Official Website of Municipality
- (Czech) Recent (since 1990s) search for missing children
- (Czech) Photo series about destruction of Lidice by Reichsarbeitsdienst
- (Czech) "Lidice" film Official website, directed by Petr Nikolaev The first ever Czech-made feature film about the destruction of Lidice (to be released in spring 2011).
- Lidice Commemorative Gathering Fenton 2010 - Pics Video and Listen again Lidice commemorative gathering pics video and listen again