Anniversary of the Lidice massacre by SS who shot all of the village’s men, ten at a time
Arabs under the leadership of the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, rise in rebellion against the Ottoman Empire.
On the morning of 27 May 1942 in the streets of Prague, Czechoslovakia, the region’s highest ranking Nazi officer, Reinhard Heydrich, was attacked while riding in his car. Heydrich survived the initial attack but after refusing surgery from non German doctors, he died of his wounds eight days later on 4 Jun 1942. The German response to the assassination was swift and exceedingly brutal.
Everyone the Germans could locate who had any part in the ambush or in protecting the attackers was summarily executed, along with their entire families. In the days between the attack on Heydrich and his eventual death, at least 157 people were killed in the reprisals. But it did not stop there.
Acting on weak evidence that later proved to be completely unfounded, German SS officials turned their attention to the village of Lidice northwest of Prague, a small farming and coal mining village of about 500 people. On 9 Jun 1942, the chief of the SS police in Prague, Horst Böhme, along with the top SS officers in the region, Karl Hermann Frank and Kurt Dalüge, directed SS troops to surround Lidice and block all paths of escape. From there, they executed a set of explicit orders given by Adolf Hitler himself to wipe complicit villages off the map.
The bad information that brought the Germans to Lidice led them specifically to a farm on the edge of town that had been owned for generations by the ancestors of Bohumil Horák. Bohumil Horák was not there at the time but the barns and cellars of the Horák farm were taken over and all of Lidice’s men 16 years of age or older were herded inside for the night. All of the village’s women and children were detained inside the school. Any villager who resisted, whether man, woman or child, was shot on the spot. Starting at dawn the following morning, the men were led out of the cellars five at a time and into the garden next to the Horák barn where they were shot. Before long, they were led out in groups of ten at a time. When the cellars were empty, 173 men lay dead, including the village priest, Father Josef Stemberka. 203 women and 105 children were removed from the Lidice school and sent temporarily to the nearby town of Kladno. All of the animals in the village were also killed, both farm animals and pets.
With no more residents in Lidice, the SS troops took anything of value from the village. That included opening every grave in the cemetery and removing gold teeth and jewelry. Jewish slave laborers were brought in from the nearby Theresienstadt concentration camp to dig a mass grave for the dead men. Once the village was fully looted, the buildings were burned and then the remaining stone walls were knocked down.
Explosives were used to bring down the sturdy Saint Martin’s Church that had been standing since 1732. The stones of the town, including the broken up headstones, were then hauled away and used elsewhere as road material. The stream through the village was re-routed and crops were planted over the area, thus completing Hitler’s orders to remove any visible trace that the village ever existed.
Members of the SS police stand in the courtyard of the wrecked Horák family farm before the structures were totally destroyed.
While the village structures were being demolished, nineteen Lidice men and seven women who had not been in the village at the time of the massacre were rounded up and executed, including Bohumil Horák. At the same time, Böhme, Frank, and Dalüge took their show on the road and conducted a nearly identical operation against the smaller village of Lezáky about 150km away.
The Lidice women were taken from Kladno with most sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. Four pregnant women were forced to undergo abortions. Eighty-eight of the Lidice children were sent to Lódz, Poland. Seven of the children who were considered “racially suitable” were placed in SS families for “Germanisation.” By late June 1942, Adolf Eichmann ordered the execution of the remaining Lidice children at Lódz and they were transferred to the death camp at Chelmno, Poland. Only 143 of the Lidice women and 17 children are known to have survived the war.
Nothing in the treatment of Lidice derived from any of the Nazi ethnic policies. Lidice was predominately a Roman Catholic peasant village. The operation at Lidice was simply a reprisal; a stark demonstration of ruthless power. Lidice was intended to serve as an example so the Germans made no attempt to conceal it, as they had with other massacres. Indeed, the event was publicized to the world. The entire operation was well photographed and a documentary film was made by filmmaker Franz Treml. The world reaction was swift and filled with shock and outrage.
The collection of German photographs and films later became exhibits in the war-crimes trials in Nürnberg, Germany and other cities. Karl Hermann Frank and Kurt Dalüge were tried as war criminals, based largely on the events at Lidice, and both were executed in 1946. Horst Böhme was declared a war criminal and remained on the wanted list for years without being apprehended. He was declared dead in 1954 but his true fate was never determined.
The village of Lidice was not rebuilt at its original location but a new village of Lidice was built about 300 meters away. The boundaries of the original village were used to define a “Reverent Area” that is part of a larger Lidice Memorial, which still remains.
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