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Lidice – Basic background research

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Pre Production Research

Lidice – Basic background research

  • Village in the Czech Republic, just South-West of Prague, in the Kladno district in the Central Bohemian region of the country.

  • The village was first mentioned in 1318, with many of its people working in mines and factories in the neighbouring cities of Kladno and Slany.

  • Lidice is first mentioned in chronicles of the Zbraslav abbot, Petr Zitavsky, as being "held" by a rich Prague citizen, Pavlík, around the year l300. The oldest public building was St. Martin's church (1352). It was destroyed in the Hussite wars, but Utraquist priests were preaching here as late as in the 16th century. It was again destroyed during the Thirty years' War, and Grand Duchess Marie Anna of Tuscany had a new, Baroque church built which was restyled several times in the following years

  • The village school is first mentioned in records from 1713 when it had 127 pupils. It had a simple system of central heating and was evidently the first of its kind in Bohemia. A new one-storeyed school was built in 1824.

  • The expansion of industries in Kladno (coal-mining, lighting of the first blast furnace in 1855) turned Lidice into a busy mining village in the 2nd half of the l9th century. Whereas, in 1848 it had 270 inhabitants living in 33 houses, by 1890 the figures had risen to 506 people and 50 houses.

  • As of 2006, the population of Lidice was 435.

Pre Production Research

The Lidice Massacre


  • The Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia had tragic consequences for Lidice. In order to suppress the growing anti-Fascist resistance movement, security police chief SS Obergruppenfuhrer - Reinherd Heydrich was appointed deputy Reichs-protektor in September l941. During his short reign of terror, 5000 anti-Fascist fighters and their helpers were imprisoned. The courts working under martial law were kept busy and the Nazis even had people summarily executed without a trial in order to spread fear throughout the country. Many people from Kladno district died on the scaffold or in concentration camps.

  • The lot of the Czech nation was complicated by the decision of the Czechoslovak government in London to get rid of Heydrich. The operation by Czechoslovak parachutists in which Heydrich was mortally wounded on May 27, 1942 brought reprisals which shocked the whole world.

  • The vague contents of a letter, addressed to a woman employed in a Slaný factory and held back by the factory co-owner. F. Pala, roused the suspicions of the Kladno Gestapo that there was some connection between Heydrich's assassination and the Horák family in Lidice who had a son serving in the Czechoslovak army in Britain. Although investigations and a house-search produced no compromising material, weapons or transmitter, the Nazis needed to carry out an act of vengeance for the death of "an outstanding man of the German nation", and for this they chose the people of Lidice.

  • The tragedy ot this little village and its 503 inhabitants began on June 10, 1942 a few hours after midnight. The events of that summer day are recorded in a documentary, filmed by those who actually carried out that brutal crime against innocent people. Although a silent film, it can be understood by all people, irrespective of their colour or tongue. This film served as document No. 379 at the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi German leaders in 1945. Parts of the film are shown on a video recording at the Lidice museum.

  • At the orders of K. H. Frank 173 Lidice men were shot on that fateful day in the garden of the Horak farm. The women and children were taken to the gymnasium of Kladno grammar school. Three days later the children were taken from their mothers and, except for those selected for re-education in German families and babies under one year of age, were poisoned by exhaust gas in specially adapted vehicles in the Nazi extermination camp at Chełmno upon Nerr in Poland. The women were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp which usually meant quick or lingering death for the inmates.

  • Mattresses were taken from neighbouring houses where they were stood up against the wall of the Horáks' barn. Shooting of the men commenced at about 7 a.m. 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 and the newly brought out soon-to-be victims had to first walk past them and stand in front of them. The firing squad always took two steps back and the scene of horror repeated itself. The men were not blindfolded and were taken to the place of execution without bonds.

  • Having rid the village of its inhabitants, the Nazis began to destroy the village itself, first setting the houses on fire and then razing them to the ground with plastic explosives. They did not stop at that but proceeded to destroy the church and even the last place of rest - the cemetery. ln 1943 all that remained was an empty space. Until the end of the war the sight was marked by notices forbidding entry.

  • The news of the destruction of Lidice spread rapidly around the world. But the Nazi intention to wipe the little Czech village off the face of the Earth did not succeed. Several villages throughout the world took over the name of Lidice in memory of that village, and many women born at that time and given the name of Lidice still bear it today.

  • After the war the Czechoslovak government's decision to build it again was declared at a peace demonstration on June 10, 1945 at Lidice which was attended by Lidice women who had survived. 340 Lidice citizens were murdered by the Nazis, 143 Lidice women returned home after the war ended, and after a two-year search 17 children were restored to their mothers.

Pre Production Research

Commemorations of the massacre

  • In September 1942, coal miners in Stoke-on-Trent in Great Britain 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, several towns in various countries were named after it (such as 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 neighborhood in Crest Hill, Illinois, was renamed from Stern Park to Lidice. A square in the English city of Coventry, itself devastated during World War II, is named after Lidice. An alley in downtown Santiago, Chile is named after the town of Lidice. A street in Sofia is named to commemorate the massacre.

  • In the wake of the massacre, Humphrey Jennings directed a movie about Lidice, The Silent Village (1943), using amateur actors from a Welsh mining village, Cwmgiedd. An American film was made in 1943 called Hitler's Madman, however it contained a number of inaccuracies in the story. A more accurate UK film, Operation Daybreak, starring Timothy Bottoms as Kubis and Anthony Andrews as Gabcík, was released in 1976.

  • American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote a book-length verse play on the massacre, The Murder of Lidice that was printed in its entirety in the Oct. 19, 1942, edition of Life magazine and published as a book that same year by Harper.

  • Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů composed his Memorial to Lidice (an 8-minute orchestral work full of grief and despair) in 1943 as a response to the massacre. The piece quotes from the Czech St Wenceslas Chorale, as well as, in the central climax of the piece, the opening notes (dot-dot-dot-dash = V in Morse code) of Beethoven's 5th Symphony.

Pre Production Research

Lidice since 1945

  • In 1947 the foundation stone of a new Lidice was laid 300 metres away from the original site and in May 1948 work began on building the first houses. A modern village of 150 houses gradually arose with the enormous help of volunteers from all over the Republic as well as from abroad. The present council house, post office, house of culture and shopping centre were built at the same time.

  • A sculpture from the 1990s by academic sculptor Marie Uchytilová stands today overlooking 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 summer 1942. A cross with a crown of thorns marks the mass grave of the Lidice men. Overlooking the site is a "pious area" flanked by museum and a small exhibition hall. The pious 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 designed and created.[5] Situated 500 metres from the museum, in the new village, there is an art gallery which displays permanent and temporary exhibitions. The annual children’s art competition attracts entries worldwide.

  • The old site was preserved as a memorial including the common grave of the Lidice men, a monument and museum, and between it and the new village a "Park of Peace and Friendship" was opened on June 19, 1955 where thousands of rose-bushes from various parts of the world were planted. Several artists have helped to beautify the village of the year.

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