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The Lidice Massacre

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‘Cities of Conflict’ Initial research – Lidice Lidice Massacre

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.

  • Three of Lidice's male inhabitants survived; two were fighting in the RAF in England during the war, while the third was in prison in Prague at the time of the massacre.

As the inhabitants of the village Lidice near Kladno committed the harshest offence by supporting the assassins of SS Obergruppenfuhrer Heydrich, the male adults have been shot; women have been transported to a concentration camp and children given proper re-education. The buildings of the village have been leveled to the ground and the name of the community has been deleted."

This was the official broadcast of the Protectorate radio that was aired the very day that saw the destruction of the village. The Lidice massacre, proudly announced by Nazi propaganda, raised disbelief and anger in the outside world.

  • A massacre similar to to the one in Lidice was repeated in the village of Lezaky on July 24, 1942. With a population of about fifty, seventeen men and fourteen women were executed and fourteen children taken to Prague to be adopted out to Nazi families. Only two of the fourteen children survived the war. The village of Lezaky was never rebuilt but crosses were put up where the houses once stood. On May 5, 1945, the village of Javoricko experienced the wrath of the Nazi occupiers. Attacked by an SS unit, thirty-eight men of the village were murdered, allegedly for co-operating with partisans, the whole village was then burned to the ground. The only buildings left standing were the school and the chapel. The victims were all buried in a common grave over which a memorial has since been erected.

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