Posts Tagged ‘WWII’

Friday
June
12th
2009
10:30 am

Lidice

Today, I visited Lidice, the village destroyed by the Nazis in retaliation for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.

The History in Brief

Reinhard Heydrich died on June 4, 1942 as the result of May 27 attack by Czechoslovak parachuters sent by the government in exile. Hitler ordered reprisals, commanding that, in any village involved in Heydrich’s death, the SS should:

  1. Execute all adult men;
  2. Transport all women to a concentration camp;
  3. Gather the children suitable for Germanization, then place them in SS families in the Reich and bring the rest of the children up in other ways; and
  4. Burn down the village and level it entirely

The choice of Lidice as the victim was somewhat arbitrary: reportedly there was a letter written that suggested some connection between Heydrich’s assassination and the Horák family in Lidice, who had a son serving in the Czechoslovak army in Britain. At any rate, on June 10, the SS descended upon Lidice and carried out the Führer’s orders. 173 Lidice men and boys over the age of 15 were shot in the garden of the Horák farm. The next day, another nineteen men who had been working in a mine, along with seven women, were sent to Prague, where they were also shot. The women were sent to Ravensbruck. The children, except for those selected for re-education in German families and babies under one year of age, were gassed at Chełmno in Poland; 82 died in Chełmno.

The village was burned to ground and the remains dynamited. Even the cemetery was dug up and the remains destroyed.

143 Lidice women (of 184) returned home after the war ended, and a new village was built nearby. By the end of a two-year search, 17 children (of 105) had been restored to their mothers.

The Memorial

If you can ignore the history, the memorial site is quite lovely. The main complex (gloriette, museum, education center, and in memoriam building) is a little bit south of the original village. The gloriette:

The museum has a multi-media exhibition that starts off with a brief film giving a history of Lidice and in particular the events of June 10, 1942. There are pictures and a few remaining artifacts of the village. Just before leaving the exhibition, there’s a film showing interviews with some of the survivors; this film is simply heart-breaking.

From the memorial site, looking north at the former site of the village:

The men’s grave:

The memorial specific to the men’s grave:

"The Woman with a Rose", at the site of the men’s grave:

The remains of the Horák farm, where the men were shot:

The Child Victims of War monument:

People have left stuffed animals and others toys at the monument:

The church was not spared; the museum exhibition has the door, but the rest was destroyed:

"The Grieving Woman" is next to the site of the church:

The school was just in back of the church and its site is marked by the "Mother and Child":

The former cemetery is at the northernmost edge of the former village:

Looking back towards the memorial from the cemetery:

There’s an extensive, quite lovely, and beautifully fragrant rose garden that runs from the memorial site to the site of the new village:

The collection at the Lidice Gallery is the result of efforts by an English doctor, Sir Barnett Stross, who appealed to artists around the world to donate exhibits. The Gallery is also home to the International Children’s Exhibition of Fine Art. The statue in front is described as "(recording) a male nude who is killing three vipers with a gunstock. It epitomizes (maybe German, Italian, Spanish or Japanese) fascism.

The new village is all perfectly ordinary.

I have to wonder, though, about the people who live here: it must be terribly creepy. I remember that, when I visited Terezín, the tour guide mentioned that property prices are very low there, since so few people wish to live in a town with such associations. Is that true here, too?

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