Lidice is a small village northwest of Prague that will forever be remembered as a place of an appauling massacre carried out by the Nazis on 14th of June 1942.
Czechoslovakia had been an occupied coutry since 15th March 1939. Reinhard Heydrich became the deputy Reichsprotektor of the Nazi Germany in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. On the morning of 27th May Heydrich was on the way from Panenské Břežany, a village north of Prague where he lived, to his office at Prague Castle. When he reached Prague his car was attacked by two men – Josef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš - who were Czechoslovak soldiers trained in Britain and sent to the Protectorate to carry out the assassination. Gabčík blocked the car’s way and standing in front if it he wanted to shoot Heydrich but the gun failed. Kubiš then threw a bomb at it. Both of them managed to escape the scene.
The bomb did not kill Heydrich straight away though. He was brought to Bulovka hospital with serious injuries and died here a few days later on 4th June 1942. A bloody retaliation campaign was on the way and life in the Protectorate changed for all – from bad to worse.
Karl Herman Frank, the Protectorate Secretary of State, ordered the following concerning any village or town discovered to have been helping or harbouring Heydrich’ killers:
The reason why Lidice was chosen is trully tragic. One has to understand that the Germans were desperate to find and punish anyone as the Nazi leadears were getting very impatient with no traces being found in the wake of the attack. As harsh as it may sound Lidice was chosen by mistake because of a young man being in love with a girl. To impress her he pretended to be part the Czechoslovak resistance. Nothing would have happened if one day he had not left a letter for her at a factory where she worked. As she was ill that day he decided to leave the letter at the factory’s reception where it was opened by the receptionist and handed over to the police. In the letter he mentioned the event, suggesting he was involved in it. The consequences were immense.
On 9th of June the village was completely surrounded by the German army giving no one a chance to escape. All men were gathered at the farmstead of the Horák family and the next morning the execution started. In groups of five and later ten the men stood up gainst the wall of the barn and were shot. Several hours leter all 173 men were dead. Most of the women ended up in concentration camps where most of them died. A few children were sent to the Reich to be “germanized” but most of them were killed.
All houses were set on fire and later the whole village was razed to ground. Altogether the death of Heydrich resulted in about 1 300 people losing their lives, including Czech elites, partisans or random citizens.
Women from Lidice who survived the ordeal in Ravensbrück concentration camp were given houses in a new village built overlooking the original site. Nowadays there is a museum dedicated to the Lidice tragedy and a beautiful memorial including a Rosarium and a bronze statue comprising 82 statues of children to honour the children from Lidice who were murdered.