10.Cerven 1942 June 10, 1942
The year 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of the tragedy of Lidice, a Roman Catholic village northwest of Prague in Bohemia, a part of the Czech Republic. The village, which was first mentioned in recorded documents of the 14th Century, was leveled on June 10, 1942, by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi troops during World War II.
In addition to ordering the troops to destroy the town, Hitler ordered them to shoot all the village men and separate the children from their mothers. All women were sent to Nazi concentration camps, and most of the children either gassed to death or selected to live with German families and be “reeducated” as Germans.
Why did this happen, and why Lidice? A two-word answer: Adolf Hitler.
Hitler, who had come into power in Germany in the 1930s, had masterminded Kristallnacht in 1938, a roundup of Jews across Germany. Among those who supervised the “night of broken glass” was Reinhard Heydrich, whom Hitler subsequently promoted as governor of Bohemia and Moravia (Morava).
Despised as a cruel dictator, Heydrich soon became the target of an assassination plot. The Czech government in exile, led by Edvard Benes in London, sent Czech-resistance paratroopers from London to Prague (Praha) to carry out Operation Anthropoid. The plan ultimately succeeded, with Heydrich dying eight days after being being injured by a grenade thrown during the assassination attempt.
Losing Heydrich so infuriated the Fuhrer that he demanded justice in the form of retribution. Rumors that the paratroopers had a connection to Lidice was all it took. Not only was Lidice retribution for Heydrich’s assassination, but it was also seen as an example to deter any other attacks on the Nazis.
When news reached the rest of the world that Hitler had proclaimed Lidice “erased” from all maps and memory, the world pushed back. Parents named their newborns Lidice, and cities renamed streets, parks, subdivisions and hospitals in memory of Lidice.
Lidice, some historians agree, represented a turning point in the war. The U.S. and other countries entered the conflict.
Lidice has since been rebuilt on a site near the original village. This blog explores its triumph over tragedy.