‘If a future generation asks us we are fighting for, we shall tell them the story of Lidice,’ said Frank Knox, secretary of the U.S. Navy, during World War II.

The small and lovely town of Lidice, located 20 kilometers from Prague, suffered a brutal massacre when Hitler ordered to murder all men in the village and send women to the concentration camps. Children were carefully evaluated for “Germanization” suitability and were either sent to the camps or to the SS families. Since World War II, the village remains one of the symbols of Fascist despotism. 

The history of Lidice dates back to 1318 when it was first mentioned in the writings. It was a city of miners and factory workers who made money in the closeby cities – Kladno and Slaný. Citizens enjoyed their life until the tragic day of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. 

Lidice Massacre

Maria Doležalová, one of the children kidnapped from Lidice, testifies at the RuSHA trial via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The primary reason why Hitler chose Lidice as the main target was that its residents were suspected of harboring local resistance and were wrongly associated with the Operation Anthropoid members. He also believed that this action would be an excellent example for people who were connected with the Czech resistance. These tragic events were recorded in a documentary, filmed by one of the Nazi executors. It was presented as document #378 at the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi German Leaders in 1945; parts of the film were also displayed in Lidice’s museum at the permanent exhibition. 

As a result, 192 men, 60 women, and 88 children were systematically executed on the 10th of June in 1942 in the gardens of Horak. Today, thousands of rose bushes are planted there as a memorial. Women who refused to leave their husbands were shot in the head, and men who were out of the town were found later and killed. Other citizens,  including 184 women and 88 children were sent to the concentration camps such as Chelmno, Ravensbrück, and Łódź, and later gassed. German doctors examined children below 15 years old to determine if they have ‘Aryan’ characteristics as the leading candidates for Germanization. The city was burned to the ground and only 17 people were lucky to run.

Saving Lidice

Post-war memorial via National Archives/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

After World War II, only 170 people, including 143 women and 17 children returned to Lidice to rebuild the village and create a new life. Václav Zelenka, one of the survivors, helped rebuild the town; later, he became the mayor of  Lidice. Thanks to the Lidice Shall Live campaign, the city raised some money that helped citizens in construction. The person who stands behind this generous act was Sir Barnett Stross, originally from the north of the United Kingdom, Staffordshire.

Lidice today

Lidice rose garden by Jan Polák via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Numerous artworks are devoted to Lidice and its dark history. For example, in 1943, Bohuslav Martinů, one of the famous Czech composers, wrote Memorial to Lidice. A few years after, in 2017, an English composer, Vic Carnell, devoted Opus 17, In Memoriam: the Village of Lidice, to the city. Moreover, some movies are based on real-life events: Lidice (2011) and Anthropoid (2015).

In 2021, the total population of Lidice is estimated around 540 people. When coming to the village, you can visit the art gallery, where you can find permanent and temporary exhibitions dedicated to the massacre’s history. And don’t forget to take a moment of silence in front of the famous memorial of 82 bronze statues representing the lost children of Lidice.

Featured image by Ashley Pomeroy via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Sofia Chesnokova

Sofia Chesnokova

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Sofia Chesnokova
Sofia Chesnokova
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