75 Years Ago Nazis Erased An Entire Village In Czechoslovakia
In response to the assassination of Nazi General of Police, Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Hitler decreed on June 9, 1942, that the Czechs needed to learn a lesson. He ordered specific steps to exterminate the inhabitants and remove the town of Lidice from existence.
Hitler’s orders were straightforward:
- Execute all the adult men.
- Transport all women to a concentration camp.
- 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
- Burn down the village and level it entirely.
The men who carried out his orders made sure to overdeliver, the details of which we will get to.
The tale of the Lidice Massacre is indiscernible from every other tale of atrocity told about the Nazis. They shed far more blood in other places. Still, Lidice remains a testament to the maniacal specificity of the Nazis.
It also begs a question: what if they had used their powers for good instead of evil? This story is crazy. We tell it to remember the people of Lidice.
The Inciting Incident
Starting in 1941, Reinhard Heydrich had been the acting Reichsprotektor or Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, part of the modern-day Czech Republic. His reputation had earned him the title of “The Butcher of Prague.”
While riding in his car on May 27, Czech resistance opened fire on his vehicle. Heydrich fought back and escaped, but suffered critical gunshot wounds.
What killed him was not the wounds, but untreated infection from said wounds. At the local hospital, Heydrich refused attention from anyone but a German surgeon. There was no German surgeon on hand.
Eight days later, Heydrich died. That was June 4, 1942. Within a week, the town of Lidice would suffer for the attack in the most unbelievable way.
The response from the Nazi’s was immediate. Anyone suspect of the ambush in any possible way died. They ended 157 lives in the days between his attack and final demise.
Were that the end of it, Lidice may not have suffered what came next. Acting on bad intel, the Nazi’s turned their attention to the small village. They believed the attackers came from there. It didn’t matter, though. They intended to send a message.
On the morning of June 9, the SS police surrounded the village, blocking all exits. Under orders from Hitler, they were to meet any resistance with a bullet.
The Nazis set up their operations at a farm at the edge of town. There, they rounded up all the men of 16 years or older.
To prevent bullet ricochets, they gathered up mattresses from the village, then lined them up on the barn behind the men.
Starting with five at a time, then ten to speed up the process, they shot the men. Each row of men filed in front of the row of bodies. The shooters stepped back one pace for every group until 173 bodies lay dead on the farm.
They even killed the village priest and every animal, pet or beast of burden.
What remained of Lidice was the women, the children, and the buildings. The women and children they moved to the school, then to another town, Kladno, until they could deal with the priority: Lidice.
The Nazis started by leveling the buildings, either with explosives or labor. They removed every stone, including every gravestone.
The graves, they looted for gold fillings and any other valuables. The Nazis weren’t wasteful. Many of the headstones the repurposed for roadways.
When it was all gone, they covered the land with topsoil and planted enough plants until every shred of Lidice was gone.
The Women & Children
Nazi’s believed that some of the children could become Aryanized. They picked seven. The Nazis sent the mothers to Ravensbruck, where many died. The remaining 88 children they sent to the camp in Chelmno, Poland.
There, the Nazis gassed the remaining children. Of them, only 143 women and 17 children survived the war. One man, whom authorities had imprisoned prior to the massacre, also survived.
The Nazis felt so successful with Lidice, they moved on to another Czech town about 90 miles away, Lezáky. There they ran an almost identical play.
In 2011, a Czech filmmaker produced a documentary under the name “Lidice,” also “Fall of the Innocent” (U.K. version). On the site of Lidice, a haunting tribute to the children stands in the form of a statue surrounded by rose bushes.
This is the day the Nazis erased an entire village. Even 75 years on, one can still feel the pain [and insanity] of this atrocity, despite the endless stream of gross cruelties committed during the war.