The sad ending of the (original) Czechoslovakian town of Lidice had its origins in a secret operation underway in Great Britain during early World War II. Operation Anthropoid referred to a mission to assassinate the cruel and sadistic head of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich. Anthropoid also lends its name to a [...]
The sad ending of the (original) Czechoslovakian town of Lidice had its origins in a secret operation underway in Great Britain during early World War II.
Operation Anthropoid referred to a mission to assassinate the cruel and sadistic head of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich. Anthropoid also lends its name to a 2016 movie which focuses upon the planning and execution of this mission from the moment that two Czech paratroopers dropped onto their native soil in the winter of 1942.
Lidice was a small town about 25 kilometers northwest of Prague. Neither the Czech paratroopers nor anyone involved in the mission ever received any help from a resident of Lidice. However, within two weeks after the assassination attempt that resulted in Heydrich's death, Lidice paid the ultimate price, as the Germans sought retribution in the blood of Czech people.
Evil reared its ugly head, when, on personal orders from Hitler (also on the day of Heydrich's funeral in Germany), every male resident of Lidice 15 years or older was killed. The Nazis lined up the men and killed them without a word of explanation why this was being done. Some women were also killed during this reign of terror. The remaining women and children were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, although seven children who had Aryan characteristics (i.e. blonde-haired and blue-eyed) were sent to live with German families. The remaining children were gassed inside of a transport vehicle specially-designed for this purposed; only a handful of children would be reunited with their mothers after the war.
The Nazis killed anything living within the town, including domestic animals, and also stole anything of value before destroying any standing structure in the village and leveling the town to the earth so that no trace of Lidice existed. Afterward, a fence encircled the town's borders, signs warned that anyone approaching the fence who didn't halt on command would be shot.
The Nazis even filmed the destruction of Lidice and its citizens. This occupying force intended to use the example of Lidice to strike fear into the hearts of the resistance movement. The Nazis penchant for documenting their 'accomplishments' would later prove to be their undoing, as this provided ample evidence for the Nuremberg trials.
Not long after World War II ended, the Czech government rebuilt Lidice. Today, the Lidice Memorial Museum stands near the site of the original village. A visit to the museum takes visitors from Lidice as it was, a quiet village filled with people doing their best to survive the occupation of their country, through its destruction, with the names of those murdered listed in a section of the exhibits. It is a difficult story to follow and, as my wife asked me more than once during our visit, how can one group of people come to hate so much, even to be beyond all feeling?
The story ends with interviews with some of the Lidice children who survived. Filmed in their retirement years, these children had to reconcile what happened to their families, even as they were raised by Germans. Outside the museum, visitors will see a sculpture memorial to the children of Lidice and can also follow a path that leads through the original village with original buildings marked.
In all, over 1,300 Czechs were sacrificed by the Nazi war criminals in retribution for the killing of Heydrich, although Hitler had at one point called for the murder of 10,000 Czechs in retaliation for Heydrich's death.