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LIDICE
Written By: Peter Ayers Wimbrow, III
*Click images below to view larger versions.
LIDICE
Immortal Memorial to Children of Lidice
LIDICE
Massacred men of Lidice.
LIDICE
By Peter Ayers Wimbrow, III

    This week, 70 years ago, the small Czech village of Lidice, ceased to exist. The village (approximately 500 inhabitants) had existed for 650 years and was located about 10 miles west of the Czech capital of Prague.
    On June 9th, Germans under the command of Horst Böhme arrived after most of the villagers had gone to bed. Everyone was rounded up and divided into two groups in the village square - men and boys over 15 on one side, with women and the other children on the other side. The men and boys were locked in farm buildings while the women and children were locked in the local school.
    Beginning at 5:00 the next morning, the men were taken to the Garden of the Horak Farm where they were all - 173 - shot - first in groups of five, and then, because the pace was too slow, in groups of ten. The new Reichsprotektor, Kurt Daleuge, (who would be hanged on May 22, 1946, in Pankrák Prison in Prague) had it all committed to film. The next day, 19 men who had been working in a mine returned to their homes. They were taken to Prague with seven of the women where they, too, were shot. The remaining women and children were taken to the gymnasium of the Gladnoe Grammar School. Three days later the children were separated from their mothers.
    One hundred eighty-four of the women were sent to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. Four women were pregnant and forced to abort their pregnancies, after which they, too, were sent to camps. The Germans burned the homes and blew up what wouldn’t burn. The church was destroyed and the cemetery was plowed under.
    Eight-eight children were transported to £odz. After arrival, seven were selected for "Germanization," and farmed out to German families. On July 2, 1942, the remaining 81 children were transported to Chelmno, where they were also murdered, on orders of Adolf Eichmann.
    After the war, 143 women returned home. After a two-year search, 17 children were restored to their mothers. Eight-two children had been murdered.
    And the reason for this atrocity? One may remember that on September 29, 1938, the Munich Agreement was executed by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Premier of France, der Führer of Germany and Il Duce of Italy. As a result, Czechoslovakia ceded the German-speaking Sudetenland to Germany, the City of Teschen to Poland and parts of Slovakia to Hungary. It also lost 70 percent of its electrical power, 3.5 million of its (mostly German) citizens, and its fixed defenses.
    Less than six months after the Munich Agreement, with the assistance and complicity of the German Reich, Slovakia declared its independence. The day after the Slovakian Declaration of Independence, the German Führer summoned the Czecho-Slovakian President, Emil Hácha, to Berlin and forced him to accept the German occupation of what was now left of Czecho-Slovakia. A Protectorate was established over the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia and Baron Konstantin von Neurath was appointed its Reichsprotektor.
    On September 27, 1941, SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the Reich Main Security Office, became the Deputy Reichsprotektor and in actuality assumed all authority. With Heydrich’s appointment, he relocated to Prague to, "strengthen policy, carry out counter measures against resistence," and to keep up production of war material that was, "extremely important to the German war effort." Production had fallen under von Neurath.
    The new Deputy Reichsprotektor moved with his family into the Panenské BøeÏany Castle. Every morning, the Deputy Reichsprotektor would be chauffeured in a Mercedes 320 convertible, with the top down, from his castle to his office. The new Reichsprotektor made significant changes. Among others, he shortened the work day and increased the food allowance. Consequently, production increased, resistence decreased and everyone was happier.
    The British had decided that things were going too well for the Germans in the Czech Protectorate. There was no resistance, no terrorist acts and no sabotage. The British felt - correctly - that if an important German official was assassinated by Czechoslovakians, that the German response would be so harsh and brutal that a Czechoslovakian resistance movement would result. Therefore, the British recruited two Czechoslovakian ex-patriots - Jozef Gabèik and Jan Kubis to assassinate the most important person in the Czech Protectorate - Deputy Reichsprotektor SS Obergruppenführer Heydrich. The Czechoslovakian government-in-exile, based in London, was in agreement with the British. It was hoping that, if Germany were defeated, the Munich Agreement would be abrogated and the lost lands returned. But the exiled government felt that the Czechoslovaks had to affirmatively demonstrate where their loyalties lie and share some of the hardship. By now, the Poles, the Serbs and the Greeks all had active resistance movements in their homelands that were causing problems for the occupiers.
    After receiving their training from the British, the Royal Air Force inserted them into the Czech Protectorate on the evening of the 28th of December 1941, but it wasn’t until Spring that they struck. In the meantime, they enjoyed the pleasures of Prague.
    Heydrich’s route, from his villa to his office at Prague Castle, took him by a tram stop located on a sharp curve near Bulovka Hospital in Prague. It was there that the two Czech assassins awaited their prey. On May 27, 1942 at 10:30 a.m., as the Deputy Reichsprotektor’s car slowed to negotiate the bend, Gabèik stepped in front of it and tried to open fire, but his British-supplied Sten submachine-gun jammed. Instead of telling his driver to "step on it, " Heydrich ordered him to stop! Heydrich then pulled out his pistol, stood up and attempted to shoot Gabèik! At that point, Kubis threw a grenade at the vehicle. The grenade did not land in the vehicle, but it did land outside, close enough, so the right rear fender and tire were damaged and shrapnel and fibers from the upholstery were imbedded into Heydrich’s body. Even so, Heydrich got out of the car, returned fire and began chasing Gabèik, but soon collapsed.
    The wounded Deputy Reichsprotektor was taken to nearby Bulovka Hospital. There he was treated by a German physician who reinflated his collapsed lung, removed the tip of his fractured 11th rib, sutured his torn diaphragm and removed his spleen. He developed a fever and wound drainage, but after seven days, his condition appeared to be improving. On the 7th day, while eating lunch, he collapsed and went into shock, dying at about 4:30 a.m. the next morning, June 4th. The cause of death has never been definitely determined. Some thought the grenade had been modified with the addition of poison. Some believe that the wounds were infected by the horsehair used in the upholstery of the Mercedes, which was forced into his body by the grenade blast.
    The assassins were eventually found, after being betrayed by countryman Karel Èurda (also hung in Pankrák Prison after the war), and killed at a cost to their trackers of 14 dead and 21 wounded. Initially, an infuriated Hitler ordered the execution of at least 10,000 randomly selected Czechs but eventually reduced his response since the Czechs were so important to the German war effort. Lidice was selected because the Germans mistakenly thought that one of the assassins had ties to the village.
    Of course, an elaborate funeral was conducted for the slain Deputy Reichsprotektor, but privately Hitler said,
    "Since it is opportunity which makes not only the thief, but also the assassin, such heroic gestures as driving in an open, unarmored vehicle, or walking about the streets unguarded, are just damn stupidity, which serves the Fatherland not one wit that a man as irreplaceable as Heydrich should expose himself to unnecessary danger, I can only condemn it as stupid and idiotic."
    Although the Czechoslovakian government-in-exile achieved its purpose in having the Munich Agreement annulled, it failed in its attempt to create an effective Czechoslovakian resistence. And because the German response had been so horrific, the Czechoslovakian government-in-exile denied, falsely, any involvement in, or support for, the assassination.
    It was the intent of the Germans that the town of Lidice should be wiped from the face of the earth, but their actions had the opposite effect. People around the world made sure that Lidice would continue to live.
    In September 1942, coal miners from the town of Stoke-On-Trent, Great Britain, founded the organization "Lidice Shall Live," and raised funds for the rebuilding of the village after the war. The following month, Edna St. Vincent Mallay wrote a book length verse play type titled, "The Murder of Lidice" which was printed in the October 19, 1942-edition of Life Magazine and published as a book that same year by Harper. Three towns in the U.S. changed their names to Lidice.
\    Czech Bohuslav Martinü composed his "Memorial to Lidice" in 1943.
    On October 31, 1943, the town of Portero, Panamá changed its name to Ledíce de Capira San Jerónimo. Barrios in Caracas, Venezuela and México City now bear the name of Lidice. The neighborhood of Stern Park in Crest Hill, Illinois and a square in Coventry, England were renamed Lidice. There is an alley in San Diego, Chile, and a street in Sofia, Bulgaria, named Lidice.
    Today, a sculpture by Marie Uchytilová overlooks the site of the village. It is entitled, "The Memorial to the Children Victims of the War," and it comprises bronze statutes of 42 girls and 40 boys, aged 1 - 16, to honor the children whom the Germans murdered. A cross with a crown of thorns marks the massacre of the Lidice men.
NEXT WEEK: TOBRUK

Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those persons accused of criminal and traffic offenses, and those persons who have suffered a personal injury through no fault of their own. Mr. Wimbrow can be contacted at wimbrowlaw@beachin.net  

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