CHILDREN, SCHOOL AND WAR

School photos of children with their teacher. Such ones are created every year to this day, and the period of World War II was no exception. However, this image is exceptional. It was taken on 2nd June 1942 in Lidice. A week later, the horror arrived. Of the Lidice children in this photograph, only three returned home.

In the morning hours of 15th March 1939, Wehrmacht units crossed the Czechoslovak border and began the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia. On street corners appeared these posters, signed by Infantry General Johannes Blaskowitz.

On Friday, 1st September 1939, World War II broke out with the attack of Nazi Germany on Poland. At that time, however, Czech society already had its own experience with Nazi expansionism. Some of the inhabitants got to know it in the autumn of 1938, when they had to leave the border areas of Czechoslovakia as a result of the fateful Munich Agreement, while others became acquainted with it after 15 March 1939, when the rest of the country was occupied by the German army.

Among those painfully affected by the war were not only soldiers on the frontlines, but also civilians in the rear. Last but not least, children. According to the wishes of the occupiers, the school was to become primarily an instrument for the Germanization of Czech youth.

On Wednesday, March 15, 1939, Wehrmacht units arrived in the capital of the republic. This photo taken in the centre of Prague is the best evidence of how they were welcomed here.

The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was headed by the Reich Protector, Baron Konstantin von Neurath (here with his right hand raised in the Nazi salute), who arrived in Prague on 5 April 1939. On this occasion, this ceremonial parade of the German armed forces was held on Wenceslas Square.

In addition, the Nazi regime tried to reduce the education of the Czech-speaking population, which was done by gradually closing more and more Czech schools and limiting the number of their pupils and students.

Part of the well-thought-out actions of the occupiers against Czech youth and the Czech nation was the gradual closure of selected secondary schools and the reduction in the number of students who were allowed to study there. On Friday, November 17th 1939, Czech universities were completely closed. Supposedly for a period of three years, in reality until the end of World War II.

One of the most visible changes related to the arrival of the German occupiers was the introduction of driving on the right. Until March 1939, people drove on the left in Czechoslovakia, as is still the case today, for example, in Great Britain.

The fates of Jewish children were extremly tragic from the first weeks of the occupation. On the basis of the monstrous „Nuremberg Laws“, they were discriminated because of their origin.

A group of Jewish fellow citizens from Pilsen guarded by members of the Protective Police (Schutzpolizei) during a transport to the railway station. From there they were taken to the Terezín ghetto. Of course, children of all ages accompanied their parents.

Iconic photograph by photographer Jan Lukas from March 1943, showing Vendulka Voglová from Prague just before her transport to the Terezín ghetto. Unlike many other Jewish children, she lived to see the end of the war thanks to a happy coincedence.

At first, they were expelled from all German and then Czech schools, only to be completely denied the possibility of any education in the summer of 1942, including Jewish schools, which were then closed by the decision of the occupation authorities. In the end, they were transported to the Terezín ghetto and then sent to Auschwitz, the last journey for the vast majority of them.

Many of the school photographs taken during the occupation contain tragic stories. It is no different in the case of this picture of the pupils of the Buštěhrad secondary school. The boy standing first from the left in the third row is Josef Doležal from Lidice. On June 10th, 1942, he was taken to the Kladno grammar school together with his mother and younger sister Maruška. When the captors found out that he was already 15 years old, they took him to the shooting range in Prague-Kobylisy, where they killed him on June 16th, 1942.

For many children, it became a struggle to preserve their native language during the years of the war. For others, upholding a real active resistance to the Nazi regime proved difficult.

Throughout the Protectorate, the reading clubs „Mladý Hlasatele“ were established, serving as a replacement for the scout units that the occupiers banned in October 1940.

In this picture there are three boys from Lidice (from left): Václav Horák, Jaroslav Kohlíček and Václav Radosta on one of their trips. On Wednesday, June 10th, 1942, they were all shot dead in the garden of Horák’s farm.

Some of the children lost their parents and loved ones to the resistance, others became victims of the occupiers‘ repression, their short life ending on the scaffold or behind the barbed wire of one of the concentration camps. Just as it happened to the children from Lidice and Ležáky.

How different the fates of children in the Protectorate could have been is documented in this film from 1941. The standing boy, Lidice schoolboy Míla Spal, was murdered in July 1942 together with 81 other Lidice children in a gas car in Chelmno. His cousin Vašík Zelenka (on a rocking horse) was selected for Germanization and taken to Germany. Fortunately, he was found there in early May 1947 and returned to his mother Žofie.

Among other things, the children of Lidice were members of the local volunteer fire brigade. The picture from 1941 shows firefighters with their commander Václav Hanf (sitting in the middle). A year after this photo was taken, none of them lived anymore. Václav Hanf was shot together with Jaroslav Hroník and Josef Pek on 10th June 1942 in Lidice, the remaining children were murdered on 2nd July 1942 in Chelmno.

Lidice school

The Lidice school used to stand in the immediate vicinity of the St. Martins church in the so-called upper village square. It used to be the most modern school in the whole Buštěhrad estate and was attended by children not only from Lidice, but also from the surrounding villages, especially from Hřebeč and Makotřas. All those who attended the school remember the inscription above the entrance: „School of my happiness.“

Lidická škola
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Of the Lidice children depicted in the picture, only one, Anička Hanfová, returned home in 1945. He sits first from the left in the first row.

Pupils of the third grade of the Lidice school photographed in the spring of 1941, just a year before the destruction of the village. In the picture, you can see the head teacher Ladislav Šimandl (standing on the right) and the popular class teacher Zdeněk Petřík (sitting in the middle) together with the children.

Imprint of the stamp of the municipal school in Lidice with the officially prescribed bilingual name.

An integral part of school life during the years of occupation was the regular collection of berries, paper, but also textiles and shoes, as you can see from this poster.

Lidice school in June 1942

If a photographer appeared somewhere, it always attracted the attention of children, as evidenced by the posing of a group of boys in this photograph taken in the spring of 1942 in Lidice. At that time, without knowing it, the boys had their last few weeks ahead of them.

The last picture of the older pupils at the Lidice school from the 2nd June 1942. The photo shows again the head teacher Ladislav Šimandl (standing) and his colleague Zdeněk Petřík (sitting in the middle).

While the headmaster Šimandl survived the tragedy of Lidice because he had a permanent residence in nearby Buštěhrad, Zdeněk Petřík was shot together with other Lidice men on 10th June 1942. From all the Lidice children in the photo, only Anička Hanfová (second from the right in the third row) and Maruška Doležalová (in the last row, third from the left) were found after the war. The rest of the children were murdered by the Nazis.

The burnt out building of the Lidice school and the fire-damaged Baroque church of St. Martin behind it.

Part of the revenge for the assassination was the crime committed by the Nazis at Lidice. On Tuesday evening, the 9th June 1942, Lidice was surrounded, the men were taken to Horák’s farm, and the mothers and their children were taken to the school building, from where they were transported to the gymnasium of the Kladno secondary school. Shortly afterwards, groups of arsonists set the houses in the village on fire. The Lidice school didn’t escape the fire either.