STORY OF A CZECH VILLAGE

The first historical mention of Lidice dates back to 1309. The oldest public building was the parish church of St. Martin (1352). It was destroyed during the Hussite wars, but in the 16th century the priests of the parish were still working here.

General view of Lidice before 1887

Anna Maria Franziska, Grand Duchess of Tuscany

The church was destroyed a second time during the Thirty Years‘ War. A new Baroque church was built in Lidice by Grand Duchess Marie Anna of Tuscany. The church was later modified many times.

Lidice church with the coat of arms of Anna Maria of Tuscany

The first mention of the Lidice school dates back to 1690, when there was a branch of the Lidice school in Buckova (Buštěhrad). 127 children attended the Lidice school in 1713. In 1824 a new one-story school was built. It had simple central heating and was probably the first of its kind in Bohemia.

Lidice school in the period before the First World War

Members of the Lidice teaching staff at the beginning of the 20th century as well as the protocol from 17 May 1888 on the commissioning of the reconstruction and extension of the school building in Lidice

Lidice school
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Thanks to the development of industrial enterprises in Kladno (black coal mining, in 1855 the first blast furnace was lit), the village started to grow and flourish in the second half of the 19th century, but at the same time a hard life began for the miners and metallurgists.

This overall view of Lidice from the north side was taken shortly after the First World War.

Compared to 1848, when the village had 270 inhabitants in 33 houses, there were 506 inhabitants living in 50 houses by the year 1890, calling Lidice their home.

On the fateful day of 9th June 1942, the village had 102 houses and 493 inhabitants. The village had fourteen farms, a mill, three grocery stores, three taverns, two butchers, a blacksmith, and a barber. The men mostly worked in the ironworks and coal mines in Kladno, 7 km away, while the women took care of the household and helped with field work.

Mladí dobrovolní hasiči z Lidic

The village had a reading club „Vlast“ with a library, an amateur theatre group, a volunteer fire brigade, a sports football and a hockey club.

The life of the inhabitants in Lidice was difficult during the economic crisis in the 1930s, but despite the war events, it was generally peaceful and happy until 3rd June 1942.

In March 1939, following the occupation of the Sudetenland, Adolf Hitler established the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. In September 1941, the acting Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich arrived in Bohemia with the task of liquidating the anti-Nazi resistance.

By declaring a state of emergency, he legalized the arrest and execution of Czech citizens. The foreign Czechoslovak resistance in London, led by President Edvard Beneš, therefore decided to assassinate Heydrich.

Czechoslovak intelligence officers in London

Jan Kubiš and Josef Gabčík

On 27 May 1942, Czechoslovak paratroopers Josef Gabík and Jan Kubiš assassinated Reinhard Heydrich. As a result of his injuries, Heydrich died on the 4th June. In search for the assassins, a coincidence led the Gestapo to Lidice.

Searches were carried out throughout Lidice. The most thorough ones were carried out on the Horák and the Stříbrný family, whose sons were officers in the Czechoslovak army and managed to join Czechoslovak troops in Western Europe immediately after the occupation.

Czechoslovak airmen before a combat flight

Josef Stříbrný and Josef Horák

The Gestapo’s erroneous investigative version was that Horák and Stříbrný, natives of Lidice, had been sent from England with the task of assassinating Heydrich. However, no evidence of the inhabitants‘ collaboration with the assassins was found in the village. On Hitler’s orders, Lidice was nevertheless burned down as revenge for Heydrich’s death.

On 10th June 1942, 173 men were shot in the garden of Horák’s farm in Lidice. Another 19 men and 7 women were additionally shot in Prague-Kobylisy on 16th June 1942.

The murdered Lidice men.

Concentration camp Ravensbrück

203 Lidice women were deported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. The children were taken from their mothers and brought to Poland.

Eighty-two Lidice children perished in gas trucks in the Chelmno extermination camp. Six other children died as a result of inhumane treatment.

 

340 Lidice inhabitants didn’t survive the Nazi rampage, the village was burned and razed to the ground. The children were taken from their mothers and taken to Poland.

Large quantities of explosives were used to destroy the church.

The location of the last battle of the paratroopers

A few days later, on June 18th, 1942, in the crypt of the Orthodox church in Resslova Street in Prague, Gabčík and Kubiš were discovered along with five other Czechoslovak paratroopers. After a fierce battle with the huge Nazi superiority the paratroopers chose a heroic death and kept the last bullet for themselves.

The message by the Nazis about the brutal act in Lidice, sent out to the whole world, was intended as a warning and intimidation. Instead, Lidice became a memorial for the world, uniting nations in the fight against Nazi oppression.

A view of Lidice houses.

On July 12, 1942, the town of Stern Park Gardens, Illinois, was renamed Lidice, and other cities and towns around the world followed suit.

On August 30, 1942, the village of San Jerónimo-Lídice, now part of the capital of the United Mexican States, added the name Lidice to its original name.

A monument dedicated to Lidice was unveiled in the summer of 1942 in Callao, Peru

The response of the Lidice crime in Latin America was extraordinary. Towns, streets, squares and parks were named after Lidice. Parents gave their daughters the first name Lidice.

Artists soon responded to the events in Lidice. A number of films were made about the Lidice tragedy, and poets, prose writers, artists and musicians processed it in their works.

The tragedy of Lidice hugely resonated among members of foreign units of the Czechoslovak army and in the American army. On June 13, 1942, U.S. Secretary of the Navy William F. Knox said, „If future generations ask us why we fought this war, we will tell them about Lidice.“

Shortly after the tragedy, the Brazilian village of Villa Parada was renamed Lidice.

A memorial to the Central Bohemian Lidice is also standing in Montevideo, Uruguay since the Second World War.

In Great Britain, the Lidice Shall Live movement was initiated by miners in Staffordshire on 6th September 1942. Money raised in collections across Britain after the war was donated to the construction of new Lidice.

Lidice did not cease to live in the minds of people all over the world. The reconstruction of the village was announced after the end of the war by the Czechoslovak government with a public declaration at a peace rally in Lidice on 10 June 1945, which was already attended by the women of Lidice, who had been sorely tried by their fate. After the end of the war, 143 Lidice women returned to their homeland and, after a two-year search, seventeen children returned to the arms of their Lidice mothers.

Lidice women in front of the 1945 tribune

Architectural design of the new Lidice

In the summer of 1947, the foundation stone of the new Lidice was laid 300 meters from the original village. Construction of the first Lidice houses began in May 1948. Gradually, with the great contribution of volunteers from all over the country and abroad, a modern village was built of 150 houses.

At the same time, the buildings of the present municipal office, post office, and community centre were built, as well as a shopping centre. At the same time, the commemorative area, including the common grave of the Lidice men, the construction of a memorial and a museum, were arrangend. Between the memorial area and the new village, the Peace and Friendship Garden was inaugurated on 19 June 1955, where thousands of rose bushes from different parts of the world were planted.

The Rose Garden of Peace and Friendship

According to the monstrous wish of the occupiers, Lidice should disappear without a trace after centuries of its existence. Instead, they were indelibly inscribed in world history as a symbol of Nazi terror and injustice,
as well as immeasurable heroism and the desire for a free life.