Lidice. An ancient, picturesque Czech village, dominated by the Church of St. Martin. The beloved home of one hundred and five Lidice children, whose fates on June 10, 1942 cruelly changed the Nazi fury.

At home in old Lidice

In 1824, this very modern school was built in Lidice, with the inscription „School of My Happiness“ above the entrance.

Every year at the beginning of September, it resounded with children’s shouts and laughter. The last time was on Tuesday, June 9, 1942.

Threshing grain with a steam threshing machine, the so-called steam threshing machine, was always a welcome opportunity to create a group photo, in which the children of Lidice could never miss.

The Lidice Volunteer Fire Brigade was staffed not only by adults, but also by children, as evidenced by this photograph of firefighters taken in 1934.

None of the boys in the picture survived the Nazi murders.

In the photograph, probably taken at the beginning of 1941, we can see the next generation of Lidice firefighters with their commander, Václav Hanf (in the middle). Together with him, Jaroslav Hroník and Josef Pek were shot on 10th June 1942 near Horák’s farm. Pepík Nerad was executed on 16th June 1942 in Kobylisy. The remaining twenty-four children in this picture were murdered in a gas truck in Chelmno.

The last school photograph of twenty-nine children from the first class of the Lidice school with the head teacher Ladislav Šimandl taken on June 2, 1942.

Of the fifteen children who came directly from Lidice, only three were found after 1945. The remaining twelve died in Chelmno.

Little Hanička Špotová in old Lidice. At the time of taking this photograph, no one had any idea that she would be deported to Germany shortly afterwards and that five long years would pass before she would be able to hug her mother Josefa again.

Little Ivan Žid with his dog on the doorstep of his native house. Only a year separates him from the moment when the door of the gas car closes behind him in Chelmno.

Maruška Hocková had her photo taken with her favorite doll. A moment of carefree childhood for her, which ended on June 10th 1942, as it was also the case for the rest of the Lidice children.

Little Vašík Zelenka (on a rocking horse) with his cousin Miloslav Spal. Thirteen-year-old Mila was murdered in Chelmno, Vašík was deported to Germany. He was not found until May 1947.

The End of Childhood

In retaliation for the assassination of the stellvertretender Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Hitler ordered the following to be carried out in Lidice: all adult men were to be shot, women were to be placed in a concentration camp for life, children who could be germanized were to be placed in SS families in the Reich, and the rest was to be raised in a different way. The village was completely burned down, razed to the ground and its name erased. The bestial operation was launched on June 10th, 1942.

A typical picture for a Nazi family album. A trio of members of the Schutzpolizei in the courtyard of Horák’s farm, which became the central site of the tragedy. The Lidice men were held here before their execution.

The last place of residence of women and children in the village was the Lidice school, which was temporarily converted into a prison. Between five and six o’clock in the morning, trucks picked women and children up and took them to Kladno. While passing by Horák’s farm, some of them were spotted by dozens of men gathered in the yard. Little did they know it would be the last time seeing them.

One hundred and seventy-three martyrs of Lidice murdered

In Kladno, women and children were imprisoned in the gymnasium of the local grammar school. Here, on the bare ground only sprinkled with a little straw, they spent their last three days and two nights together, full of dreadful anticipation of things to come.

On Friday, June 12, 1942, in the evening, one of the most shocking scenes of the Lidice tragedy took place in the gymnasium of the Kladno grammar school. The separation of the children from their mothers. The children were given a tag around their necks with their name and registration number, then buses were taking them to Lovosice.

In Kladno, three children from Lidice were selected as capable of Germanization – six-year-old Dagmar Veselá, three-year-old Václav Zelenka and two-year-old Hanička Špotová. The latter two are captured in this rare photograph from old Lidice.

The tragedy of Lidice had a sad continuation on June 16th, 1942, when another twenty-six inhabitants were executed at the Kobylisy shooting range. Among them were Josef Doležal and Josef Nerad, whose personal data were checked at the Kladno grammar school, where the Nazis found out that they had exceeded the age of fifteen by a few days, the age at which the Lidice men were murdered by shooting.

Josef  Doležal

Josef Nerad

On the road of death

A transport of 88 Lidice children was sent by train from Lovosice to Łódź, where they arrived on June 13, 1942. There they were placed in a camp located in the complex of a former textile factory at Gneisenaustraße 41 (pictured in 2005). Their arrival was heralded by a telegram ending with the words: „… Children only bring what they are wearing. No special care is needed.“

In the Łódź camp, the children received little food. Older girls had to care for several babies, still crying from hunger. The children slept on the bare ground, suffering from lack of hygiene and disease. On the orders of the camp command, they were not provided with medical care.
Shortly after their arrival, another seven Lidice children were randomly selected for Germanization: six girls (Marie Doležalová, Emilie Frejová, Anna Hanfová, Marie Hanfová, Eva Kubíková, Věra Vokatá) and one boy – Václav Hanf. His sisters managed to save him by crying him out.

On Thursday, July 2, 1942, the remaining 81 Lidice children were handed over to the local Gestapo office in Łódź, which had them transported to the extermination camp in Chelmno, seventy kilometers away. They were murdered there on the same day
in a mobile gas chamber.

The ashes of ten thousand victims who had been murdered in Chelmno were scattered into this forest in the immediate vicinity of the camp.

The first Nazi extermination camp built in the woods near Chelmno was officially called the „Sonderkommando Kulmhof“.

From January 1942 to March 1943, 320,000 people were murdered in three mobile gas chambers, i.e. almost a thousand a day.

Posthumous Lidice and children destined for Germanization

After the departure of the women and children, Anna Kohlíčková, Marie Hanžlová, Žofie Pešková and Marie Müllerová, who were in a high stage of pregnancy, remained in the building of the Kladno grammar school. Their journey ended at the Nazi asylum at 20 Dykova Street in Prague’s Vinohrady district (pictured in 2003), where they gradually gave birth. They were then tricked into separating them from the children and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. The children born under German names were handed over to the foundling in Karlov, where they died, with the exception of Věra Müllerová, who was found after the war. They arrived in Dykova Street
On October 13, 1942, two other women from Lidice – Anna Korecká and Anna Straková, who were subsequently found to be pregnant, were also released from the concentration camp. Both gave birth to healthy children, but after the war only little Jaroslav was found, Mrs. Korecká. On October 28, 1942, Františka Hroníková gave birth to her tenth child directly in Ravensbrück. However, the little boy was murdered by the guards immediately afterwards.

Anna Horáková, née Kohlíčková, was nine months pregnant at the time of the tragedy. Her husband Václav and her father and mother were shot on June 16, 1942 in Kobylisy. Her daughter Věnceslava, whom she gave birth to three days later as the first posthumous child of Lidice, died on September 1, 1942, according to German documentation.

Anna Horáková

Hana Špotová 

A rare photograph of Hanička Špotová, taken secretly on 5th July 1942 in the window of the foundling building near Charles Square in Prague, where she was held together with Václav Zelenka. Dagmar Veselá, who was here with them at the beginning, was denied the ability to be germanized. She was therefore sent to Chelmno and murdered there together with the children from Ležáky.

Seven children selected for Germanization in Łódź were transported from the camp at Gneisenaustraße 41 to the camp of the Main Race and Settlement Office at 71 Sporna Street in Łódź (pictured in 2005). Here they were bathed, deloused, given clothes and food.

Children’s home in Puščikuvo

From Łódź, seven Lidice children were transported to the children’s home in Puschkau near Poznań, where they met Václav Zelenka and Hana Špotová, who had arrived here from Prague a few weeks earlier. The children were brought up in a purely German environment and spirit. They also had to use German exclusively to communicate. If someone spoke Czech, he or she was punished for it.

This group of children held in the German children’s home in Puščikuvo includes Václav Zelenka from Lidice (second from the right).

A Nazi propaganda photograph „documenting“ the exemplary care of the children entrusted to them. The third from the left in the picture is Václav Zelenka from Lidice.

German married couples came to the children’s home in Puščikuvek and chose children for adoption. Over time, all the girls from Lidice were distributed into families, including the smallest Hanička Špotová.

Václav Zelenka and Václav Hanf were sent from Puščikuvo to a camp in Oberweis in the Alps. Václav Zelenka was placed in the Wagner family in Dresden in February 1945 (where he immediately experienced a carpet-bombing raid on the city). Václav Hanf was sent to the penalty camp in Maria-Schmoll, because he was deemed uneducatable.

In Prague children’s homes

The fates of seven Lidice children, who were not yet one year old at the time of the annihilation of the village, went their own way. These were František Černý, Veronika Hanfová (pictured), Pavel Horešovský, Josef Minařík, Jiří Müller, Libuše Müllerová and Jiří Pitín. Initially, the children stayed in a foundling home in Karlov, from where they were transported to the technical building in Resslova Street and finally to the German children’s home in Krč. Here, with the exception of František Černý, who died on July 2, 1942, they lived to see the end of the war.

Pitín with his aunt Marie Kvasničková in the building of the Technical University in Resslova Street.

Pepíček Minařík with his grandmother Jindřiška Vandírková. This innocent little boy was used by Nazi „doctors“ for their monstrous experiments…

A photograph of four Lidice children taken secretly in Resslova Street by relatives of Veronika Hanfová. Pictured are (from left to right) Josef Minařík (covered), Libuše Müllerová, Veronika Hanfová and Jiří Pitín.

A trio of Czech nurses who took care of the children of Lidice in Krč and risked their lives to enable them to be in contact with their relatives (Miluše Steinová-Hemelíková in the middle).

Verunka Hanfová in Krč.

Pavlík Horešovský also spent the first years of his life in the Krč foundling.

A group of children held by the Nazis in a foundling in Krč. In the picture from May 8, 1945 there are also several children from Lidice – on the far right stands Jiříček Pitín.

Searching for survivors

At the beginning of June 1945, 143 women from Lidice returned to Czechoslovakia from the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Sixty others, however, were murdered by the Nazis. Among them were the mothers of several children who managed to survive the tragedy of Lidice.

Women of Lidice on June 10, 1945 at a nationwide commemoration ceremony in Lidice. Most of them had come to the scene of the tragedy for the first time a few moments ago. They hope that what they see around them is just a terrible dream from which they soon wake up.

At the end of the commemoration ceremony held on June 10, 1945, Anna Hroníková addressed those present with a desperate plea: „Help us find our children. Without them, life would not be life!“ However, the extensive search that began in the following years was only partially successful. Only 17 children out of 105 were found. The remaining eighty-eight were murdered by the Nazis.

Little Jiříček Pitín grew up with his aunt in Prague after the liberation. The Nazis murdered both his parents, his grandmother and his older sister Maruška.

On Thursday, August 8th, 1946, Maruška Doležalová met her mother in the Krč hospital. However, this happy encounter had a tragic end. Mrs. Alžběta Doležalová died as a result of her imprisonment in the concentration camp only four months later.

The last child of Lidice found was Václav Zelenka in May 1947. Here still as Rolf Wagner on May 1st, 1947 on the square in Lohse, where he was discovered.

Hanička Špotová in her mother’s arms after returning to Czechoslovakia in March 1947.

Several children from Lidice in July 1947: (in the first row) Hanička Špotová, an unidentified girl, little Maruška Jarošová – one of the first children born after the war – and Věra Müllerová. Behind them are Emilka Frejová, Mrs. Květoslava Hroníková, Věra Vokatá and Václav Zelenka.

In the first post-war years

The first six children returning to Lidice after the war were from the Krč foundling and Evička Kubíková, who after the annihilation of the village got into the family of her aunt living in Germany. In September 1945, Anička Hanf arrived from Germany and thanks to her detailed account, her sister Maria was found in Dessau in October 1945, her brother Václav in Austria in December 1945, Emilka Frejová in Sassnitz, Rügen in March 1946 and Maruška Doležalová in August 1946.
in Boizenburg in Mecklenburg.
In May 1946, Věra Müllerová was discovered in a Czech family in Zbraslav and later Jaroslav Korecký in Stránčice.
In September 1946, Věra Vokatá arrived in the republic, in March 1947 Hanička Špotová was discovered in Hanau, and in May 1947 Václav Zelenka returned.
Unfortunately, as the last one. Jaroslav Korecký, discovered later, is still missing from this tableau with portrait photographs of Lidice children dedicated to the army, the Castle Guard and the Military Office of the President of the Republic.

This photograph from 1947, taken in Kročehlavy in Kladno, where the women of Lidice lived with their children after the war, shows five children from Lidice (from left): Václav Zelenka, Věra Vokatá, Marie Doležalová, Marie Hanfová and her brother Václav Hanf.

Children of Lidice during the processing of documents at the Kladno Municipal Office.

Little Václav Zelenka with his mother Žofie. Only a handful of Lidice women were able to stick such a picture in their family album after 1945.

Hanička Špotová in a photograph taken in 1947 in a photo studio in Kladno.

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg became a symbol of the post-war reckoning with war criminals. In March 1947, two of the rescued Lidice children – Marie Hanfová (centre) and Marie Doležalová – testified in one of the subsequent trials.

After the end of the Second World War, the Air Force Major Josef Horák, a native of Lidice, lived in Kročehlavy with his English wife Winifred and sons Josef and Václav (pictured).

A Peaceful Life

Holiday shot of a group of women and children. A normal photograph, except the fact that the people in the picture come from Lidice. Dozens of similar pictures were made for such occasions, however, knowing what the people in the picture had to go through, is moving to this day.

One of the first holiday stays of the citizens of Lidice took place in July 1947 in Čeladná in the Beskydy Mountains. It was also attended by the children of Lidice (from left) Václav Hanf, Věra Vokatá, Václav Zelenka, Veronika Hanfová, Věra Müllerová and Hanička Špotová.

One more „Beskydy“ picture of the children of Lidice from 1947 (from left) Veronika Hanfová, Věra Müllerová, Hanička Špotová and Václav Zelenka.

Wherever the people of Lidice appeared, they were welcomed with love and respect.

Children of Lidice. Cheerful, laughing, like any other. However, they went through a horrible war experience.

With the passing months and years, the lives of many Lidice women began to return to normal, at least partially. However, he was never able to return completely. The horror that took place in Lidice and the death of 340 of its inhabitants was all too vivid even after a long period of time. Nevertheless, the women of Lidice learned to laugh again, together with the children who returned.

After the war, it was decided that every woman and child from Lidice returning home as a complete orphan, would get a family house in the new Lidice. At Christmas 1949, the first of them was handed over to the inhabitants of Lidice. Some of the women remarried, and in Lidice, which according to the plans of the Nazis was to disappear from the face of the earth forever, carefree children’s laughter was heard again.

Return of children to the destroyed Lidice village

An inseparable part of the reverent area in Lidice is the „Memorial to the Child Victims of War“, a sculpture of 82 Lidice children (42 girls and 40 boys) one year old or more until the age of 16, murdered in the summer of 1942 in Chelmno. At the sight of children huddled in anguish as a defenceless crowd, one cannot help but be moved. At the same time, he is reluctant to believe that such an extensive memorial could be the work of a single person – academic sculptor Marie Uchytilová.

Marie Uchytilová began working on the memorial for the children of Lidice in November 1969.
The task she chose for herself was almost inhuman. It took her two decades of hard work to create eighty-two larger-than-life children’s sculptures.

Tens of thousands of hours without rest, without a moment of leisure, without respite. With each completed sculpture, she always relived the child’s fate and horrific death.

Days, months, years. From the early hours of the morning to the dead of night. Often without sleep, food, rest.

Marie Uchytilová’s studio was visited by tens of thousands of people from all over the world. Spontaneously, funds began to be collected for the realization of the Memorial. Although not finished, the Memorial impressed everyone who saw it. Nevertheless, envy and misunderstanding hold up the realization of the monument. In March 1989, the artist finally finished the work in plaster, but she never received anything from the collected financial donations. Unfortunately, she died unexpectedly shortly thereafter.

After the sculptress’s death, those closest to her began to fight for the Memorial to be cast in bronze, which was eventually successful thanks to significant financial donations from the Czech Republic and abroad. In 2000, the last seven child figures were unveiled in Lidice. This finally fulfilled the words of Marie Uchytilová, who spoke at the completion of the last statue in the spring of 1989: „In the name of peace, I return the 82 children of the nation to their native plain as a warning symbol of the millions of children murdered in the senseless wars of mankind.“