Sunday, June 10, 2007

June 10

In retaliation for the assassination of Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, German SS forces liquidated the Czech village of Lidice 65 years ago today. Heydrich had died of blood poisoning on 4 June 1942, a little more than a week after a hand grenade destroyed the vehicle in which he was traveling near Prague. His death occurred only a few months after Haydrich convened the Wannsee Conference, where initial plans for the “Final Solution” were articulated.

As Heydrich’s body was being laid to rest in Berlin, orders were circulated that Lidice was to be eradicated. The next day, German security police surrounded the town and executed all the men and older boys, shooting them in groups of ten in an orchard and leaving the nearly 200 bodies to rot in the open air. The women and children of Lidice were separated and sent, respectively, to the camps at Ravensbruck and Chelmno, where nearly all of them died of disease or were gassed to death. The women of Lidice were forced to labor on behalf of the Riech, for which they processed textiles leather goods, built roads and manufactured ammunition. A handful of children were selected for “Aryanization,” while the remaining ones -- more than eighty in all -- were exterminated in the gas chambers at Chelmno, where more than 150,000 others perished during the war.

After Lidice had been evacuated, every building was dynamited and bulldozed. Even the bodies in the town’s cemetery were disinterred and burnt.

German cameramen filmed the destruction of Lidice, and radio broadcasts boasted of the massacre afterwards:
As the inhabitants of the village Lidice near Kladno committed the harshest offence by supporting the assassins of SS Obergruppenfuhrer Heydrich, the male adults have been shot; women have been transported to a concentration camp and children given proper re-education. The buildings of the village have been leveled to the ground and the name of the community has been deleted.
Lidice was never rebuilt, although numerous towns and neighborhoods in Mexico, Brazil, Panama and the United States took the name "Lidice" in honor of those who died in one of the war's most memorable atrocities.

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