Lidice - Case Study

Retaliation is a normal practice used in War. However, little did the people of Lidice, a small village outside Prague know that they would be retaliated against for an event that occurred in that city, on May 27, 1942—an event of which most of them were unaware. SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia was attacked as his car drove through the streets of Prague. A grenade was thrown, and Heydrich injured. Nonetheless, he was still able to fire back at his assassins. The two assassins who had parachuted into the area were sent from London by the Czech government-in-exile. They managed to get away and took refuge in a Prague church.

Heydrich survived until June 4, when he died of blood poisoning brought on by an infection from the shrapnel that had lodged in his spleen.  Almost immediately following the grenade attack the Nazis announced that 10,000 people would be killed.  Searches for resistance members and Czech agents began in earnest.  The church that sheltered the assassins and more than 100 members of the Czech resistance was taken over.  Everyone was killed.  Another 1000 suspects were rounded up, 3000 Jews were selected and deported from the ghetto at Theresienstadt to extermination camps, and in Berlin 500 Jews arrested, and 152 killed on the day of Heydrich’s death.  In Lezaky, a small village not far from Prague, the assassins’ radio transmitter was found.  Every adult in the village was killed.  In addition, Hitler ordered that the village of Lidice be liquidated.  The justification for this hideous act was a trumped up charge that the villagers had aided the assassins.

American Poster Commemorating Lidice by Ben Shahn   

Early on the morning of June 10, the people of Lidice were taken from their homes.  All adult men, and boys over 16, totaling 172, and 71 women were murdered.  The few remaining women were deported to concentration camp Ravensbrück where most of them died.  Ninety children were sent to the concentration camp at Gneisenau. Aryan looking children were sent to Germany for re-education.  Following the evacuation of the village the SS proceeded to raze the town in order to expunge Lidice from history.  The name of the village was removed from all official records and documents.

The Czech nation, as well as the Czech government in exile, was overwhelmed by the reprisal.  In tribute to Heydrich’s memory, the Nazis gave the code name Operation Reinhard to the “Final Solution to the Jewish problem.”