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Massacre at Lidice
10th June 1942: The shooting of 192 men and boys is just the opening phase in a programme of murderous savagery by the Nazis in Czechoslovakia
On 9th June 1942 the Nazis buried Reinhard Heydrich who had died from wounds inflicted by an assassination team of Czech and Slovak agents, who had parachuted into Czechoslovakia after training in Britain. On 10th June 1942, mistakenly believing that the Czech village of Lidice was in some way connected to the assassins, the SS rounded up all the inhabitants. They then shot all the men and boys over 15 and sent most of the women and children to concentration camps - where almost all were also murdered. The village was then raised to the ground. In total 340 men, women and children died as a result of the action.
Such assaults on innocent civilians were becoming increasingly common on the Eastern Front, but mass ‘reprisals’ were not unusual in any country occupied by the Nazis. Lidice was different in several respects. Hitler was personally involved in demanding ‘retribution’ for the killing of Heydrich. Lidice was just the first in a wave of brutal repercussions for many different groups in Czechoslovakia, which saw thousands murdered in concentration camps. And the Nazis, unusually, made a great fanfare of their savagery - which got worldwide attention as a consequence. German radio announced:
"All male grownups of the town were shot, while the women were placed in a concentration camp, and the children were entrusted to appropriate educational institutions."
It was on occasions like these that the Nazis revealed their truest beliefs. Himmler spoke at the funeral:
We will have to deal with Christianity in a tougher way than hitherto. We must settle accounts with this Christianity, this greatest of plagues that could have happened to us in our history, which has weakened us in every conflict. If our generation does not do it then it would I think drag on for a long time. We must overcome it within ourselves. Today at Heydrich's funeral I intentionally expressed in my oration from my deepest conviction a belief in God, a belief in fate, in the ancient one as I called him—that is the old Germanic word: Wralda.
The death of of Heydrich prompted continuing reprisals in Czechoslovakia, where the assassins were hunted down - most committed suicide before they were caught. Anyone even suspected of assisting them was arrested - and they and their families sent to concentration camps.
Thousands died as a consequence of the killing of Heydrich. Nevertheless many Czechoslovaks believed that thousands more would have died under his brutal regime had he not been assassinated.
Nazi propaganda about the Lidice massacre revealed ever more clearly the savage intent of their regime - and sparked reactions against them around the world.