On June 4, 1942, members of the Czechoslovak resistance assassinated an important Nazi leader in Prague: Reinhard Heydrich.
Heydrich, who was known as the "Butcher of Prague" for his cruelty, is considered one of the architects of the Holocaust. Hitler ordered a campaign of repression for his death, which literally wiped out two towns that were known to be nuclei of the Czechoslovak resistance against the German occupation.
These towns were called Lídice and Ležáky, and they were located in what is now the Czech Republic. In both cases, members of the Gestapo and the SS blocked all the exits and took people out of their houses.
In Lídice, the Nazis shot all males over the age of 15 and sent women and children to concentration camps. Children who had Aryan features were given to other families and the rest were killed in gas chambers. In total, the Germans murdered 340 residents in Lídice (192 men, 60 women and 88 children). Of the 503 residents that Lídice had in 1942, only 153 women and 17 children were saved.
Ležáky was a small village consisting of eight houses and a factory. Its population was smaller than that of Lídice but it had an equally terrible fate. A total of 33 people between the ages of 14 and 84 (men and women) were shot, and 11 of the 13 children were killed in a gas chamber at the Chełmno extermination camp in Poland occupied by Germany. Of all the inhabitants of Ležáky, only two girls survived, Jarmila and Marie Šťulík, who the Nazis considered could be "Germanized".
After killing or deporting the population of both towns, the Germans razed Lidice and Ležáky and then removed the rubble, leaving the landscape as if no one had ever been there. The cruelty of this repression shocked the world and in solidarity with the victims, towns and places named after Lídice were founded in Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Panama, Israel, Venezuela, Peru, the United States, Uruguay and Cuba. The case of Ležáky is less well known, and I am not aware that there are towns with that name in other countries.
Lídice was rebuilt after World War II, in a place very close to where the original town was located. Today it has 555 inhabitants. Ležáky was not rebuilt. In both cases, the places occupied by the original towns destroyed by the Nazis are considered sacred grounds in the Czech Republic, and the monuments that you can see in this post were built on them.
There is a particularly moving monument in Lídice: the one that commemorates the 88 children murdered in that town. The monument is the work of the sculptor Marie Uchytilová, who began working on it in 1980. It is made of bronze and was inaugurated in 2000.
In Ležáky there are stone tombstones with Latin crosses in the places occupied by each house razed by the Germans. There is also a large stone tombstone on which all the men of the victims of that massacre are written.
I dedicate this entry to the residents of Lídice and Ležáky who were murdered in those massacres. We have a moral duty to remember them and never forget what happened, so that history never repeats itself and that criminal totalitarianism never rise from its ashes.
Main photo: Památník Lidice.
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