Many people believe that the Czechs, when compared to the Poles, Ukrainians, and Belarusians, had it relatively easy under Nazi occupation during World War II. While this is an area of ongoing debate, taking a 30-minute car or bus ride from Prague to the former village of Lidice is a clear and sobering reminder of the extreme acts of cruelty suffered by the Czechs at the hands of the occupying forces.
Lidice entered the world’s collective consciousness in 1942, at the height of the Nazi occupation. This is when a group of Czech and Slovak paratroopers stationed in Britain were dropped into the country to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi head of the protectorate and highest-ranking German officer in the Czech lands. The paratroopers successfully managed to blow up Heydrich’s limousine in late May 1942, and he died in the hospital a week later. However, the plan somewhat backfired as the Germans were so enraged by the assassination that they vowed reprisal killings, and chose Lidice as their target – probably because they suspected that the town had accommodated the paratroopers.
On June 10, 1942, German forces rounded up every single man in Lidice over the age of 16 and executed them at point-blank range in groups of 10. The women were then sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where most perished, while the 90 or so Lidice children were either sent to Gneisenau concentration camp or to orphanages if they looked Germanic enough. In all, 348 of Lidice’s 500 residents were killed. The Germans also completely destroyed the town by dynamiting each house, church, and building in the village one by one.
Today, a small but fascinating museum provides information about the town that once was and explains the tragedy that occurred on the site. You can also walk through the haunting field where the village once stood. Pay your respects to the dead at Lidice’s old and new cemeteries, as well as the wooden cross that marks the mass grave of the executed men. These graves are all that remain of the town.
Admission to the Lidice museum is 80 CZK for adults and 40 CZK for students and seniors. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm in March, from 9am to 6pm between April and October, and from 9am to 4pm between November and February. Check www.lidice-memorial.cz for further information.
Buses marked ‘Lidice-Kladno’ depart from Prague at the bus stops across the street from the Diplomat Hotel, near Dejvická metro station (Line A). Not all the buses to Kladno stop in Lidice, so ensure you are on the right bus by confirming it with the driver. The ride takes about 30 minutes and tickets bought from the driver should cost 30 CZK.
If you are driving yourself, take Highway 7 from the west side of Prague, past the airport and go west onto Highway 551. It is a 20 minute drive.