A week after Reinhard Heydrich passed away in the wake of the execution of this mass murderer ordered by the Czechoslovak government in London and assisted by the British intelligence agencies, Nazi regime began its intense revenge.
On June 10th, 1942, exactly 70 years ago, hundreds of men in a village five miles from the Prague Václav Havel Airport – a village that hasn't even participated in the final solution of the Heydrich problem – were shot while women and children were sent to gas chambers (with some exceptions, babies who were Germanized). See Wikipedia on the massacre and TRF articles on the topic.
After the war, the village of Lidice was rebuilt (BTW the name of Lidice derives from "lidi" which is the people); that's not the case of Ležáky, another village that followed Lidice's fate on June 24th. In 2012, a few days ago, the German president Joachim Gauck sent a letter to his Czech counterpart Václav Klaus in which he apologized for the massacre. Well, I don't really think that Gauck – born in 1940 – has something to personally apologize for.
But while many younger Germans feel excessively guilty for their past – a part of the contemporary political correctness in Germany (and thank God for this part, of course) – it's still true that gestures such as the apology for the massacre have been somewhat rare at the level of top German politics so it's always reassuring to hear something like that.
Lidice (2011), a trailer. A love story led to the decision to flatten the village. A guy was arrested: that saved his life. Of course, this is a real movie on love and emotions, not a documentary. 15 minutes of the movie has Vietnamese subtitles. ;-)
Spoilers: Sunday night
The movie was just aired on the 1st channel of public TV. Strong stuff. I recommend you not to watch it if your stomach isn't totally resilient...
Mr Karel Roden accidentally stabs his son during an argument in 1938. He's arrested for five years or so. German occupation begins; many of the optimistic speeches about the rosy future of our lands within the Third Reich resemble the era of communism; after all, totalitarian systems are always analogous. The generals of the Czech army are executed. Throughout the movie, we're shown the atmosphere with the lists of all the people who were executed; the atmosphere of fear had to be omnipresent.
Heydrich personally plays the violin at the Prague Castle. The Czech musicians have to play with him and talk about him nicely; after all, one of them had to be removed.
Now, the key story of Lidice starts when two young Lidice men try to pick two girls, especially one of them. Their method is to invent a fake story that they have something to do with the anti-Nazi resistance, and perhaps with people in Great Britain, and turn them/her into (fake) messengers between the Horák family and Britain. That's a pathetic trick because the cute girl who buys it actually has a resistance background, most of her relatives (including the dad) have been killed, and she has 10 times more courage than the 2 liars combined. Moreover, to make things worse, the guy who successfully uses this trick is married.
A letter between these two lovers makes it to Gestapo, anyway. At some point in the middle of the movie, Heydrich is shot. They're looking for some culprits.
A local Gestapo official wants to show some results and get awards – a typical attitude of a Big Government – and this leads to the extermination of Lidice once he learns about the letter. I don't want to describe the details how the village was occupied when it was ready to be eliminated from the map, how a Czech cop who collaborated knew about the plan, how the people were accumulated and separated (men had to be shot, women and children separated in different labor camps, Aryan enough children were picked to be Germanized), how the German official thought that it was easy to deal with the people but the cattle was a more difficult job.
Much like in the case of the Holocaust, I am always scared by the mixture of the ignorance and hysteria. At the beginning, the people - who are destined to become victims – co-operate as they're being lied to about their fate. When they start to panic, it's too late.
At any rate, Mr Karel Roden ultimately survives and is released from the prison in 1943. He returns to the village and in the snowy grasslands, he finds no trace of the village. No one had told him about the fate of the village although everyone knew about it. So he goes to report himself to Gestapo: he wants to be shot just like any other man. The Big Government guy who wanted to show results tells Roden that it's way too much work to shoot him now, in 1943.
So Mr Roden wants to make sure he's shot as well so he tells the Gestapo guy: It was a great idea to assassinate Heydrich! Now, the only comical scene of the whole movie – that made me laugh (otherwise it's extremely tragic and serious) – continues like this: The Gestapo guy says "Well, I also think it was right to shoot Heydrich. Now it's legal to say so. Give it up, go away."
It's May 1945 and Lidice has to be rebuilt. The post-war Czechs apparently have plans for a grander village than the ordinary pre-war village; I am not sure whether the new Lidice looks so extraordinary at the end. Roden is the only man who survived, he remembers everything, he wants to help with the reconstruction. They tell him to go away, it's painful for him to show up because all the men should have been shot. At this moment, Roden is really the only male adult survivor because the cop or soldier who collaborated with the Nazis has just shot himself.
There are many things, emotions, and drinking of alcoholic beverages by the desperate men that I haven't covered. But the ability of a Big Government to do similar atrocities – and individuals who hide behind "big interests" to do things that they wouldn't do as individuals – is just breathtaking. One must be careful about potential candidates to become a new Nazism.