32km (20 miles) NW of Prague
More than almost anywhere else in the world, two places in central Europe illustrate the destructive power of revenge: Dresden and Lidice. In 1942, when Czechoslovak paratroopers stationed in Britain assassinated SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, the highest-ranking officer in the Czech lands, the Nazis focused their anger on this tiny village. As Hitler's main leader in the newly claimed Nazi protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Heydrich had ruthlessly and systematically exterminated Jews and intellectuals, while coddling "ordinary" Czechs. The assassination of such a high-ranking official had to be dealt with severely. Why did Hitler choose Lidice? No one knows for sure, but this town was rumored to have accommodated the assassins, and someone had to pay.
When you get to Lidice, you'll see only a wooden cross and a green field where the town once stood. The Gestapo leveled the town and murdered its men. Women and children were taken to concentration camps, with less than half returning alive. In all, 348 of Lidice's 500 residents were killed. But in 1948, the Czech government, buffeted morally and financially by international outrage at this war crime, created a new town built on neighboring land. Today that town is beginning to get a little run-down, which often makes visitors feel even more melancholy.
Getting There -- If you're driving, take Hwy. 7 from the west side of Prague past the airport and head west onto Hwy. 551. It's a 20-minute drive.
Buses marked LIDICE-KLADNO depart for Lidice at the bus stops across the street from the Diplomat Hotel near the Dejvická metro station (last stop on the Green A line). Not all of the buses to Kladno stop in Lidice, so make sure you're on the right bus by confirming it with the driver. The ride takes about 25 minutes; it costs around 40Kc.
Learning About Lidice
The Lidice Memorial Museum is a sobering monument to the town's martyred residents. In it are pictures of those killed, with descriptions of their fates. You can see a 20-minute English-language documentary on request; otherwise, a Czech version is usually running. There's also a 10-minute cassette that you can listen to as you walk around. Admission is 80Kc, and it's open daily: March from 9am to 5pm; April to October from 9am to 6pm; and November to February from 9am to 4pm. Call tel. 312-253-755 or go to www.lidice-memorial.cz for further information.
You're welcome to wander the field where the village once stood. Memorials in the "old" Lidice include a wooden cross marking the spot where the executed men were buried in a mass grave, and Lidice's old and new cemeteries (the old one was desecrated by the Nazis, who were looking for gold from the teeth of the dead).