Czech Radio digitises full archive of trial with key figure in Lidice massacre

On the occasion of the anniversary of the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia on March 15, 1939, Czech Radio’s archive has decided to publish the digitised recordings of the trial with Karl Hermann Frank. One of the highest ranking Nazis in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, who played a key role in the infamous Lidice massacre, was sentenced to death in 1946.

A Bohemian German, Karl Hermann Frank was born in Carlsbad in 1898. At the time of the invasion of the rump state of Czechoslovakia in 1939, he was the deputy governor of the Sudetenland region which had been annexed by Germany from Czechoslovakia a year later.

A leading figure within the Sudeten German separatist movement during the 1930s, Frank quickly rose through the ranks of the Nazi administration of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, eventually being put in overall charge of the local SS and police forces. He played a key role in the annihilation of the villages of Lidice and Ležáky following the killing of Reinhard Heydrich by Czechoslovak soldiers.

The trial with Karl Hermann Frank | Photo: ČT24

Arrested by US forces in May 1945, he was handed over to Czechoslovak authorities and put on trial a year later. The trial was a major event at the time and substantial parts of it were recorded. Now, archivists from Czech Radio have finished digitising them and some of the recordings have been made accessible to the wider public on Czech Radio’s website. The man in charge of the archival team was Miloslav Turek.

Miloslav Turek | Photo: Thomas McEnchroe,  Radio Prague International

“In total, we digitised 1,299 sound discs, the final length of sound is therefore 82 hours and 16 minutes. Historians haven’t requested to hear them yet. Perhaps because they don’t know about it, but if they fill out a request they can access the full digitised trial in our research facility.”

Turek has worked at Czech Radio for nearly four decades, two of which have been spent administering the broadcaster’s extensive archival collection. However, he says that he was still struck while digitising the testimonies of the women that survived the annihilation of Lidice.

“Until now we were only able to hear related post-war commentaries in some programmes. Now, however, we have the recordings of the direct testimonies that were made at court, under oath and were completely apolitical.”

The trial with Karl Hermann Frank | Photo: ČT24

The trial featured many historical personalities, including Kurt Daulege, who was named the Deputy Reich Governor of Bohemia and Moravia after Heydrich’s assassination and held this position from 1942 to 1943, precisely the time when the Lidice and Ležáky massacres took place. He would be tried and executed in the same year as Frank.

Asked about which Czech figure particularly stood out at the trial, Mr Turek mentions a woman who was herself sentenced to death in the same court hall four years after the Nazi official.

“I would argue that it was Milada Horáková, who acted as a witness. On April 2, 1946, she gave testimony at the trial about the conditions in the Terezín concentration camp from 1942 to 1944. She is of course famous nowadays as the victim of a Communist show trial. However, it is little known that she was herself imprisoned at Terezín for two years.”

The execution of Karl Hermann Frank | Photo: ČT24

Frank’s neck was broken before the hanging, but Horáková was left to die slowly from strangulation, he says, remarking on the cruel irony of events.

Selected sounds from the trial, including Horáková’s testimony, can be listened to on the Auditorium page of Czech Radio’s website: