Memories and messages of Lidice

Lidice

Saturday witnessed a sad commemoration on the site of the village of Lidice, wiped off the map by the Nazis sixty years ago this month. Half the Czech government, as well as ambassadors and other guests from across the world joined survivors of the Lidice tragedy, to remember the 173 men and 82 children from the village who were murdered by the Nazis in revenge for the assassination of the man they had put in charge of the occupied Czech Lands, Reinhard Heydrich. Lidice has become one of the symbols of Czech resistance to Nazism. David Vaughan attended the ceremony.

To the sound of a Czech army band, literally hundreds of wreathes were laid at the mass grave of the men of Lidice in the middle of the broad meadow that was once the village. Eighteen of the Lidice women who survived after the Nazis sent them to the Ravensbruck concentration camp are still alive, and they were all present at the solemn occasion. Sitting among them was one Englishwoman, Wynne Horak, the widow of one of only two Lidice men to survive the massacre. Her husband, Josef Horak had fought in Britain's Royal Air Force during the war, while back home in Lidice nearly all his relatives were murdered. For Wynne Horak, being able to be at the ceremony was particularly important, because, as an Englishwoman, she was never been invited, during communist days. I asked her how she felt to be back in Lidice.

"Very, very sad. I'm glad I came though, because I think about the mother-in-law, the father-in-law I never met, all the relatives I never met, and my husband's not here either. So it's sad, but it's nice to come [And it must be strange to be here both as an insider and an outsider at the same time] Yes, I'm very much an outsider at times. I hear people say - "Oh, the Englishwoman sitting over there", but I want to announce that I am a Czech and I am an Englishwoman, so, in the future I shall wear a badge."

Ceremony, photo: CTK
In a speech during the ceremony, the Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, warned of the way the communists had used the legacy of Lidice to ideological ends. He also condemned a small group of members of the ultra-nationalist Republican Party, who had tried to walk up to the grave of the Lidice men with their party banner during the ceremony.

"I think it was a misuse of this ceremony and that is why I have condemned that. They are so naive that they try to make some political capital, even if it might be counter-productive."

At the end of the ceremony, a rose garden in Lidice, originally planted to remember the victims of the massacre, was solemnly reopened, having been replanted with help from Germany as a gesture of reconciliation.