The fateful incursion came on the night of the 9th of June. It was on the initiative of SS-Standartenführer Horst Böhme, who telephoned Hitler in Berlin on the day of Heydrich’s funeral to present the evidence against the village and recommend retaliation. Böhme’s report relayed the reply which ran:
Subject: Lidice village, Kladno region. On 9th June at 19.45 SS-Gruppenführer Karl Frank telephoned from Berlin and instructed me verbally that, on the day, in accordance with the Fuhrer’s command, the village of Lidice was to be treated in the following manner:
All adult male inhabitants are to be shot.
All females are to be sent to a concentration camp.
The children are to be collected together. If capable of Germanisation they are to be delivered to SS families in the Reich and the rest are to undergo other forms of education.
The place is to be burnt and flattened. The Fire Brigade’s help is requested.
And so, on the 9th of June 1942, at 7.45 pm, precisely after the monstrous funeral of Reinhard Heydrich, and as the security machinery in the Protectorate still searched in vain for Heydrich’s assassins, destruction, doom, and death came to Lidice from the direction of Kladno and the neighbouring town of Buštěhrad. Encircling the village, the Nazis then sealed it off. All were allowed in, but no one allowed out.
Word of mouth passed terrible rumours of imminent horror around the community. Soon enough they became reality. A woman tried to break the cordon. As she ran, an SS man shot her in the back. A 12-year-old boy bolted to escape. He too was shot dead as he fled.
With the cordon secure and all means of communication with the outer world cut off, the Gestapo acted. House to house, the Nazis banged on doors and drove people out from their homes. Dragging the residents out and making them present themselves in the village square, they stole their money, jewellery, valuables, and anything else of worth. Then, the women and children were taken and confined in the village school while the male inhabitants were shoved in the cellars, barns, and stables of the Horák farm. Again, the Gestapo searched every house, but still they found not even a scrap of incriminating evidence.
In Ivan Cigánek’s book “Lidice,” Anna Hroníková, survivor and eyewitness, provides a haunting account of the shocking events that happened that fateful night:
“After a day’s work, all tired, we were making ready for the night. Everything started just after 9 pm. Truckloads of soldiers were being rushed to the scene. We could hear the engines roar and the troops shout arrogantly. In a short while the village was alive with troops. After midnight, soldiers began collecting the people. Women and children were led into the village school. They herded men into the Horák farm. Women stood helplessly, bags in their hands, some consoling the crying and sleepy children. The question in all eyes read: What is going to happen to us? The fascists were quick in decision making. Early in the morning we were ordered to board the lorries and driven to the Kladno High School. It was hard to leave home like that. All windows remained open, with all the lights switched on despite the compulsory blackouts. All sorts of things were taken out from the houses: sewing machines, radios, bicycles, stoves, clothes, and food displayed in the windows… Our men stood herded together in the yard of the Horák farm. That’s how we saw them for the last time.”
Although each man suspected he was going to die, at the Horák farm a surreal atmosphere of spiritual calm descended. Amongst the men moved their patriarchal figure, the 73-year-old Priest Sternbeck. All night he prayed for their souls as they knelt beside him. We can only hope that his work helped others find solace during those last hours.
Morning came – the morning of Wednesday, June the 10th 1942 – the last day in the life of Lidice. A firing squad, 30 strong, of Ordnungspolizei (Order Police) reported from Prague at 03.30 hours. Shortly after it was daybreak, and the wickedness of the order became clear. SS Hauptsturmführer Weismann first addressed them:
“It is the will of the Führer which you are about to execute,”
They were ordered not to disclose the fate of any human being at Lidice and not to mention that they had ever heard of the village. In tens the men of the village were led out from the Horák farm to the garden behind the barn. Here, their executioners waited for them.
Careful preliminary arrangements, such as the stacking of large piles of straw and mattresses against the barn wall to prevent bullets rebounding or ricocheting had been completed. Like the victims, many of the killers were young men themselves.
The men of Lidice were not questioned and offered no blindfold. When standing trial after the war, Harald Wiesmann, the Head of the Kladno Gestapo Office had this to say on the behaviour of the Lidice men:
“The men of Lidice were relaxed, bold and upright. No scenes of personal weakness occurred. I don’t know if they had chalk marks on their coats where their hearts were. Nobody read the sentence. They were shot without learning why.”
And then the terrible scene unfolded. The shooting went on intermittently until 4 pm. It was a warm, serene June afternoon, completely incongruous to the events taking place. At one point, Karl Frank arrived in full uniform, just to see how smoothly his orders were being actioned. According to the evidence given at his trial four years later, he expressed the desire that…
“Corn should grow where Lidice stood.”