Prague walnut grove dedicated as a living memorial to Lidice tragedy

The village of Lidice was destroyed 80 years ago today in retribution for the assassination of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 10.06.2022 15:30:00 (updated on 10.06.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Czech village of Lidice was destroyed by Nazis on June 10, 1942, making this year the 80th anniversary of the tragedy. A new memorial has just been created in Prague 6 at a small walnut grove that was secretly planted in memory of the village. The main commemorative events will take place in Lidice on June 11 and 12.

Lidice was leveled in reprisal for the assassination of acting Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, who died on June 4, 1942, as the result of an infected wound from an attack by Czechoslovak paratroopers a week earlier. The Nazis mistakenly believed that people in the town had assisted the Czechoslovak paratroopers who carried out Operation Anthropoid.

All the village’s 173 men over the age of 15 were shot, while most of the 203 women were taken to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. The majority of the 105 children were sent to work in factories in Poland, but a few were given to SS families to be “Germanized.” All of the buildings were destroyed to leave no trace of the village.

A total of 53 women and 82 children died in the camps. After the war, only 143 women and 17 children returned to then-Czechoslovakia.

The small walnut grove, located in the woods between the school on Na dlouhém lánu Street and the railroad tracks, is a living connection to the destruction of Lidice. It was planted in 1942 by a gardener Jiří Procházka in Prague’s Veleslavín neighborhood as a sign of remembrance.

The grove has now been renovated, with new information signs installed. A dedication ceremony took place on June 9.

The seven trees grew from walnuts that two boys secretly collected from the remnants of Lidice after it was razed. The boys gave the nuts to Procházka, who germinated them.

There were as many as 60 trees. Procházka in the late 1940s and early 1950s gave many of the trees to anyone who wanted to have one as a secret memorial, but the locations were not recorded. In the communist era, the efforts of Czechs and Slovaks who served with the Royal Air Force (RAF) were not revered, as it detracted from the government’s pro-Soviet stance.

The trees were eventually forgotten, but the Hanspaulka Association rediscovered them a few years ago based on stories from people who had been children at the time of the planting.

In September 2021, Prague 6 in cooperation with the Lidice Memorial, the Association for the Preservation of the Legacy of the Czech Resistance, the Hanspaulka Association, and Scouts from Prague 6 began to turn the neglected trees into a memorial site.

“We managed to restore the symbolic connection between Prague 6 and Lidice and create a dignified place to remember the events of Lidice,” Prague 6 Councilor Eva Smutná said at the June 9 dedication. She was instrumental in turning the initiative to create a memorial site into reality.

She added that Scouts have collected walnuts from the trees in the grove, and these have been given to cultivators so they can be grown into a new generation of trees.

“In about 10 years, some 20 more walnut trees could become available. We could add some of them to our memorial site, send some to Lidice, or offer them to other municipalities,” Smutná said.

The main memorial events this year will be at the Lidice Memorial, located some 22 kilometers from Prague on the site of the former village. The memorial, which is currently under renovation, is having an open house until June 12, daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

People will be able to enter the memorial for free and see the already finished sections. Among other things, people will be able to see a newly created virtual 3D model of the village of Lidice and several historical exhibitions. New interactive exhibits are also on the memorial’s website.

On June 11, children’s choirs from across the Czech Republic will perform from 1 pm to 4 pm. Then at 8 pm, there is a concert with Monika Absolonová, the group 4 Tenoři, and musicians from the Czech Army. Candles will be lit on the sites of the former houses of Lidice.

June 12 will begin with a mass celebrated by Cardinal Dominik Duka at 9 am. Wreath-laying ceremonies, prayers, and presentations will take place throughout the day.

On June 24, 1942, another village, Ležáky, was also destroyed due to a radio transmitter that had been used by Czechoslovak paratroopers being found there. All 33 adults in the village were executed, and of the 13 children, only two who had been Germanized survived. The other 11 died in the Chełmno extermination camp.

Reports of the destruction of Lidice spread all over the world. Many sites in various countries were renamed Lidice in an effort to keep the memory of the village alive.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more