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History's Happenings for June 10

Lidice Destroyed in Nazi Retaliation

In 1942, Czechoslovakia was under the Nazi heel, having been invaded in early 1939, even before the start of the war. At the helm of what the Third Reich called its province of Bohemia and Moravia was Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, a significant figure in the SS and head of its Sicherheitsdienst (SD), or internal security branch. An extremely capable organizer and administrator, popular with top Nazi leadership, Heydrich was nonetheless a harsh and fanatical governor, true to form.

In May 1942, Czech partisans succeeded in ambushing Heydrich as he drove to his office in Prague. The Reichsprotektor died several days later of his wounds.

In response, the Nazis immediately executed well over 1,000 Czechs, deporting others to concentration camps, often to meet the same fate.

But special attention was reserved for the small Bohemian village of Lidice, which was accused of having harbored the assailants. Hitler ordered that an example was to be made of this town, and it was to be vernichtet ... made nothing, annihilated.

Accordingly, the SS rolled into town on the morning of June 9, and rounded up all the citizens, locking the men in barns and cellars. The next day the 172 men and older boys were led out ten at a time and executed. The women were sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where many of them also perished. Those of the children that the SS felt showed desirable racial features were sent to the Fatherland to be raised as Germans ... the rest were sent to other concentration camps.

As a final stroke, the village itself was burned down, the foundations blown up, the ground leveled and seeded. The village had literally ceased to exist.

Lidice was not the only such example of Nazi vengeance; there were others, some even more horrific, including the wiping out of Oradour-sur-Glane in France in 1944. Lidice is remembered as the representative example, perhaps because of its association with the figure of Heydrich.

War is hell. Terrible things happen. Collateral damage, given modern weaponry, is unavoidable. But perhaps the definition of "honor" in war, to the extent such a thing exists, resides in some measure of respect for the noncombatant and the incapacitated soldier. With every war, it seems, there is less of that quality. The Nazis -- as differentiated from the ordinary German soldier -- had zero.

Tripoli Declares War on U.S.

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Alcoholics Anonymous Founded

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