On June 10, 1942, all the inhabitants of the Czech village of Lidice were killed by firing squad or sent to concentration camps. One hundred and ninety-two men were murdered on the spot, but it is estimated that the total number of men, women and children who were eventually killed exceeded 340. The buildings were then set on fire and the entire village bulldozed. The slaughter was a reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, who, six months earlier, had chaired the Wannsee Conference which had planned the “Final Solution to the Jewish question”. The atrocity sparked a worldwide furore. Artists and intellectuals wrote numerous poems, novels, essays and theatrical plays about the massacre, while the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu composed an orchestral work and the British filmmaker Humphrey Jennings made The Silent Village. Time and again, the dead inhabitants of Lidice were set before the eyes and ears of the world as exemplars of “human courage in adversity” and proof of the barbarity of Hitler’s war. Their deaths served many purposes, including exhortations that it was necessary for American citizens to become “fixed as steel in our determination to stop at nothing in this war”, as Edna St Vincent Millay put it in her preface to her 1942 poem “The Murder of Lidice”.
more from Joanna Bourke at the TLS here.