LIDICE LIVES!

Cecilia Rokusek, President and CEO of the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, reminds attendees of the importance of keeping the story of Lidice alive.
Cecilia Rokusek, President and CEO of the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, reminds attendees of the importance of keeping the story of Lidice alive.

In June 1942, Hitler, who believed residents from Lidice, Czechoslovakia, aided in the assassination of a friend, a high-ranking officer, ordered the small town just northwest of Prague destroyed and its residents and all livestock killed. Children deemed “racially pure” were sent to live as Germans.

The order was carried out on June 10, 1942. Approximately 340 people from Lidice were murdered in the German reprisal (192 men, 60 women, and 88 children). After the war ended, only 143 women and 17 children returned. The Nazis boasted of the massacre, which was picked up by Allied newspapers and radio.

Dominic Romano, a developer in Will County, heard of the atrocity and changed the name of his neighborhood from Stern Park to Lidice, and erected a small, monolithic memorial. The dedication to the massacre of Lidice and its victims has continued on the Sunday closest to June 10, as the Will County neighborhood became part of Crest Hill when the city was incorporated in 1960.

The city helped rebuild the monument, which was vandalized several times. It now features a larger monument, and adjacent rose gardens at the corner of Prairie and Hosmer. Dozens travel from Chicago and surrounding areas for the annual commemoration, this year held on June 9.

Speakers included Ondrej Pometlo, Deputy Counsel of the Czech Republic to Chicago; Alderwoman Tina Oberlin, who unofficially oversees day-to-day duties there; Mayor Ray Soliman; and representatives of the T.G. Masaryk Czech School in Cicero.

Knowing the youth must carry the message, the school assumed official oversight of the local commemoration from the Czechoslovak-American Congress. Students from the school also took turns reading sections from American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “The Murder of Lidice.”

After the war, Lidice was rebuilt, overlooking the original site. Residents and those who know the story vow to keep Lidice alive.

John Pritasil, President of the Czechoslovak American Congress, welcomes attendees to the commemoration.

Attendees listen to the program on a beautiful June morning.

Lidice Memorial Park now also includes a serene walkway and rose garden.

Members of the American Sokol Guard “Straz” presented the colors.

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