A Haunting Visit to the Lidice Museum and Memorial

This statue of the Lidice children is one of the most powerful dark tourism memorials we've seen

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It’s taken me a while to decide what to write about the Lidice museum and memorial.

I keep starting sentences and deleting them. Then restarting and deleting that, as well.

Lidice was difficult to visit, and it’s damn hard to write about.

I’m not a big fan of articles about sites of atrocities that just say they were so sad, so very, very sad. It’s not that I don’t think those feelings are valid, but I often read them and think, “Well, yeah, it’s Auschwitz/the Killing Fields/*insert site of atrocity here.*”

I want something more substantial when I read those articles. It’s not that feelings have no place in them, your feelings and emotions are valid, okay. But I want history; I want to know that your stomach churned when you saw those piles of shoes or glasses at Auschwitz. Or that sweat dripped down your back as you held back tears at Tuol Sleng Prison.

Lidice moved me in a way no other dark tourism site ever has. And so, perhaps, for the first time, I almost understand why people struggle to find the words to describe that despondent feeling they experience at sites like this. Why anything – sadness, depression, despair – all sound too inadequate, or not quite right.

It’s still bad writing, though, and as writers (because bloggers are writers) we have to do better. Because I never think ‘sad’ is sufficient.

So What is Lidice?

Entrance to the Lidice Museum and Memorial

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit, I had never heard of Lidice until arriving in Prague (for the second time). After meeting our awesome Airbnb host, and introducing ourselves, the topic of our blog – and thus our blog niche – came up.

“You have to go to Lidice,” she informs us.

“What’s that?” I ask, curiously.

“It’s this village that the Nazis wiped out during WWII. They completely erased it from the maps. And no one outside of Czechia even knew. After the war they found out, and countries all over the world started naming places Lidice so that it would never be forgotten. When I lived in Mexico, I even met a few little girls named Lidice.”

As you can imagine, we did not need much more convincing.

Please note: If you are just looking for info on how to get to Lidice and what there is to see and do, scroll towards the bottom. Otherwise, please be aware that some of the information is somewhat reiterated again in these sections.

The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich & Aftermath

The Czech Republic, like the rest of Europe, has plenty of dark history, and the city of Prague is of course no exception. But one of the bleakest periods in the dark history of Prague is what is now known as the Heydrich terror. We have a whole post on the Heydrich Terror and the National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror (which you should totally go read… just saying). So I won’t go into much depth here.

But the real brief version:

Reinhard Heydrich was an important, high up member of the Nazi Party. He was transferred to Prague to eliminate the Nazi-resistance.

He was assassinated by members of the aforementioned Nazi-resistance.

In retaliation for Heydrich’s death, the Nazis rounded up, interrogated and executed thousands of Czechoslovakians. They also razed two towns – Lidice and Ležáky – to the ground and did all they could to erase them from memory. 

But Lidice was not forgotten.

Dead Roses

We arrive at Lidice on a cold afternoon in late December. Having missed the bus in Prague by minutes – and consequently waiting over an hour for the next one – we are arriving much later than intended. But it’s our own fault for not checking the bus times.

Outside of the city, the chill in the air is much more apparent, and we shiver as we approach the town. Although the bus here was packed, we were the only ones to alight at Lidice, and we are the only ones around.

Today around 430 people live in Lidice, and the town proper is a little further along than the memorial. Nevertheless, the only other people we see during our entire visit in Lidice are staff members at the museum.

In my mind, Lidice is split into 3 distinct sections: the old village and site of the massacre which today is a large memorial park, the museum (which is kind of part of the park, but is different as it sits above it), and the modern day town of Lidice.

As we walk towards the museum, it is eerily quiet. There don’t even appear to be any birds. The only sound is the wind whipping through the stripped trees.

The grounds appear shrouded in mist, adding an ethereal quality to it. Most of the grass is covered in rain, although some still sports unmelted patches of snow.

Dead Roses in the Lidice Rose Garden

We come to an open space; to one side is a fountain, to the other a wall of city crests and a sign that tells us beyond that is normally a rose garden. The Rose Garden is surprisingly expansive.

“Must be beautiful in the spring,” I say softly, feeling oddly transfixed by the professionally designed rows of dead and dying rose bushes.

Jeremy slips his fingers in mine as we both look solemnly out over what is likely a well landscaped rose garden 3/4 of the year.

After a few moments of silence, we tear ourselves away and approach the empty fountain. While I suspect its emptiness is to avoid it freezing over in the winter, the combination of the drained fountain and the rows of dead roses causes Lidice to feel abandoned, as if the residents were forced to up and leave overnight like Chernobyl.

Of course, I remind myself the truth is even more sinister.

I squeeze Jeremy’s hand.

Fallen Cities

Next we head towards the row of crests. Hiroshima, Putten, Bande, Marzabotto, Oradour, Stalingrad, Coventry, Lidice, Warsaw, Kragujevac, Distomo, Telavåg, Dresden.

All these cities suffered devastating tragedies during WWII. Some were bombed, like Coventry, Dresden or Hiroshima, while others suffered sadistic massacres like Lidice, Marzabotto and Oradour. A few, I’ve never even heard of, like Distomo, which I learn later is another village the Nazis tried to wipe from history; or Telavåg which was a tragedy also perpetuated by Nazi reprisals.

Some of the cities no longer exist.

Quite a few of the places listed are part of the axis power countries. I am touched that they are included here, bound together in tragedy with victims of other cities, towns and villages who were seemingly their enemies.

Lidice crest with peace branch and roses

The Lidice Museum

The design of the Lidice memorial and museum is such that from the museum ‘section’ is a walkway area where you can overlook the old village of Lidice, which today is a memorial park. One part of this walkway has a transparent map that allows us to see what the original village looked like and what different structures once were. Most of the original buildings now have sculptures in their place. 

Although there is no specified way to see Lidice, we recommend visiting the museum before the park because it really puts the memorials into context, often in harrowing ways.

As we first enter the museum, our visit begins in a circular room. The lovely woman who guides us in, instructs us to sit down on a bench in the middle of the room and then disappears. In front of us, a film starts to play. It details what life was like in Lidice prior to the war. It also briefly covers what was happening in Prague leading up to the massacre.

It is a quick video, at most ten minutes. When it finishes, we slowly push open the heavy door leading into the rest of the museum.

The room is dark. Not pitch black, but atmospherically dimmed, and though it feels very clear where to head next, everything is laid out a bit haphazardly. But not in a bad way. It is informative, but disorienting, and adds to my discomfort as we inch our way between displays.

All of the items in the Lidice museum belong to former residents of the village, or are part of the village itself – from photos to pendants. In the centre of the room is an old church door, encased in glass. It is the only piece of the village that remains. This makes me think of our WWII walking tour in London, and how our guide told us that Winston Churchill did everything in his power to ensure that St Paul’s Cathedral was not destroyed in order to provide hope to the people – even as everything around it went up in flames.

One thing that really stands out is the museum’s focus on individual stories. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of placards with cold, hard facts, but so many of the photos and pieces are accompanied by stories of the people who once lived here.

The Fate of Lidice

The Nazis claimed that they received intel that members of Operation Anthropoid, the resistance group responsible for Heydrich’s assassination, were hiding out in Lidice. However, no proof of such a tip has ever been uncovered. Another reason given for Lidice’s annihilation was that a letter sent from a resident of the village was intercepted and marked as “suspicious.”

However, the general belief is that what happened in Lidice was done out of pure malice and random happenstance.

As retribution for one of his top officers, and upon hearing that Lidice might be harboring enemies of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler ordered the following be carried out in Lidice:

1. All adult males to be executed

The Nazis rolled into the sleepy village of Lidice in the late evening of 9 June 1942. 

They immediately began locking people inside their homes, under guard, for the evening. They were told to pack warm clothes and valuables as they would be transported the next day. Anyone who resisted – man, woman, or child – was shot on sight.

The following morning, the men were taken to a barn belonging to the Horák family, at the edge of the village. Mattresses from nearby homes were removed and laid against the barn.

By 7:00 am, the SS troops began their massacre of the Lidice men.

Initially, they shot them in groups of five, but the SS commanders in charge, Horst Böhme, Karl Hermann Frank and Kurt Dalüge, decided this was too slow and instead increased it to ten men at a time.

All that remains of the Horák farm

Supposedly, to ensure they were dead, Böhme ordered that every man be shot three times: twice from a distance – once in the head and once in the heart, and that the officers then approach and shoot them one last time in the head.

When they had finished, 173 Lidice men and teenage boys above the age of 15 were dead. A further 19 men and 11 women who were not present in the village were hunted down and taken to Prague to be executed.

Their bodies were left, strewn carelessly in front of the Horák farm, until the following afternoon. On 11 June 1942, a prison transport on its way to the Terezín Ghetto and Concentration Camp was ordered to stop and dig a communal grave.

2. All woman to be immediately transported to concentration camps

Unlike the men, the women were not immediately sentenced to death. Although a handful were also rounded up with the men and shot.

The women and children were held hostage first in the Lidice school before being moved to the Kladno grammar school. Four pregnant women were taken to a hospital in Prague – in fact, the same one Heydrich was treated and died at – and forced to undergo abortions. They were then each sent to separate concentration camps. 

On 12 June 1942, the remaining Lidice women were also sent to camps. 184 were sent to Ravensbrück, and those who had children, were cruelly separated from them. The Nazis promised they would be reunited soon. A further 19 were sent to other camps.

Memorial sculpture of a woman

Ravensbrück was a labour camp exclusively for women.

Although it was classified as a labour camp, conditions were by no means pleasant. The exact death toll of Ravensbrück remains unknown, but it has been reported as anywhere between 30,000 and 120,000. However, most historians believe the number is likely between 50,000 and 90,000. It is likely that around 30,000 of those deaths were a direct result of starvation and poor living conditions.

Of the 203 Lidice women sent to concentration camps, 60 died in the camps. But only a handful would ever return to Lidice or the Czech Republic. Even less were reunited with their children.

3. All children suitable for “Germanizing” to be placed with SS families in the Reich and raised as Germans; the rest to be re-educated by other means

105 Lidice children were held in the Kladno grammar school until 13 June 1942. They were then transported to the Czech town of Lovosice, near Łódź. Their arrival was foretold by a telegraph from Horst Böhme stating that “these children are only bringing what they wear. No special care is desirable.”

And none was provided. The children were barely fed, and forced to sleep on the cold dirt floor without blankets. They were forbidden to receive medical treatment.

The only kindness given was, in fact, insidious. Each child was provided with paper and pens to write letters home to their families. Not to family from Lidice, but any that they had further afield, such as grandparents in Prague or even aunts and uncles in London.

Today some of these letters are on display in the museum, and they are heartbreaking. Nearly every child asked their family to send food and clothes because they didn’t have any and didn’t know when they next would. They talked about the conditions where they were staying, and said they were sad and wanted to go home.

While in Lovosice, the Central Race and Settlement branch selected several of the children at random. A handful more who were considered easy to pass off as German (young and blonde), were given to German families.

Sculpture in Lidice of two children playing entitled Peace

On 3 July 1942, the remaining 82 children were handed over to the Gestapo and ordered to be taken to Chełmno Concentration Camp.

Chełmno, located about 80km from Łódź, was the first extermination camp the Nazis built. The estimated death toll varies from 152,000 to 340,000 (this was provided by the Soviets and likely too high – during the Chełmno Trials, it was quoted at being around 180,000). Depending on exact figures, Chełmno was either the fifth or fourth deadliest concentration camp during WWII, topped only by Bełżec, Treblinka, Auschwitz and possibly Sobibór.

But the children never made it to Chełmno. Instead, they were gassed to death on the way in specially designed Magirus gas trucks. It is believed that Adolf Eichmann ordered this, however it was never proven and he was not tried for it during his Jerusalem trial.

Out of 105 Lidice children, 82 were gassed on their way to Chełmno, and six died in the care of the German Lebensborn orphanages. Only 17 returned home.

4. The village of Lidice to be destroyed and the area levelled

The Nazis were nothing if not thorough. All of the town structures were ripped from the ground and explosives used to ensure absolute destruction. They even went so far as to dig up the graveyard and burn the buried bodies so no trace remained.

Once the buildings were destroyed, and the graves desecrated; once every man, woman and child who was murdered at Lidice was thrown into a mass grave; once no one was left to remember it, the Nazis had a road paved over Lidice so that anyone passing through would never know a village had existed.

When they finished at Lidice, they moved further east to a town called Ležáky and did almost the exact same thing. Sadly, while Lidice received lots of press coverage during and after the war, but has become much less remembered over time, Ležáky – which does not benefit from being a hop skip and jump from Prague, has sunk even further down the memory hole.

Final Interviews

Reading about everything that happened at Lidice feels like an unrelenting gut punch. With every story and photograph, it is as though a crater is growing in my stomach and swallowing my typically calm and collected demeanor. By the time we make it to the final section of the museum, I’m a little shaky on my feet and feeling a tad queasy.

I am happy to take a seat. Until, that is, a video starts to play. Here we listen to interviews with the handful of Lidice survivors (mostly the few surviving children due to when the interviews were conducted) as they explain how they felt returning to a home that literally no longer existed. How they found out no one else was left.

Mural depicting what happened to the Lidice men
Mural depicting what happened to the Lidice men

The Lidice survivors recount harrowing tales. One woman tears up as she remembers being reintroduced to her own mother and not being able to communicate because she now spoke only German and her mother Czech. Another speaks of being raised by a German family in Poland and then being kicked out of Poland after the war (the only home she knew) because they thought she was German. However, she was then separated from her ‘parents’ and repatriated back to Czechoslovakia where she was completely alone, didn’t speak the language and was still treated as a German.

Those interviewed who were sent to Ravensbrük describe life in the camp, and the difficult life of slave labour doing factory work (many of the Ravensbrük inmates made leather and other textiles).

Most of the survivors had no home or family to return to. None of them knew what happened to Lidice until after the war.

Walking around the Lidice Memorial

Below the museum, is all that is left of the original Lidice village: the now excavated foundations of the school, the church and the Horák farm.

We are glad that we opted to visit the museum first because it helps us fully understand the significance of each building. Walking past the brick remains of the Horák farm, which now look like a trench, I imagine the terror and chaos as groups of men and teenage boys were lined up and shot against it. My stomach churns.

Further along, within the stone outline of the school, stands a looming stone sculpture of a mother and child. The child is pressed up against their mother, grasping her legs as the mother cries in agony. My throat constricts, as if I am remembering their fear; locked up in the school, guns pointed at them, surrounded by all the women and children of the village as blasts of gunfire echo in the distance.

Mother and child statue outside the old Lidice school foundations

As we approach the site of the old graveyard (and the current one), I envision the smug demeanor of the Nazi commanders as they stood menacingly over the graves. They contemplate its fate before ordering every trace be destroyed.

Jeremy and I stand next to the graveyard in silence, overlooking the memorial park that was once the village of Lidice. I am suddenly struck by how beautiful it is, and then a little embarrassed by the happiness I feel that they have turned something so horrific and evil into something so lovely. Granted, the town itself is shrouded in a feeling of somberness – probably not aided by the grey sky overheard – and the sculptures throughout the park are harrowing. But something about it is beautiful and inviting.

War Children’s Victim Monument

Our final stop before heading back to the bus is the War Children’s Victim Monument. This is one of the most arresting monuments in the memorial park.

The War Children’s Victim Monument in the Lidice Memorial Park

The monument is comprised of 82 individual bronze statues of children, representing the 82 gassed on their way to Chełmno. The children are huddled together looking off into the distance – most look forwards, though some stare off to the sides. Older children comfort the younger ones, trying to stay strong for each other. The children range from toddlers to young teenagers.

It took the Czech sculptor Marie Uchytilová over 20 years to create, and in fact she passed away before it was completed. Her husband J. V. Hampl dedicated himself to finishing Marie’s life’s work. By 1995, 35 of the children were returned to Lidice. However, it was not until 2000 that all 82 made their way back home.

Facing the monument, I realise suddenly that I am holding my breath, as if waiting for one of them to speak; they seem so lifelike. It rained not long before we arrived, and the bronze children are still dripping wet. They appear cold, hungry, confused and terrified. Though most of the older children look straight through us, many of the younger ones’ metal eyes plead with us for help. Some of the children hold hands, a few of the little ones suck on their fingers; a young boy whispers a secret to his older sister who leans in to hear him. One girl to the right catches my eye, as she clasps her hands to her chest and looks forward stoically.

In front of the children are various teddy bears and other toys that visitors have left to keep them company. I don’t know what it is about abandoned stuffed animals, especially wet ones, but they break my heart every time.

After we leave the children, Jeremy and I head back to the bus stop. We don’t speak, both of us unsure what to say to each other. And yet, I want to talk about it, how tragic it was, how sad it’s made me. But I can’t think of anything that would do the experience justice, so instead we both sit in silence and hold hands as we ride back to Prague. 

What to See & Do in Lidice

Lidice Museum

Gloriet outside the Lidice Museum

The museum covers life in Lidice before the war, and of course the atrocities committed during the Lidice massacre. It details what happened to individual groups (men, women and children), and has several personal items and photographs on display.

There is also a section on Operation Anthropoid: what it was and its connection to Lidice. If you have not been to the Heydrich Terror Memorial, this will give you enough of an overview. However, we do recommend visiting the crypt in Prague if you have time.

Outside the museum there are also stone murals depicting the atrocity.

At the time of our visit, entrance to museum was 90 Kč (≈ $4.00). However, check here for up to date prices and for information on how to book a guided tour, if your prefer. The cost of the Museum ticket includes almost all other sites in Lidice, including In Memoriam and the Gallery. The website states it also covers the Family House No. 116 (see more on this below).

Please note: No photography is allowed in the museum.

In Memoriam

Beneath the Lidice Museum (but in the same building), is another gallery. Unlike the museum above it, this does not house a permanent collection. Instead, it hosts thematic exhibitions from around the world. These typically relate in some way to WWII atrocities.

Unfortunately, this was not open when we visited.

The Rose Garden

Near to the museum there is also a rose garden, and a few memorial sculptures – such as crests for other sites destroyed in WWII.

The idea for the Rose Garden was proposed by a group called Lidice Shall Live in England. It is 3.5 hectares and currently houses more than 24,000 rose bushes, which are comprised of 240 different types of roses. The garden lies between the old village and the new town of Lidice.

It is important to be aware that the rose garden is not in bloom in the winter. Click here to see what it looks like in bloom.

Lidice Memorial Park

The Lidice Memorial Park covers the ground of the previous village. Scattered throughout are various sculptures, many in place of buildings of significance. In particular, there are now memorials laid over the foundations of the old church and school. There are also numerous benches for visitors to sit and reflect.

However, perhaps the most well known/photographed – and for us the most moving – was the War Children’s Victim Monument. The monument was created by sculptor Marie Uchytilová, who was incredibly affected by what happened at Lidice. She began work on the sculpture in 1969. It took two decades for her to create the 82 statues of larger than life-sized children in plaster cast. These were then displayed to raise money for the monument.

However, she never received any of the donation money, so instead began casting the statues in bronze on her own dime. Tragically, she died after finishing only three of the statues.

Her husband J. V. Hampl continued her work, starting in 1990. The first 35 statues were unveiled on site in 1995, and a further seven added between 1996 and 2000.

The Old Graveyard

Makeshift graves in place of the original ones
Makeshift graves in place of the original ones

Just beyond the memorial park is the site of the old graveyard (and next to it is the current graveyard). 

We did not go into the current graveyard as it is quite small and there were a few mourners inside and we did not want to disturb them. However, just outside it is a memorial marking where the original cemetery was.

This memorial is all that remains of those once buried here as the Nazis dug up and burned the bodies following the Lidice Massacre.

The Lidice Art Gallery

We were unable to visit the two sites that are located in the newly established Lidice. This was in part because we arrived much later than planned to Lidice and needed to meet Jeremy’s family back in Prague. But it was also because we were feeling pretty emotionally drained.

However, in the town of Lidice is an art gallery that is supposed to be well worth the visit, and we’re sad to have missed it. The gallery consists of two floors. Upstairs houses a permanent collection of pieces gifted to the town by artists and other people from around the world.

The first floor hosts temporary collections throughout the year. However, from May to October it also showcases the International Children’s Exhibition of Fine Arts (the pieces on display change each year).

Entrance to the Gallery is included in the cost of the Lidice Museum ticket.

FYI: When I say it’s located in the new town, I mean it is literally 500 meters away, but if we didn’t leave and catch the bus, we would have been there at least another hour, making us quite late.

Family House No. 116

Family House No. 116 was established to show the public the process undergone to rebuild the town of Lidice after the war.

Within the home, you can also see what homes – and life – were like in the 1950s and 60s all the way up to everyday life in modern-day Lidice.

Although the Lidice website states that the cost of the Lidice Museum ticket covers entrance to Family House No. 116, it also states elsewhere that the house can only be visited with a guide and that these tickets can be purchased from the nearby Lidice Art Gallery. It is our understanding that the museum ticket will cover all areas now, however please confirm this before or during your visit as information may have changed.

How to get there

Sign outside the Lidice bus stop

Although you can do a tour from Prague, we honestly recommend getting to Lidice by yourself. Guided tours can be booked directly through Lidice, or you can cover it all independently. This of course depends on personal preference.

If you have a car, you will need to check Google Maps (or your preferred mapping method) for how to get out of Prague. But from there, it is straight along the D7 before turning onto the 61.

Buses from Prague to Lidice leave from two stations. As of June 2019, tickets should cost around 24 Kč (≈ $1). Make sure you look out for the Lidice sign as buses outside of Prague city centre do not stop at every stop, and not all buses display the upcoming stop. 

Be sure to check current bus times (English option available).

From Nádraží Veleslavín Bus Station catch the 300 bus from Platform 3. Lidice is the 4th stop. The journey takes approximately 15 minutes.

You can also catch the 322 from Nádraží Veleslavín (also Platform 3). However, this takes 40 minutes, so may cost more. If you opt for this route, Lidice is the 17th stop.


From Zličín Bus Station take the 324 from Platform 4. The journey is approximately 25 minutes, and Lidice is the 6th stop.

Once in Lidice, the bus times to return to Prague should be listed at the bus stop (although it doesn’t hurt to check online ahead of time).

Conclusion & Take Away

Sign on the Lidice grounds reading 'May Peace Prevail on Earth' in several languages

Getting to Lidice was the one time we regretted staying so far away from the city. It went from taking 15-30 minutes to get there to nearly two hours (not including wait-time for missing the bus). Because of this we almost decided not to visit as we (read: me and my infected bug bites) were feeling a bit lethargic.

But we’re honestly so glad that we sucked it up and went because Lidice is probably my “favourite” dark tourism site to date. It certainly had the biggest impact on me, and truly embodied why we visit these sites: to stay educated and informed and to never forget.

Despite the fact that Lidice is actually much closer to the city center than Terezín Ghetto and Concentration Camp, it is not a popular place to visit. Unlike Terezín, Sedlec Ossuary, and numerous other day trips from Prague, I didn’t see trips or tours to Lidice advertised anywhere. And I don’t think its close proximity to Prague is to blame for this. I just think people aren’t aware it exists.

There are tours available online, like this one, but they tend to be quite expensive and have no reviews.

Although I believe most Czechs visit at some point in school, if not later in life, very few foreign tourists know about, let alone visit Lidice. And I think this is a real shame. I think Terezín is an important place to visit; it highlights the dangers of propaganda, an increasingly relevant problem in the world of “fake news.” Nevertheless, Lidice has a powerful story to tell, too.

We want more people to learn about the Lidice Massacre, and we want more people to visit the memorial and museum.

Have you been to the Lidice Museum and Memorial? What was your experience? Are there any dark tourism destinations that made you feel this way? Please feel free to let us know in the comments.


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