Lidice massacre masterminds brought to justice

in Culture

Nazis behind mass killing of innocent Czechoslovak civilians were sentenced to death shortly after World War II

The Nuremberg trials, which started shortly after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II and wrapped up less than a year later, dealt with many of the most egregious crimes committed by the members of the Nazi party or collaborators with the Nazis.

Testimony was presented in various languages, and the Czechoslovak representative was one of the sharpest legal minds his country ever knew, Professor Bohuslav Ečer, who was the first to define the concept of “crime against humanity,” along with Egon Schwelb. Despite his illustrious career, Ečer was targeted by the communist regime for leaning right of center, and it did not help his case that he worked hard to free Milada Horáková from the injustices of a show trial. He died of ill health in 1954, at the relatively young age of 60 years.

But the Nuremberg trials were not the only judicial solution to the events of the previous decade, and the issue of the massacre of Lidice — the town close to Prague that was razed to the ground and whose population was decimated following the assassination of the top Nazi representative in Prague, Reinhard Heydrich — in 1942 was addressed by a people’s court in Pankrác in April 1947, which sentenced 15 former Gestapo members for their roles in the mass killing of the Czechs in Lidice.

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Judge Antonín Kozák presided over the case, which saw the odious Karl Hermann Frank, a Czechoslovak who had betrayed his country by siding with Hitler and stoking unrest in the Sudetenland border region prior to the Munich Agreement, accused of being chiefly responsible for the bloodbath in the tiny town in 1942.

The video below also shows Harald Wiesman, the Gestapo chief of Kladno (the largest town in the immediate vicinity of Lidice) and chief instigator of the massacre, and Thomas Thomsen, his second in command.

Ultimately, Frank, who did not have to appear at Nuremberg, would be found guilty of his crime by this people’s court and sentenced to death by hanging in Pankrác Prison. His death was welcomed by the general Czechoslovak population, which had suffered indescribable hardship because of his treacherous behavior, and at least 5,000 people — many of them the widows of the men who were executed by the Nazis in Lidice— turned out to watch his public execution May 22, 1947.

According to news reports from the time, some of Frank’s last words, which he spoke while the noose was being adjusted around his neck, were, “Deutschland wird leben auch wenn wir nicht leben” (Germany will live, even if we won’t). He was wearing a tattered uniform of the Nazi Party’s Elite Guard on his last day on earth.

Video of Frank’s execution is available online.

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