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4.0 out of 5 stars Lidice, the village the Nazis tried to wipe off the face of the earth, 8 Aug 2012
This review is from: Fall of the Innocent [DVD] (DVD)
In June 1942, in what was then Czechoslovakia and is now the Czech Republic, a small village just outside of Prague was 'wiped off the face of the earth' on the orders of Adolf Hitler. The village was called Lidice and it was selected for destruction because some of its residents had been implicated in The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Deputy Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia and the architect of the Final Solution. He was attacked by British-trained Czechoslovak agents on 27 May 1942 and fatally injured. He died of his injuries a few days later on 4 June and because Heydrich was one of Hitler's favourite Nazis, the village of Lidice was selected for total eradication in revenge for his death.

On the evening of 9 June 1942 the Germans arrived in the village and ordered the villagers to gather in the village square. Women and children were put on one side and men and boys over 15 were put on the other side. The men and boys were then put in farm buildings and the women and children were locked in the school. The villagers' homes were then ransacked and anything of value was taken. The next morning, the 203 women and 105 children were loaded onto trucks and taken away to Ravensbruck concentration camp. The 173 men were brought out of the farm buildings, lined up in front of mattresses laid against a wall and shot in batches of ten. A further 11 Lidice men who had been working in a nearby factory were also shot on their return home. The village was then razed to the ground so that not a stone was left standing and the land where Lidice had stood was ploughed flat so as to erase all trace of its existence. The whole thing was filmed by the SS. Of the 203 women sent to Ravensbruck, 153 survived. Of the 105 children sent with them, only 17 survived [those who had been deemed suitable for 'Aryanisation' and given to SS families]. The remaining children were gassed at Chemnitz extermination camp.

Apparently, the idea for this film [which was over five years in the making and, surprisingly, is the first ever Czech-made film about Lidice] came about after a meeting between the Czech writer, Zdenek Mahler, and the only male Lidice resident to have survived the massacre, a man called Frantisek Saidl. Saidl escaped the firing squad because when the massacre took place he was serving a four-year jail sentence in Prague prison for the accidental killing of his son in 1938. This film tells the story of the destruction of Lidice from the point of view of that convict [renamed Frantisek Sima in the film] and the friends and family he leaves behind in the ill-fated village - the majority of whom refuse to visit him because of the nature of his crime. And it is this - Sima's isolation from the unfolding events in the outside world - which adds such a tragic dimension to the story and makes the film so moving. The scene where Sima leaves prison on the morning of his release, completely unaware of the fate of his family and friends and gets on the bus to go home, is especially poignant precisely because we know what awaits him at the end of his short journey. This unusual and well-scripted take on a well-known piece of history is what makes this film so interesting and combined as it is with some good acting and some beautiful filming means that this film is definitely a recommend.

Like other reviewers though, I too have an issue with the art work on the sleeve of the UK edition of the DVD. It bears no relation whatsoever to the events which took place at Lidice in June 1942. "The true story of the battle of Lidice" says the strap line. There was no "battle". Unarmed men, women and children were just dragged from their homes and were either shot, deported to Ravensbruck or gassed at Chemnitz. In other countries the DVD has been released under the original Czech title "Lidice" so why not in the UK?

Finally, I'd just like to say that although I have been fortunate enough to visit the Czech Republic many times in the past, I've never yet taken the time to visit Lidice. After watching this film though, I now plan to correct that and I have already asked one of my Czech friends to make sure he takes me there when I next visit. As another reviewer points out, Lidice is only a 30 minute bus ride away from Prague and anyone visting the Czech capital should, perhaps, consider visiting the site.
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Lance Grundy
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Location: Great Britain

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