Czech Republic Excursions

From Berlin to Prague in a New York minute!

Yesterday the fam and I trained our way to the Czech Republic, which looks like something out of a Disney fairytale. Castles set atop green, grassy hills, sparkling in the twilight, etc.

Today we spent the day exploring two WWII sites that couldn’t have been further from a happy ending.

The first, Lidice Memorial, was built in commemoration of a small Czech village that was completely annihilated by German forces after unsubstantiated evidence linked it to the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the second in command of the Nazi regime. Hitler ordered complete destruction of the town as retaliation: Every single male over the age of 16 was brutally executed by firing squad, the women and children were gassed or sent to concentration camps to be gassed. Every single house was set on fire and destoryed—remaining materials were thrown into the nearby river.

The town virtually ceased to exist.

Today, there sits only a building with a small museum, a mass grave and an incredible bronze sculpture. But, as you look out onto a beautiful grassy knoll that stretches for miles, it’s what’s no longer there that’s most powerful.

The second landmark, Terezin, was a former Hasburg fortress turned concentration camp and a complete anomaly when it comes to the latter. What made Terezin different was that it was created as propaganda for the Nazis to host red cross representatives.

Many of the jews who perished here died of natural causes. There was a hospital, synagogues and nightly operas. Families were allowed to stay together. It was by no means a good place—there was overcrowding, health epidemics, food rations and many of the people only passed through on their way to death camps. But still it was hidden enough so that many a human rights official walked through its doors and left none the wiser to the terror of the Nazi regime.

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