Locals indignant and saddened at theft of part of memorial to Lidice children

Part of a monument to the child victims of a notorious World War II massacre has been stolen. One figure from a group of life-sized bronze statues at the Lidice memorial in central Bohemia was taken last week, leaving local people shocked that anyone could so such a thing.

In what for Czechs was one of the most horrific episodes of World War II, the Nazis murdered the inhabitants of Lidice and razed the small village to the ground in 1942, as part of reprisals for the assassination of the German governor of Bohemia and Moravia.

The men were immediately executed, while almost all of the women and children were later killed at Nazi death camps.

In all, 82 of the village’s 103 children died in the gas chambers, and it was in their honour that a group of life-sized bronze statues was erected at the Lidice Memorial in the 1990s. It had taken over two decades to create them all.

Last week one of those statues was broken off at the feet and stolen. The speculation is that it could have been taken to order, for some unscrupulous art collector, or simply for sale as scrap metal.

Lidice, 1942Lidice, 1942 Milouš Červencl is the director of the Lidice Memorial. He says he doesn’t know why it was taken, but he has a good idea how.

“They entered the protected zone, where there were infra-red beam detectors, which they set off. Then they crudely broke off one of the smallest statues in the group and took it away. Given the weight of the statue – around 80 kilogrammes – I assume there must have been at least two perpetrators.”

Mr Červencl says he and his colleagues have been taken aback by the theft.

“Our reaction is naturally one of indignation, sadness. Most of us at the memorial, and people who remember what happened here, have been shaking their heads in disbelief. Memorials like Lidice are frequently attacked by vandals and thieves. But for the decade that the complete collection of statues has been in place we’ve never seen any attacks on this spot, which we thought visitors regarded as taboo.”

The good news is that the original moulds made by the late sculptor Marie Uchytilová and her husband Jiří Hampl have been preserved.

Lidice memorialLidice memorial “If the statue is not found, we have learned that we still have the mould. We have already spoken to the iron founder who cast the statues in the past. He can make us a new one – it’s a question of about a month’s work.”

In the meantime, the people behind a feature film about the Lidice massacre that is currently in production have offered a small reward for the return of the statue.