Emilie Rohlova is not a name to be found in the history books. Her life was a tiny footnote in a much greater story, a story of power and revenge, over which she had no control. Eighty years ago, in the summer of 1942, she was a wife and mother living in the tiny village of Lidice in Czechoslovakia just a few miles from Prague.
Just after midnight on June 10, the Gestapo and SS appeared. The villagers, powerless against such odds, were herded into the main square and separated, men from women and children. The men and those wives who refused to be separated from their husbands were taken to the nearby Horak’s farm and were summarily shot. Among them was Father Josef Stembarka, pastor of the village church for the past 33 years. Every structure in Lidice was burned to the ground and even the cemetery was dug up in an effort to “obliterate the community” – utter savagery, about which the Nazis bragged in radio broadcasts the next day and later in propaganda films.
The women and children had been taken in the night to a nearby village, where they were separated as well. The women were shipped to Ravensbruck and the children to Lodz for “inspection”. Upon inspection, 9 children were “selected” for their Aryan features, blond hair and blue eyes, and shipped to Germany for “Germanization”. The remaining children of Lidice, 81 of them, were transferred to Chelmno and murdered by carbon monoxide poisoning on July 2.
Why did this happen? What possible explanation could there be? The answer is a simple one - revenge. Just six days before the events in Lidice, Reinhard Heydrich, Deputy of the Proctectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, had died following an attempt on his life, and Hitler, in a rage, demanded retribution. Heydrich was one of the Nazi elite - head of intelligence for the SS and Gestapo, creator of the Einsatzgruppen, and principal architect of the “Final Solution”. He was young, ruthless, and entirely devoted to the Fuhrer and Nazi ideology. He was injured and ultimately died from a bomb thrown into his car by two Free Czech agents. A hasty investigation followed and the name of Horak’s farm in Lidice came up, but was proven not to be involved. When Hitler was told, he simply didn’t care. He wanted the Czechs taught a lesson…and so came the night of June 10.
After the war, 143 women and 17 children, many born after their fathers were killed, returned to the ruins of Lidice. A new village was built just meters away and is home to about 500 people. One of the “Germanized” kids came back and served for a time as mayor. A museum and rose garden now occupy the land on which the original Lidice sat and a cross rests on the hill in memory. And Emilie Rohlova? She came back in 1945 and waited for her little dark-haired girl. When she died in 1991, three secret diaries were found - diaries she wrote to her daughter for almost 50 years. “No one has read my notebook yet. When you come back we will read it together. Now I will seal it up and hide it and you can open it, my little girl, by yourself. Please come back soon, so I won’t be so alone. I kiss you in my heart…”
In memory of all the moms and dads and children who never came back.