When major events happened in the World War II era, diary writers often recorded their reactions as soon as the news became available. This is very important, because accounts that were written later often include insights not available at the time. Diaries written at the time reflect all of the confusion and uncertainty that frequently accompanies events as they unfold. We can avoid drawing unwarranted conclusions about the past by taking advantage of the first sources written after important events occurred.
A pivotal event in the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany happened at the end of May 1942. On May 27, two Czech resistance fighters who had trained in Great Britain carried out an assassination attempt against Reinhard Heydrich. He did not die immediately, but succumbed to his injuries on June 4th. Heydrich was one of the highest ranking officers in the SS and was a key figure in the planning and execution of the Holocaust. Among his many responsibilities, he held the office of “Reich Protector of Bohemia-Moravia”. This made him the ruler of the Czech area of the former Czechoslovakia. He was brutally effective in this position, so his death was a major blow to the Nazis.
Petr Ginz wrote about the assassination attempt on the same day that it happened. For the next ten days, Petr recorded all of the rumors that were swirling around about the event and the terrible reprisals that were being carried out against Czech citizens, particularly Jews. He also wrote about the ongoing search for the assassins, who had not yet been caught. Even though much remained unsettled, one thing became clear on June 5th. Petr wrote, “The report about SS Obergruppenführer Heydrich’s death has been confirmed. His picture in a black frame completely covers the front page of the newspapers. From 3 P.M. on Saturday until 8 A.M. on Monday Jews are not allowed to walk in Prikopy, Narodni Avenue, Wenceslas Square and many other places. Rather than remember them all, I prefer to sit at home.”
Petr was wise to stay off the streets as much as possible at this dangerous time. The Nazis took terrible vengeance on the helpless Czech people as a result of Heydrich’s death. One of the worst reprisals fell on the town of Lidice, which the Nazis completely destroyed.
June 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the destruction of Lidice. You may learn more about the terrible fate of Lidice and how the site has been preserved at its memorial website.
You may read about the career and the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich here.
You may read more about Petr Ginz and his many accomplishments here.
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