German President Joachim Gauck said in a letter to Czech counterpart Václav Klaus on Friday that Germany was aware of its historical responsibility for massacres at the Czech villages of Lidice and Ležáky during World War II. Mr Gauck wrote the letter ahead of the 70th anniversary of the destruction of Lidice and Ležáky by the Nazis in retaliation for the assassination of acting Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia Reinhard Heydrich on May 27, 1942. Heydrich succumbed to wounds suffered in the attack which was orchestrated by Czech paratroopers.
As a result, Lidice, in Central Bohemia, was obliterated on June 10 and Ležáky, East Bohemia, was burnt to the ground on June 24. In Lidice alone, all 173 men were executed, while most women and children were sent to concentration camps. Some of the children were selected for re-education in Nazi Germany. In his letter, German President Gauck wrote that the despicable acts in Lidice and Ležáky filled him with “deep sorrow and shame”, but cited positive ties between Germany and the Czech Republic today as reason for hope. In response, Václav Klaus thanked his German counterpart, saying that he considered the letter a strong statement and positive gesture.