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An important part of the Silver A story is the post-war search for the survivors and the culprits. The commemorating service for the victims of the after-Heydrich terror was attended by tens of thousands of people.

Already during the Second World War, the first trials against the war criminals began. The first trials ever started in the liberated territory of the USSR in the summer of 1943 in Krasnodar. With the advancing front and revealing the yet unknown scale of the war atrocities the international interest in prosecuting people responsible for all that grew. Number of international treaties continuously regulated the legal conditions rectifying the process of “settlement” throughout occupied Europe.

The topic of Lidice and Ležáky, primarily children victims, appeared during a series of Nuremberg trials in the years 1946-1947. The imaginary chart of the most successful countries prosecuting the war criminals, Czechoslovakia came in the second place (22,000 convicted German and Austrian offenders), right behind the USSR (26,000 German war criminals). By far, however, the main actors of the war injustice were not punished. At the other end there was Italy with approximately 35 German perpetrators and surprisingly quite ravaged Greece with only 14 convicts. In Czechoslovakia, the main perpetrators, including K. H. Frank (executed 22.5.1946) and later Acting Reich Protector and Supreme Chief of the protective police Daluege (executed 23.10.1946) were executed for their crimes. Hard to understand, but the Czechoslovak justice deprived police Commander Paul Riege of personal responsibility, even though his units carried out during the second martial law executions and participated in the burning of Lidice and Ležáky. In the spring of 1947, he was released from Nuremberg to Czechoslovakia to be deported to the Western zone of GDG in the summer of 1948 even though his release was required by the Polish government. Riege’s release complicated the prosecution of commanders of various execution squads on the west of “the Iron Curtain” because they were referring to the orders of their superior. 
 

Four members of the Gestapo who were in 1946-1947 convicted by the Superior People’s Court in Chrudim did not escape their capital punishments. In 1950, former Gestapo officer from Pardubice Walter Lehne, who suddenly died though, was sent from GDR to Czechoslovakia.

In 1963-1965, the search for the criminals of the Nazi regime was gradually initiated (11). The impulse to renew the search for the war-criminals was imminent limitation of war crimes as of 8th May 1965. On 26th November 1968, the UN General Assembly in New York accepted the Convention on imprescribility of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This significant international step led to the escalation of global efforts to prosecute the Nazi war criminals.

In connection with Ležáky and Lidice, one of the first additionally convicted criminals was Hermann Krumey, who was responsible for, among others, 82 children from Lidice, 11 from Ležáky in Chelm. In a complicated trial in 1969, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment and he died in jail in Erfstadt in 1981. In 1971 in GDR, former regimenta commander of the safety police from Kolín Fritz Gottspfennig, whose regiment from Pardubice and Hradce Králové executed people during the second martial law. Even though he was sentenced to “only” 12 years of imprisonment he did not live to enjoy his freedom. He died in prison in Schwerin in 1976.

The last case of a convicted criminal was Heinz Barth, a shooter at the Manor in Pardubice and he was involved in the massacre in French Oradour sur Glane (12). He was captured in 1981, despite his life sentence given by the East German Court he was released in 1997. He had visited his former place of service before he died in Berlin in 2007. 

Even though there were almost two dozen members of former Pardubice Gestapo and the safety police revealed and interrogated in FRG and Austria between 1958-1983, not one of them despite the efforts of the Czechoslovak Government Commission for Nazi War criminals Prosecution stood in front of the judges.  
 

Post-war memorial ceremonies were part of everyday reality of liberated Czechoslovakia. In the very first days of May the places of death of the killed in the May uprising were decorated. At the same time they were carrying out exhumation of victims from places known to the public or revealed in connection with the interrogation of the war criminals. Terezín did not even have time to shake off the terror of the war when in June 1945 a first memorial meeting was held in Lidice and Ležáky.

On 24th June 1945, an estimated number of eighty thousand participants of a memorial service gathered in Ležáky. Despite the fact that during the following years the number significantly decreased to a few thousand, it became an annual tradition of remembering the victims. Especially during the first three years the main topic of all photographers was piles of stones representing the original places of burnt houses and “graves of the heroes”, deep bonds formed between the survivors and participants of the events in Ležáky and Lidice. Even people from neighbouring villages visited the sites of the Nazi terror to see the horrific past and honour the memory of those who did not live to see the liberation.

Two girls from a mill in Ležáky were located; they came back to Czechoslovakia during the repatriation in 1946 and 1947, and became an integral part of the memorial service. Their presence became a symbol of a new Czechoslovak society and a liberating feeing of the end of the war. After the hardship of the war their grandfather František Pelikán came back to the homeland; and young Bohumil Čech came back from his deployment. Since 1942, Zdeněk Hrdý had been trying to survive in the surrounding woods and miller’s apprentice Jan Pavliš was a principal witness in the investigation of the Ležáky tragedy.

In 1945, the Manor, where 194 people including Ležáky citizens died between 3rd June and 9th July 1942 became a bearer of historical events. The foundation stone of a new monument based on a proposal of MUDr. Karel Jičínsky was placed on 5th July 1946 (13).

While in Lidice and Mladá Boleslav there are buried the remains of shot men, monuments the Manor and the National Cultural Herritage Ležáky hold ashes of the victims of executions. The Gestapo intention to avoid “martyr atmosphere” at the burned site was certainly not successful.

An important medium in disseminating information and education in that period was the Czechoslovak Post. Profit from sold stamps and sheets issued on the occasion of commemorative events, was intended for reverent structural changes and construction of new buildings. The reverse side of postcards was representing the post-war tension in the society that was struggling to find forms of compensation for the atrocities of the war. The Post therefore became a significant medium that enabled a sender to participate in the mass opinion.

Since 1948 the memorial grounds had been misused for propaganda that was supposed to enhance the perception of the leading role of the Communist Party in the resistance forces. In case of the citizens of Ležáky and the members of the Pardubice resistance, though they came from different social classes, we could hardly find any members of the Communist Party. Mutual support and cooperation of the resistance fighters was not based on party affiliation but on a fine web of friendship and Nazism resistance and the desire to restore the democratic Czechoslovak Republic.

The monument of Jiří Potůček at a place where he died could not resist the post-February changes. The original memorial plaque was replaced with a socially more acceptable view of historical events.

Jiří Potůček also received his memorial plaque from patriots at his birthplace in Vranov (today Břasy u Rokycan) on 6th July 1946. In the following four decades, however, monuments in Czechoslovakia, but even in the Eastern bloc in general, became sites of political instrumentalization that had very little in common with remembering the time of the Nazi occupation. Today’s ceremonies memories of the Nazi occupation are not as burdened by political discord, but they have more significant educational, cultural and historical form. City of Pardubice is trying to keep the memories of the heroic people who became victims of the Nazism or rebelled against it for future generations. It is a challenge for the next generation how they are going to perceive their Czech past and to what extent it is going to be inspiring for them.

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