Up to now, the Nazis, if somewhat halfhearted in the concealment of their crimes, have nevertheless kept up a superficial discretion that has enabled some people to avert their gaze from the regime’s true nature. With Lidice, the scales have fallen from the whole world’s eyes. In the days that follow, Hitler will understand. For once, it is not his SS who will be let loose but an entity whose power he does not fully grasp: world opinion. Soviet newspapers declare that, from today, people will fight with the name Lidice on their lips – and they’re right. In England, miners from Stoke-on-Trent launch an appeal to raise money for the future reconstruction of the village and come up with a slogan that will be echoed all around the world: 'Lidice shall live!' In the United States, in Mexico, in Cuba, in Venezuela and Uruguay and Brazil, town squares and districts, even villages, are renamed Lidice. Egypt and India broadcast messages of solidarity. Writers, composers, filmmakers and dramatists pay homage to Lidice in their works. The news is relayed by newspapers, radio, and television. In Washington, D.C., the naval secretary declares: 'If future generations ask us what we were fighting for, we shall tell them the story of Lidice.' The name of the martyred village is scrawled on the bombs dropped by the Allies on German cities, while in the East, Soviet soldiers do the same on the gun turrets of their T34s. By reacting like the crude psychopath that he is (rather than the head of state that he also is), Hitler will suffer his most devastating defeat in a domain he once mastered: by the end of the month the international propaganda war will be irredeemably lost.
But on June 10, 1942, neither he nor anyone else is aware of all this – least of all Gabčík and Kubiš. The news of the village’s destruction plunges the two parachutists into horror and despair. More than ever, they are wracked by guilt. No matter that they have rid Czechoslovakia and the world of one of its most evil creatures – they feel as if they themselves have killed the inhabitants of Lidice.
No one ever manages to persuade them that Heydrich’s death was good for anything.
Perhaps I am writing this book to make them understand that they are wrong.