The Tragedy of Children in Kulmhof on the Ner

Young and innocent souls were not spared from slaughter by the Nazi war machine.

82 children from Lidice and Ležáky were murdered in Kulmhof on the Ner German extermination camp, as well as countless children from Zamojszczyzna.

Most likely, their last way was from the Radegast station to the camp.

Why did the Nazis commit such unimaginable crimes?

The Lidice Massacre took place early in the morning of June 10, 1942, in the aftermath of the assassination of SS Reichsprotector Reinhard Heydrich. 173 males over sixteen years old were gathered at the Horák farm and shot to death. Women and children were forced out of their houses and taken to the gym of the primary school in Kladno. Three days later, the women were sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, and the children were sent to Litzmannstadt (today: Łódź) in occupied Poland. After three weeks, the order to send the children to the Kulmhof on the Ner death camp was executed.

In the Kulmhof on the Ner German death camp, there were no stationary gas chambers, like we usually visualize them, especially while thinking about Auschwitz-Birkenau. There, so-called Gas Vans (mobile gas chambers) were used to murder innocent people. Like hundreds of other victims, at the camp, the children were told to undress under the pretext of having a shower. Wearing their underwear, holding bars of soap and towels, the children dutifully went inside the truck. 

They were dead within eight minutes.

Of 105 children from Lidice, only 17 survived the war.

They had nowhere to return. The Nazis razed the village to the ground: burnt the houses, the church, even desecrated the cemetery.

The village of Ležáky became the next target of the Nazis, as soon as they “dealt with” Lidice. Ležáky was a village close to the city of Pardubice, where the leader of the resistance group known as Silver A lived. The group was supposed to maintain radio contact with London and thus help in the assassination of Heydrich. Clearly, the radio transmitter was moved often due to safety reasons.

One of the men who had parachuted to assassinate Heydrich, Karel Čurda, turned out to be a traitor. He informed the SS about Silver A and its activity. Members of the group were shot immediately or arrested and murdered. One committed suicide. On June 24, 1942, the SS reached Ležáky, where the radio transmitter had been situated since April 1942. Women, children, and elderly men were taken to Pardubice Castle. Houses were looted and burnt down. At night, executions at the Castle began. 18 women and 34 men were shot. In the following days, more people were executed. 13 children were taken from the village. Some, selected for Germanization, were adopted by German families; some were sent to orphanages, and some were sent to the camp in Kulmhof on the Ner. Moreover, 254 relatives and friends of the paratroopers responsible for the assassination of Heydrich were sent to the concentration camps in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Ravensbrück.

Children of Zamojszczyzna became victims of ethnic cleansing done by the Nazis. The process became known as Aktion Zamosc or Operation Himmlerstadt. It was carried out on Heinrich Himmler’s direct order between November 1942 and March 1943. Children younger than 14 years old, with their names already Germanized, were usually transported from the Zamość camp to their new destinations. Other people were sent to concentration camps. Estimates show that around 116,000 people in total were forcibly expelled from Zamojszczyzna, among them about 30,000 children, who were sent to various camps, including the death camp in Kulmhof on the Ner.