In the pre-dawn hours of June 10, 1942 the sleepy Czech village of Lidice awoke to a nightmare. Government storm-troopers had surrounded them and each family was roused from sleep and rounded up at gunpoint. They were part of an example of the consequences for disobeying government policies.
Not long after the round up, the shooting began. The men and boys were lined up against the wall of a barn and shot where they stood, in groups of five. The storm-troopers commander decided they weren't dying fast enough and stepped it up to ten at a time. On and on it went, with the firing squad taking two steps back each time a new group of detainees were lined up in front of them.
The next day, around noon, there were seventeen rows of corpses lying in the nearby orchard.
The cover up
Governments are made up of people. People who are up to no good keep secrets and go to great lengths to hide their evil actions. But, when those people reach a point in which they feel there is no opposition they deem to be a threat, they cover up their actions for different reasons.
To wipe out every trace of a community is a visual demand for submission.
Do as we say or you will suffer and disappear.
That's the story of Lidice. By noon on June 11th, seventeen rows of corpses were lying in the village orchard. The military engineers worked hard to cover up the assault. They exploded dirt, plowed dirt and raked dirt to cover the bodies, then fenced off the entire area and threatened to shoot anyone who went near it.
Even later they weren't satisfied and brought in Jewish prisoners from a nearby concentration camp to shift what had been plowed and raked and buried. Then the government had roads built over the top of the mass grave.
The women of Lidice, almost 200 of those who hadn't been murdered with the men and four of whom were in late stage pregnancy, were transported to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp.
On July 2, 1942 the 81 children of Lidice that had survived the massacre were transported to a government extermination facility and gassed to death. Of the total of 104 children of Lidice, only sixteen were able to be traced to show a possible survival.
Professor Thomas Allistair Freelaff and his wife, Helga have a daughter named Jane. Helga, a native German who was horrified and opposed to her homeland government's tyranny, fled with her adopted daughter, Jane, from place to place to avoid the storm troopers and their government policies.
They stopped running when they ended up in a refugee camp with thousands of other Europeans seeking freedom and liberation. With her husband dead, Helga, a well-educated teacher, began working with the other refugees, and assisting them in helping make life in their overcrowded living space more tolerable.
It was there she met Prof. Freelaff who had walked away from academia to become Colonel Freelaff of the British Army. Freelaff was the senior officer overseeing the camp to aid in protecting the refugees as well as providing shelter and food while the war was coming to a close and the storm troopers were rounded up and brought to heel.
Between Allistair and Helga, mutual respect and admiration blossomed into love. The Colonel didn't stop at being smitten with Helga but adored her daughter as well and grew to love her as his own. By the close of the war, the couple and the toddler had become the Freelaff family.
Years later, following in her father's footsteps, Jane, by then also known as Prof. Freelaff, accepts an assignment to take over her father's class. During the prep for a collaborative project, one of her students brings in a photo and remarks about the incredible similarity between Jane and one of the women in the picture.
The photo is old and adding to the curiosity, it was taken at Ravensbruck and the women were part of those captured and enslaved by the storm troopers at Lidice.
Knowledge is power. It can also get you killed ...
The Family Freelaff begins a quest that that puts them all in danger but especially Jane. Each piece of the puzzle that clicks together with the big picture brings her ever nearer to someone of historical importance. That someone escaped has remained well hidden in plain sight for years. That someone is responsible for terrorism and murder of hundreds. That someone wants all threats to their secrecy extinguished. The most imminent threat they've encountered in years is often only a few feet away--the young Professor Freelaff who is intent on uncovering the mystery of her birth mother.
A brilliantly-stitched story of historical fact splashed with fiction.
I found this story to be so amazing and moving that I'm bending a professional ruling on my site to tell you about it. I have a policy to not promote books containing strong language and this one has a spattering of it.
It's a story that takes place during one of the most violent times in European history, and at times, the language reflects that.
The acute historical significance of this book, so painstakingly put together by the author to ensure it could be told without causing undo harm or hurt to any of the few survivors or descendants moves me to share it. This story is their story.
I don't recall learning of the Lidice tragedy before reading this book. Sadly, what happened at Lidice is a fate similar shared by thousands of communities who have fallen victim to government force, like Wounded Knee and the Ukrainian Genocide.
And so, while I can't recommend this story for younger readers, I can recommend it to adults and pray you'll not be offended by the spattering of salty language that is present in a small amount of the characters' conversations. That said, I want applaud the author for ensuring there to be no sexual content in the the story.
About the author
Orphan of Infamy is Prof. Robert C. Scott's first novel.
A veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, after his time spent in the military he went on to spend several years as a technical writer and subsequently an educator.
He's come out of the gate with an awesome start. From the beginning of the story, I was easily pulled into it, getting near tangible feelings for the settings and characters.
His writing style reminds me of one of my favorite last century writers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. So, if you're a fan of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries or The Lost World adventure, you'll likely have an immediate liking to Prof. Scott's work.
The writer's familiarity with the story of Lidice and the city of Prague is personal and genuine. He went to great lengths to research the intricate threads of history and weave them into this story with, while maintaining the utmost respect and personal privacy to the memory of the citizens of Lidice and the scant survivors of the massacre. You can learn more about Prof. Scott and his provocation for writing this book by visiting his website.
That's it for this one.
God bless you, thanks for the read and please don't forget to thank a veteran at your next opportunity.
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