Evil exists. Sometimes people say that all men are basically good, and that we do evil things only when there has been a bad environment, poverty, lack of education or some other unfortunate cause. That is not true. I tend to believe what Johannes Gossner, 19th century Lutheran pastor and philanthropist, once wrote, “The heart of man is either a temple of God or a habitation of Satan.” I have known good persons who were professed agnostics or atheists, but having no place for God in the human heart opens it up to the Enemy. During the past century, the bloody 20th, the evil that lurks in the heart of man was on full display. Let us never forget.
Germany in the early years of the 20th century was possibly the most advanced nation on Earth. It had a superb educational system, almost universal employment, and very advanced health care and social services for that time. Most of its citizens were professing Christians, either Catholic or Protestant. Yet, out of this vibrant culture came those men who propelled us into the horrors of World Wars One and Two. They forgot God and embraced Satan.
Kaiser Wilhelm II was bad enough, but he was probably not much worse than the leaders that opposed him. In contrast, the leaders of the Third Reich were a consummate study in evil. Adolf Hitler, in his lust for power and his insensate hatred of the Jews, was guilty of hideous offenses. Of his close associates, Reinhard Heydrich was perhaps the most evil of them all. Many historians regard him as the darkest figure within the Nazi elite, and Hitler himself described him as “the man with the iron heart”.
Heydrich managed to climb to the very heights of power within the Nazi Party. He was General of Police as well as chief of the Reich Main Security Office, which included the Gestapo, the Criminal Police Headquarters, and the SD (an intelligence organization). From his position of supreme control he coordinated attacks against Jews throughout Germany and the occupied territories. In January 1942 he chaired the Wannsee Conference, which formulated plans for the “Final Solution”, calling for genocide against all European Jews.
Heydrich was appointed virtual dictator of Bohemia and Moravia (the Czech portion of the former Czechoslovakia), and in that role he attempted to suppress Czech culture and tighten Nazi control over those rich territories. The country was terrorized, and many Czechs were executed. Heydrich also was directly responsible for the special task forces that travelled in the wake of German armies advancing into Poland and Russia. In 1941-42 those special groups of killers murdered over 2 million people, including 1.3 million Jews, by mass shooting and gassing.
In private conversations Heydrich revealed his future plans for the Czech people. After Germany won the war, up to two-thirds of the inhabitants of Bohemia and Moravia were either to be removed to regions of Russia or exterminated. The land itself would be annexed directly into the German Reich.
Heydrich did not live to see his evil plans materialize. On May 27, 1942, Heydrich was ambushed and critically wounded by a team of Czech and Slovak agents that had been trained by the British Special Operations Directive. The team was working for the Czechoslovak government in exile. Heydrich died of his wounds a week later.
The attack took place in Prague, but the Nazis chose the village of Lidice for reprisals because its residents were suspected of harboring local resistance partisans and were falsely assused of aiding the assassins. All 173 males over 15 years of age from Lidice were executed on June 10, 1942. Another 11 men who were not in the village were arrested and executed soon afterwards, along with several other Lidice men already under arrest. The 184 women and 88 children in the village were deported to concentration camps. Most of the women died in in the camps. A few of the children were adopted by SS families because of their Aryan appearance, the others were gassed.
After the removal of its people, Lidice was set on fire and the remains of the houses and buildings destroyed with explosives. All the animals in the village—pets and beasts of burden —were slaughtered. Even those former Lidice residents buried in the town cemetery were not spared; their remains were dug up, looted for gold fillings and jewelry, and destroyed. A German work party was then sent in to remove all visible remains of the village and re-route the stream running through it and the roads in and out. They then covered the entire area the village had occupied with topsoil and planted crops. Not a trace of the village remained.
German reprisals in an attempt to avenge the death of Heydrich were not confined to the village of Lidice. All over Bohemia and Moravia the Nazis rounded up relatives of partisans, Czech elites such as teachers and civil servants, and other random victims. The total death toll from these reprisals is estimated at over 1,300 people.
Yes, there is such a thing as evil. It consumed the hearts and minds of men like Hitler, Heydrich, and Himmler. Unfortunately, it still exists in the world today.