Sheep from Lidice in Terezin – fact or myth?

Doris Grozdanovičová, born Schimerlingová, during pasture of the sheep, FAPT 4423

The Terezin historiography has already had to deal with many inadvertently spread myths, one of them being the question of the true origin of the flock of sheep in Terezin. So far most visitors to the former ghetto have received information that the sheep reared in the ghetto came from the destroyed village of Lidice, which further exacerbated the already grim history of this place. This widespread belief is grounded in the time of the ghetto existence. A typical example of these “war roots” is the Terezin poem Die Schafe von Liditz by the woman poet Ilse Weber (1903-1944): “Fluffy yellow-white sheep, so far from their home, their stalls burned down, their owners killed. “

One of the first historical books on the ghetto Town Behind Bars says: “The SS sheep and goats farming was based on the sheep and goats from Lidice. “ Even diary entries, including those of Egon Redlich, the head of the Youth Care (Jugendfürsorge), supported the widespread belief that the sheep in Terezin came from Lidice. The author’s entry of 11th June 1942 says: “30 Jews of the ghetto were sent to work in this village. They left with rakes. They sent cattle and sheep here. „The proposition was taken for granted and went “smoothly” in the post-war Terezin historiography. The diary further contains the following notes: “1942 – 7th June, Sunday: there were no geese yet, only goats and kids, apparently from Lidice. Goats had to be milked right away … 8th June, Monday: Two hundred geese came in a very poor state, like a Jewish transport ….10th June, Wednesday: In the afternoon we had one hundred sheep … 30th June,  Tuesday: another hundred and twenty sheep came … “

The myth about sheep from Lidice in Terezin was also supported by the post-war film makers. The film Transport from Paradise (1962) based on the novel Night and Hope by Arnost Lustig, former Terezin prisoner, includes a dialogue between the general and his entourage about a flock of sheep being just driven out of the square in front of the Jewish bank. The general’s question: “What animals are these?” is answered: “Sheep of Lidice.” Former women prisoners working in agriculture, who got to work with sheep, also supported this version after the war.

 However, do the allegations of Lidice sheep in Terezin prove true in the light of historical documents?

Chronologically we must start with a message of 12th June 1942 written by Horst Böhme, the commander of the Security Police and Security Service in the Protectorate, and relating to measures against the village of Lidice. Among other things, he reports to KH Frank that the farm in Bustehrad had received from Lidice 32 horses, 167 pieces of cattle, 150 pigs, 144 goats, and, apart from unidentified number of poultry and rabbits, also 16 sheep. During the questioning in February 1946, Heinrich Jöckel, former commander of the Police Prison in Terezin, was asked to describe his role in the extermination of Lidice. In his testimony he confirmed to have picked up in Bustehrad and transported to the Small Fortress about 600 rabbits, 90 goats, ca. 40 hens, 90 geese and around 30 ducks. Later he brought 2 horses, 4 cows and a variety of farming tools yet. Part of the livestock was thus received by the Terezin ghetto, however, as obvious from Jöckal’s listing, not the sheep.

Leaving aside the question of erroneous dating (when the animals from Lidice could in fact reach Terezin), surprising is the disparity between the 16 sheep transported from Lidice to Bustehrad and the diary note of E.R. about receiving a hundred of sheep. Where did those sheep then come from? The answer is provided in the file Ein Jahr Landwirtschaft [One year of Agriculture]: “For the use of green space and entrenchments sheep were ordered, which did not arrive as soon as it would have been appropriate though, but in June from Slovakia. The first transport brought 100 pieces; another 200 sheep were added in July. At this time also goats, geese, ducks, chickens and rabbits came from a village…. “

How is it possible that the Terezin prisoners added the sheep from Slovakia to other livestock from Lidice? The answer can be found in the memory of T.P., who highlights the interplay between the times of arrival of these two different animal contingents. It was after Lidice, and the animals from Lidice came, i. e. goats, kids, cows, horses, geese, hens …, no, no sheep …, finally the evening came and we wanted to go home; suddenly a train car arrived with sheep from Slovakia, a herd of sheep. Everywhere was written that they were from Lidice, but they were not from Lidice, they came from Slovakia. “

Based on sources, we can therefore state that, along with the Lidice livestock, the first contingent of Slovak sheep came to Terezin in June 1942. The number of sheep reached up to 370 pieces in September 1942.

Historical documents clearly define the origin of the “Terezin” sheep. Even though the inadvertently invented legend of the “Lidice” sheep in Terezin is proven false, nothing can change the fatal connection of the Lidice tragedy with the lives of many prisoners of Terezin.

Tomas Fedorovic, Departement of history, TM

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