War Crime To War Game

A 'spoof' online game site tests the adage that no publicity is bad publicity

Earlier this year, a group of Czech advertising execs stumbled upon the Lidice Memorial, on the site of a gruesome WWII war crime. In 1942, the Nazis murdered 340 innocent Lidice residents and razed

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their village in retaliation for the assassination of a high-ranking Nazi. Noticing that the memorial, erected in 1962, was deserted, the advertising experts offered free publicity.

A few months later, they returned with a fake online game, Total Burn-Out of Lidice (totalburnout.cz/eng), which first instructs players to earn points by killing Czechs and burning houses. A few clicks later, there's a revelation that the Lidice massacre was anything but a game.

When the Lidice Memorial director, Milous Cervencl, first saw it, he "almost fell off the chair." He endorses it now, but Lidice Mayor Vaclav Zelenka, 68, one of 17 children who survived the massacre, remains unimpressed: "I lost my father, two uncles, a 6-year-old girl cousin and a 13-year-old boy cousin. My mom passed through two concentration camps. My grandmother went to Auschwitz. What would you think about it?"

Still, no other p.r. effort has recently put more spotlight on the tragedy. The memorial's website is getting record traffic. Katerina Kejrova, 18, who looked it up after hearing about it on TV, says: "This is something that will make people think."

A spoof site that contained an actual shoot-'em-up game attracted additional attention. Cervencl says: "You can curse me as you wish," but he insists he is keeping the massacre's memory alive for a new generation.

©TIME. Printed on Sunday, January 7, 2007