My personal journey of friendship with Lidice began in the summer of 2010 when reading a book written by Rupert Butler in 1992 called “An Illustrated History of The Gestapo.” Flicking through, I stumbled across the following passage:
“The intention of Hitler to blast the name of Lidice from the face of the earth was a conscious failure. News of the crime shocked the world, particularly in Britain, from where the assassins of Reinhard Heydrich had originally set out. The mining village of Stoke-on-Trent in the English Midlands began the British Lidice Shall Live committee and implemented plans to rebuild the village as a model mining community.”
Always keen on history, I had been aware of the Lidice tragedy from a youthful age. But this was new. Internet searches and other researching soon brought up details of the heinous crime; footage of the Lidice Shall Live campaign launch in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent; and the activities which followed. It is undeniably true to say that it saddened and frustrated me to think of the countless children schooled in Stoke-on-Trent, including me, who were never taught the city’s links to the village—as it was obvious the positive impact it could have had. Thinking why this may have been, I could only conclude that while Dr Barnett Stross and others involved in the campaign lived, the personal connections kept the links between Stoke-on-Trent and Lidice alive, despite the fall of the Iron Curtain. However, apart from a few exceptions, those links seemed to die, along with the doctor in 1967.
In May 2010, as a couple, my wife and I contacted the Lidice Mayoral office and Lidice Memorial. I wrote about the information discovered, the research concerning Barnett Stross, how we felt it was important to rekindle links. We asked how they felt about it! It was a wonderful moment when we received positive replies both from the Mayor of Lidice, Veronika Kellerová and the then Director of the International Children’s Exhibition of Fine Art at the Lidice Memorial, Ivona Kasalická. Months later, in the autumn, we were planning a visit to Lidice to open a small exhibition at the Lidice Memorial around Armistice time, simply titled Sir Barnett Stross.
And so, the flame was re-ignited.
Cheryl and I were invited to Lidice for a few days along with Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, Cllr Hazel Lyth. Our visit was recorded and documented by North Staffordshire’s local newspaper, the Sentinel, who played a key part in raising awareness of the communities’ shared links thanks to former Editor and Deputy Editor, Mike Sassi and Martin Tideswell, respectively.
And this is a book primarily about the Lidice Shall Live movement. Looking at the literature out there, I am sure you will find it is often overlooked by historians, sometimes treated as a peripheral, insignificant by-product of Operation Anthropoid, except for general references like “Lidice was rebuilt with the help of British miners….” Amongst the bookshelves and in the download sections of libraries, there is a dearth of satisfactory material dealing with how the village of Lidice came to be rebuilt; when explanations do appear in publications, still the Lidice Shall Live movement barely receives a mention, respectful but passing references only to contributions by British miners to help in the construction of a new village.
I suppose this is perfectly understandable. Because the Lidice Shall Live campaign was a British movement and it is incumbent upon the British to research it thoroughly, document and present it, and in a manner in which future generations can benefit. I am no historian, but that is what I have tried to go some way to achieving – for, at present, the Lidice Shall Live movement is perceived as an enigmatic symbol of brotherhood, with little in the public domain existing to give it firm foundations. Therefore, in this book, what you will discover is less emphasis on Operation Anthropoid and the subsequent reprisals for the death of Heydrich than you would normally find in many books about the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.