“We Will Renew the Village of Lidice”

Ostensibly, the situation immediately after the war seemed favourable for developing contacts between Britain and Czechoslovakia – there was complete cooperation between the freshly coalescing political establishment in Prague and the British Lidice Shall Live committee. In most cases, the mediator was the Czechoslovak Embassy in London. Contact between the Lidice Shall Live committee and the founding committee, which was to lead to the full Society for the Reconstruction of Lidice took place in 1945 with the help of the Secretary of the British-Czechoslovak Friendship Club, the redoubtable Frank Hampl, and the Czechoslovak Member of Parliament Julius Firt, a former member of the Czech Government-in-exile and contact at the London office of the Lidice Shall Live Committee.

On June the 10th 1945, some 100,000 people gathered on the gentle slopes of Lidice to attend the first commemorative event. They came as pilgrims, as organisations, as families, and as individuals. Czechoslovakian resistance fighters from both world wars came together with the soldiers, partisans and the other fighters who had put their lives at stake during the last days of the war, during the Czech national uprising which had manifested in cities, towns, and villages, and on the barricades of Prague. Kladno miners and steelworkers came to pay their last respects to their colleagues. There, from a makeshift grandstand, constructed to host the many governmental and international dignitaries, the Minister of the lnterior of the National Assembly, Václav Nosek declared the following in his statement to the crowd:

The 10th of June 1945, the first Lidice commemorative gathering. Václav Nosek, Minister of the Interior announces the building of a new Lidice to the crowds Credit ČTK

“… there can be and will be no appeasement between the world of fascism and darkness and that of democracy and freedom: only one ‘relationship can be there – that of struggle, a struggle for life and death, a struggle until the final victory…”

What would come as a shock to a sizeable proportion of the crowd would be the announcement that the Government of the Republic of Czechoslovakia was about to start building a new Lidice, as Nosek continued:

“The 10th of June 1942 saw the village of Lidice in the Kladno political district destroyed and razed to the ground… the name of the village was to have been erased forever. This atrocious crime marks one of the hardest periods in the Czech nation’s life. It enraged not only the people of Czechoslovakia but of all freedom-loving nations.

To redress this tragedy, the Government of the Czechoslovak Republic made a solemn resolution at its meeting on the 6th of June 1945, to build a new Lidice. As the Minister of the Interior, I announce that we will renew the village of Lidice in the liberated Czechoslovak Republic in its original boundaries, along with its historic Czech official name.”

Worldwide condemnation and goodwill had stirred the intention to build the village of Lidice anew the instant it was destroyed, while the welcome economic intervention of UNRRA added extra reassurance and stability to the project. But in dealing with the practicalities of realising the vision, it was left to the re-emerging Czechoslovak Government to create some vehicle for managing the sensitive and complicated processes involved in the resettling and rehabilitation of survivors, as well as the construction of a new community. Whatever this organisation was would have to protect Lidice’s survivors and renew the village.

To these ends, two organisations were set up: a short-term Preparatory Committee of the Society for the Restoration of Lidice and a Local National Committee of Lidice. The Local National Committee of Lidice, whose first Chairwoman was Helena Leflerová, was run like a town council and included other Lidice women – it held a seat at the District National Committee at Kladno and pursued the usual municipal and economic agendas. The Preparatory Committee had five members: the Minister of the Interior of the National Government, Václav Nosek; Ladislav Kopřiva, Chairman of Zemský of the National Committee in Prague; Jaroslav Mildorf, Chairman of the District National Committee in Kladno; Helena Leflerová, Chairwoman of the Local National Committee of Lidice; Anna Hroníková as a representative of the Lidice women; and František Knor, who was also appointed to the position of Secretary General.

The Preparatory Committee’s main task was to take part in the preparation of the law founding the Society for the Restoration of Lidice, to take care of the returned Lidice women and children and to start providing ground work related to the reconstruction of the community in terms of legal and technical aid.

The construction of a new Lidice was a significant international undertaking. Such had been Lidice’s profile during the war, the new Government of Czechoslovakia realised the entire world would be scrutinizing its handling of the matter. On the 1st of August 1945, the National Committee in Prague made the decision to invite tenders for the construction of a new village, setting the deadline for submissions at the end of October. Besides housing, planners were looking for an agricultural boarding school focused on collective farming, a church with a presbytery, a primary school, a hotel with a large garden and garages, administrative buildings, a car park, a library, and a museum, not forgetting the British miners’ idea for the international research institute for safety in mines – to be included into the designs for the community.

In all, 58 designs were sent and shown at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague. This led to another round which took place the following year and was announced by the Local National Committee on the 10th June 1946. The jury included experts and some of the Lidice women. In July 1946, the jury chose the three best designs, awarding prizes to the architectural studios of Václav Hilský, Richard Podzemný and Antonín Tenzer; František Marek and Zbyněk Jirsák; and Jaromír Krejcar, respectively. At that point 150 new houses were planned. Now, in addition to the first proposals, there were plans for a new post office, a police station, a shopping centre, a playground, a new cemetery, as well as buildings to host the residents’ indoor events and cultural activities.

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Remember Lidice – John HooksRemember Lidice – John Hooks

Remember Lidice Lidice! Your streets are silent now;You little town—whose crime was mercy-Lie beneath the sun,And only wisps of smoke arise to crownThe blackened desolation of the Hun.The torch and gun are thru,And never more shall children’s laughter ringIn simple mirth ;Yet from your dying embers shall soar again,A spark

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