Birmingham, the largest city within the Warwickshire Miners’ Federation Coalfield, was the first to accept the invitation to join the national Lidice Shall Live campaign.
Dr Stross addressed the Czech people – “The British people did not betray you, but would have gone to war on your behalf. It is not likely that the people of these islands will ever again allow any men to say that what happens in a far-off country to a free people is no concern of theirs.”
It was Thursday, the 10th of July, and the audience with Marshal Stalin had been arranged for 9.30am. Jan Masaryk and Dr Drtina met half an hour earlier in one of the rooms of the State residence put at their disposal, but Gottwald was late.
It was announced in late 1943 that Coventry was to join the Lidice Shall Live movement. The decision was made at a meeting at the Council House on Wednesday the 1st of December, attended by representatives of the churches, Civil Defence force, social and other organisations.
On Saturday 13th November 2021, the community of Lidice and all those who knew him, raised a final glass to Václav Zelenka.
Dr Beneš, visited Durham on Sunday the 22nd of November 1942, at the invitation of the Durham Miners’ Association. He thanked the miners of Durham and Great Britain for their camaraderie in supporting the people of Czecho-Slovakia during their darkest days.
The aim of the programme of cultural events was to give a platform to the young people of the occupied states of Yugoslavia, Czecho-Slovakia, Greece, and Poland, allowing them to explore, debate, fashion and creatively present the culture and heritage of their respective homelands to British audiences.
Not everyone was happy with efforts to rebuild Lidice. An article, anonymously penned by “The Calcutta Statesman” and published in the Evening Sentinel in October 1942, was keen to point out Britain’s lack of obligation towards the Czech people
The inaugural Lidice Shall Live Committee was formally constituted in Stoke-on-Trent in early October 1942 and comprised a mix of elected representatives, miners’ delegates, and members of the Czecho-Slovak – British Friendship Club, Rotary Club, North Staffordshire Architectural Society and influential members of the public…
“Lidice, by its destruction, became a symbol: it belonged not only to Czechoslovakia but to all nations. It should become for us a memento and a pledge never to allow the conditions to arise that would make an occurrence of this type possible again.”
The physical deconstruction and erasure of the old village of Lidice took over two years of solid graft, was financially costly, and was paid for by the victims’ bank accounts. It was not until September the 25th, 1944, that Karl Frank could finally announce with much satisfaction that the clearing work had definitively ended.
When the formation of the committee was formally announced on September the 21st, 1942 in Washington D.C., the Lidice Lives Committee declared its ambition to create
“a village named Lidice in each Allied country, reaching a number of 30 to 36 Lidices all over the world by the end of the war.”
The meeting that launched the Lidice Shall Live movement was preceded by a colourful pageant organised by Barnett Stross. It assembled outside Hanley Town Hall in the morning:
At the Miners’ Hall, Burslem on Friday, September the 4th, the executive of the North Staffordshire Miners’ Federation declared:
“Women from remote Lidice, widows from concentration camps who know not where their children are, our home is your home, too. We shall never forget you.”
News of Lidice severely impacted the American Czechoslovak communities. Many locals could remember the village of Lidice from the days of their youth or as the home of some friend or relative. Residents decided they needed to take action to commemorate fellow citizens sacrificed “on the altar of freedom.”
On August the 15th 1947, 104 miners lost their lives in a pit explosion at the William Pit coal mine in Whitehaven, Cumbria. On the 27th of September, Evžen Erban, Secretary General of the Czechoslovakian Central Council of Trade Unions, announced a proposal for a Czechoslovak supported miners’ recreation home in Britain in commemoration of the victims. The scheme was reminiscent of the Lidice Shall Live campaign.
At a meeting of the North Staffordshire Miners’ Federation, at the Miners’ Hall, on the 10th of August 1942, Dr Stross presented fresh news to the union executive – with a view to securing a greater depth of commitment from Britain’s coal-mining communities:
A committee of activists, all heavily involved in the Lidice Shall Live project and led by Dr Barnett Stross – met to discuss arrangements for the launch at the Victoria Hall on the 6th of September.
In August 1942, having received consent from the President of the Mineworkers’ Federation of Great Britain, Will Lawther, at their Conference in July, the British Crown Film Unit began scanning the country’s coalfields looking for a location to create a propaganda film based on the Lidice atrocity.
On June 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.
Following Dr Barnett Stross and the British Lidice Shall Live delegation in their pilgrimage to Lidice in 1947 were eminent composer and conductor Alan Bush and his Workers’ Music Association (WMA) Singers.
George Jones, the Midlands Miners’ Secretary from the Warwickshire branch, put the Lidice Shall Live proposal forward as a suggestion on behalf of his members on the opening day of the Mineworkers’ Federation of Great Britain’s Annual Conference at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, on the 20th of July 1942.
On Thursday, July the 15th, 1954 from offices in Westminster, Dr Barnett Stross launched a public appeal for funds to purchase rose trees for a Lidice International Garden of Peace and Friendship.
Merely two weeks following the disaster which befell the citizens of Lidice, the Chicago Sun magazine had an idea. It approached the Czechoslovak community living in a federal housing project on the outskirts of Joliet. Officials of the estate agreed to change its name to “Lidice” so that Adolf Hitler’s announced intent of erasing the community off the map would not come to pass.
On Saturday the 3rd of July 1943, the Middlesex Chronicle reported that working in conjunction with the national Lidice Shall Live campaign, a Feltham-based Lidice Shall Live Committee based within the General Aircraft Ltd Works had arranged a series of events in support of the fund for the rebuilding of the Czech mining village, which the Nazis destroyed a year ago after a massacre of its people.
A little over a month after the horror that befell the village, on July 20th, Hollywood actors appeared on the first episode of Victory Radio Theater. Wirelessly broadcast across all states, the bulk of the presentation was a stage adaptation of the hit 1940 movie “The Philadelphia Story”, but at the end of the show, the main cast of James Stewart, Cary Grant, and Katharine Hepburn made patriotic comments to promote the war effort.
President Beneš had acknowledged the likelihood of reprisals when discussing the pros and cons of Anthropoid with Colonel Moravec the previous autumn and must have expected some backlash following the death of Heydrich. Nevertheless, even he seemed genuinely shocked at the savagery of the Nazi response.
In 1956, the musical composition “A Rose for Lidice” was commissioned retrospectively by the Lidice Shall Live Committee to celebrate the opening of the Garden of Peace and Friendship on June 19, 1955.
As early as June 12th, in their reporting of the atrocity, many newspapers in the USA emphasised a sense of incredulity and revulsion at the fate of the village. What is more, there was talk of retribution for Lidice and the need for a definitive end to Nazism.
Eighty-eight children of Lidice were separated from their mothers and deported from Czechoslovakia by the Nazi Main Race and Resettlement Authority to a transit camp in Łódź, at Gneisenaustraße 41. The children were put in a former textile factory. There, they slept on a bare floor and covered themselves with what was available to them. They ate meagre food rations, and the older children looked after the younger ones—the youngest child was a mere 13 months old.
The idea for a production line of professional writers who would create high-quality propaganda to ensure America’s war effort remained resilient during the years of conflict ahead was initially proposed by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr., who agreed to an initiative to seek civilian writers to help promote the war effort of the United States to its citizens.
If there is an instance of a catalyst for the trend of christening baby girls “Lidice” it would be José D’Elía (21 June 1916–29 January 2007). The high-profile Uruguayan labour leader, trade unionist, and politician worked as a shop employee at first before joining the trade union movement. By 1945, he was taking part in the establishment of the Worldwide Labour Union Federation.
If future generations ask us what we fought for in this war, we will tell them a story about Lidice… And here is our answer to the Nazis. You did not exterminate Lidice – you gave them an eternally lasting life. You have given them a name that will live forever in the hearts and minds of free people everywhere. You have made them a symbol of the struggle for freedom – the war call of millions who value freedom more than their lives.
The Lidice Shall Live Committee organised for children from Lidice to visit Britain on a number of occasions. One such cultural encounter took place in the summer of 1962 when 15 children and 5 women arrived on Tuesday, the 19th of June to be the honoured guests of communities such as Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent, London, and Deal in Kent.
On Sunday, June 20th, 1948, something significant happened at Victoria Hall, the birthplace of the Lidice Shall Live campaign. The event typified the change in direction the nation was taking. A mere three years prior, the flags of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union were warmly embraced in the auditorium. Now their presence would have been met with disquiet, even alarm in some quarters.
The Lidice Rose Garden of Peace and Friendship was opened on the 19th of June 1955. People flocked to the village from far and wide to see the spectacle. Dignitaries were present from around the world, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, as well as other leaders from both sides of the Iron Curtain, including the Soviet Union, Italy, Hungary, East and West Germany, the USA, and Poland.
Across the free world, shock at the news of Lidice was tempered by the announcement by Moscow Radio on Thursday, June 11th, of the highly significant announcement of the signing of an Anglo-Soviet Mutual Assistance Agreement that would see the two nations support each other in real terms for the next twenty years.
In Britain, the first seeds of a national public response to the tragedy that befell Lidice were sown a mere three days following the atrocity at an exhibition of artworks organised by the North Staffordshire Branch of the Czecho-Slovak – British Friendship Club at the old Hanley Museum, Pall Mall, Stoke-on-Trent (see below) on the afternoon of Saturday the 13th of June.
Marie Uchytilová-Kučová was born in Kralovice, Czechoslovakia, on the 17th of January, 1924. On her own initiative, in the early 1960s, she decided to create a lasting monument in remembrance of all child victims of war, modelled on the children of Lidice.
As his health failed in 1964, Sir Barnett Stross, the MP, found it difficult to cope with the extra responsibilities the post of Deputy Secretary of Health within Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s Government demanded of him.
These photographs, a selection from a visual diary of visits to Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and 1960s, which exist in a traditional leather album, came into our possession about a decade ago. The pictures were a gift from Stoke-on-Trent-based local historian Fred Hughes. Unfortunately, a close inspection of the photos and/or the folder gives no…
On Saturday, May 27th, 2017, the Mayor of Lidice, Veronika Kellerová, presented three keys in a special ceremony: one to Czech President Miloš Zeman, the second to Jan Thompson, British Ambassador to Czechia, and a third to US Charge D’affaires, Kelly Adams-Smith.
Formal negotiations on the renouncement of the Munich Agreement began at the end of January 1942. At a luncheon given by Anthony Eden on January the 21st.
“Your hour of liberation is drawing near. Hold fast to your faith, faith in your own leaders in this country, faith in the miners of this country, faith in the United Nations who will again restore to you the liberty which you have lost and peace to this tortured world.”
UNRRA was a United States led initiative under the auspices of the United Nations. Set up in Washington D.C. on the 9th of November 1943 at the White House, it was signed off by Franklin D Roosevelt along with 44 signatories representing nations throughout the world (this was later extended to 48).