Hanley Museum – A World Against Oppression and Tyranny – 1942

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.

The display contained photographs, photomontages, and posters illustrative of seven years of Soviet – Czecho-Slovak friendship. Here, to a delegation of dignitaries from Czecho-Slovakia and the Soviet Union, a hint that the Lord Mayor should make an appeal for funds to rebuild the village as a “permanent memorial to the victory of the free peoples of the world against oppression and tyranny” was given by Dr Barnett Stross.

Hanley Museum, Stoke-On-Trent. Scene Of The Formal Inception Of The Lidice Shall Live Movement By Dr Barnett Stross, At An Exhibition Of Artworks Organised By The North Staffordshire Branch Of The Czecho-Slovak - British Friendship Club On The Afternoon Of Saturday The 13Th Of June, 1942
Hanley Museum. Scene of the formal inception of the Lidice Shall Live movement at an exhibition of artworks organised by the North Staffordshire Branch of the Czecho-Slovak – British Friendship Club on the afternoon of Saturday the 13th of June, 1942

The chief speakers were Mr Alexej Shiborin, Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in London, and Mr Václav Majer, a member of the Czecho-Slovak States Council. The Deputy Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, Cllr Arthur Hewitt, presided, accompanied by the Mayor of Newcastle, Mr Ronald Milne Ford; Mr Shiborin; Mr Majer; the Rev. Treacher, Rector of Hanley; and Dr Barnett Stross.

In his opening address, the Deputy Lord Mayor stated that the exhibition was to celebrate seven years of friendship between the Soviet Union and Czecho-Slovakia, countries that had much in common. He added that in North Staffordshire, the community had been fortunate in being able to offer hospitality to “friends from Czecho-Slovakia,” who, in turn, had been “taken into the hearts” of the people of Stoke-on-Trent.

Dr Barnett Stross Circa1935. Present At Hanley Museum On The 13Th June 1942 And Announced The Launch Of A Fund To Rebuild Lidice
Dr Barnett Stross c 1935

Václav Majer, who spoke in Czech, said that Czecho-Slovak – Soviet friendship and collaboration, symbolised by the exhibition, were not founded only on political considerations but had their source in the sincere and true mutual sympathies of the two peoples. Majer spoke of Nazi terrorism and persecution in Czecho-Slovakia, and said their sorrow was only mitigated by a sense of pride that the nation remained firm and unbroken. Their people never hesitated or wavered and would persevere until full victory was gained, whatever the cost. Referring to the death of Heydrich, Mr Majer said:

“We are proud that this blow was struck from the streets of Prague, although we know that it has to be paid for heavily by our people.”

Mr Shiborin said he was very pleased to be able to express the greetings of his country at the opening of the exhibition. It would soon be the anniversary of the treacherous attack by the Germans on the Soviet Union, but instead of the quick victory that the Nazis expected, millions of Nazi soldiers had lost their lives. With feverish haste, Hitler was gathering bandits from all over Europe to send to the Eastern Front, and at the same time, foreign workers were being forced into the German factories.

“More than 2,000,000 of them are already working there now,” he said.

But the German Army was no longer the same as that which instigated the European blitzes. Of the new alliance between Great Britain and the Soviet Union, Mr Shiborin stated that it was certainly of great political importance, not only for the two countries but for all the Allied nations at war with Germany:

“The words of this treaty sound like the death sentence to Nazi Germany,” he added. “Germany today is living under the shadow of two fronts in 1942.”

A vote of thanks to the speakers was proposed by Ronald Milne Ford, the Mayor of Newcastle, who referred to the suffering of the Czechs and said that they had given us a “splendid example.”

Seconding, Dr Stross said that when the USSR was first attacked, Britain and the Soviet Union very quickly, thanks to the integrity, honesty, and vision of Mr Churchill and Mr Stalin, came to an understanding for the sake of their mutual protection. They now had mutual confidence in each other. There had been many struggles against oppressors in past history, but he thought that the destruction of the Nazis by the free nations would stand as the greatest achievement of all.

Dr Stross added that if he were Lord Mayor, he would make a great appeal for funds to rebuild, after the war, the village of Lidice,

“destroyed in vengeance by the Germans—as a permanent monument to the victory of the free peoples against aggressors and a sign that oppression and tyranny could not endure forever“.

Dr Barnett Stross, a campaigner, influencer, and social conduit connecting together pressure groups and organisations within and outside the region, would be having meetings in the near future to ensure that the British people had a significant part to play in the building of a new Lidice.

Like all calls to arms, the need for a powerful, resonant battle cry to stir the troops into action against the foe was vital. The Führer was unequivocal when he demanded that “Lidice Should Die Forever.” Between them, Stross, the miners of North Staffordshire, and the ‘Friendship Club came up with the most potent weapon they could in their fight against the Nazi’s actions at Lidice: “Lidice Shall Live”!

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