Campaign Members Resolved to Recreate Lidice – Stoke Town Hall 1942

On Saturday, the 8th of August 1942, the Evening Sentinel reported on a meeting that had taken place the day before at Stoke Town Hall. 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 Victoria Hall on Sunday the 6th of September. Although it mentions no other names, we can assume members of Stoke-on-Trent City Council were present, along with the executive of the North Staffordshire Miners’ Federation and the North Staffordshire Branch of the Czecho-Slovak – British Friendship Club. Although it does not expressly say so, it sounds like the press received a resume from Dr Stross listing the campaign’s objectives:

“The object of the fund is to rebuild Lidice, the martyred Czecho-Slovakian village destroyed by the Germans, as a model mining village.

“The idea has been enthusiastically adopted by North Staffordshire miners, who have already agreed to a voluntary levy on all members of the North Stafford Miners’ Federation as heavy as any levy they have ever had for a similar cause.

“Midland miners are following the lead of North Staffs wholeheartedly, and, as soon as the scheme has been officially launched.

It is expected that the campaign will become nationwide and will spread to America.”

Dr Barnett Stross Circa 1950
Dr Barnett Stross, c. 1950

Stross made the point that, as the idea was born in Stoke-on-Trent, it was right that the campaign be officially launched in the city. He announced that many of the Czechoslovakian ministers, in addition to Dr Beneš, had expressed their desire to be present because they saw in it

“not merely a material help to their country after the war, but an immediate act intended to cement the friendship of the two countries.”

The point was made that “ways and means” would be found to keep the world informed of the progress of the scheme and therefore give hope to people in all occupied countries. In so doing, the movement would be symbolic of the new order of friendship between nations to which the Allies have pledged themselves.

The committee made it clear that the Leader of the House, Sir Stafford Cripps would be unable to attend, but they expected to receive either Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, or Mr Brendan Bracken, the Minister of Information on the Government’s behalf. They further announced that Mr Will Lawther and Mr Ebby Edwards would be the miners’ chief representatives. And already, many of the civic heads of Midland cities and towns had promised to take part in the proceedings.

Dr Stross added that after the launching of the scheme, local committees would be set up in all parts of the country, working under the umbrella of a central National Committee, but that the Stoke-on-Trent Committee would be making all arrangements until then, and any donations in the meantime should be sent to Mr J. T. Garratt, Lord Mayor’s Secretary, Stoke-on-Trent.

The response to the assassination of Heydrich and the destruction at Lidice and the smaller village of Ležáky had been huge. Now the Lidice Shall Live movement was about to burst into life all over the free world, and soon the word Lidice would become synonymous with Nazi oppression.

With the gravity of public support on his side, Beneš and his Foreign Secretary, Jan Masaryk, convinced the British Government to ditch its Munich obligations once and for all. Radio joined the campaign as the news was fully celebrated on BBC broadcasts and newsreels, with President Beneš reading a special address on the revoking of the Munich Pact on the 8th of August.

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