Crewe Creates Activities and Exhibitions in Support of Lidice – 1944

Crewe’s Czecho-Slovak Week ran awareness-raising activities and exhibitions in support of the Lidice Shall Live campaign from October 9th to the 14th, 1944.

The campaign’s creation was due, in large part, to the local Trades Council, which accepted a proposal from the Lidice Shall Live committee to organise a series of events in the local area. On Thursday the 18th of May 1944, at a meeting of the Crewe Trades Council, the Secretary, Mr G. E. Hodgkinson, reported an appeal from the Stoke-on-Trent Lord Mayor’s Committee for support in aid of the National Lidice Fund. It was agreed to invite the organising secretary, Frank Hampl, to give an address at the next meeting.

On the evening of the 15th of June, Hampl explained the intentions of the campaign to the council’s members—to build a new Lidice and to create a mining research institute. Having found the scheme sufficiently inspiring and realistic, members started talks with Crewe Borough Council in order to stage a series of fundraising events. Subsequently, on the 19th of August, the Crewe Chronicle reported that the town’s Mayor, Mrs Mossford Powell, had agreed to support an appeal for the National Lidice Fund. There would be flag days on October 6th and 7th.

Frank Hampl, Secretary Of The Lidice Shall Live Committee In Stoke-On-Trent And Later London, Ensured The Campaign Disseminated Itself To All Parts Of The Nation And Found An International Voice.
Frank Hampl is undoubtedly the least-known character in proportion to his contribution to the movement. Hampl’s determination and dedication to the cause as Secretary of the Lidice Shall Live Committee in Stoke-on-Trent and then later in London, ensured the campaign disseminated itself to all parts of the nation and eventually found an international voice.

Once more, the Stoke-on-Trent Secretary, Frank Hampl, was instrumental in setting things up and promised to contribute by bringing a cultural exhibition on a Czech theme. The Trades Council agreed to back the appeal and asked for flag sellers.

The campaign was realised when The Exhibition of Czecho-Slovakian Friendship was opened at the Prudential Buildings on Monday the 9th of October 1944 by a Czechoslovak Army Captain in the presence of Dr Victor Fischl, the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, an associate of Jan Masaryk, and a company of Czech infantry from nearby Cholmondeley Castle. The exhibition, which remained open for the week and was free to enter, was arranged locally by a committee formed by the new Mayor, Mrs F. E. White, in cooperation with Crewe Trades Council. According to the Crewe Chronicle on the 14th of October:

“The exhibition shows our Czech ally in a vivid and unique way and brings a momentous message of friendship and goodwill to the people of Crewe. It tells the story of those who escaped from German oppression to fight and of the armies in the Middle East, Russia, and Great Britain, which they joined. It shows the exploits of the airmen in the Battle of Britain—men who now fly over France; the Czech war effort in Britain; and how the German war is sabotaged in Czecho-Slovakia: illustrations of German plunder and terror.”

Viktor Fischl Escaped To London In 1939 And Soon Became Active In The Czechoslovak Government In Exile, Working Closely With Jan Masaryk
Viktor Fischl was born in Eastern Bohemia in 1912 and began his career as a diplomat just before the Second World War. In 1939 he had an adventurous escape to London and soon became active in the Czechoslovak government in exile, working closely with the Foreign Minister, Jan Masaryk. It was in London that he wrote his influential poem The Dead Village, responding to the Nazi destruction of Lidice. Fischl returned with Masaryk to Czechoslovakia after the war, but with the Communist take-over and Masaryk’s mysterious death, he emigrated to Israel. Credit Radio Prague

Mrs White, who presided at the opening ceremony, expressed the pride that Britons felt in their Czech allies, who, by their courage and fortitude, had written a chapter in the history of the present war that would live forever. She expressed her view that the villagers’ sacrifices had not been made in vain, for Lidice would live again and right would triumph over might.

In the name of Crewe, the Mayor welcomed the Czech visitors and wished their country prosperity and peace in the future. In response, the Czech Army representative gratefully acknowledged the kind and hospitable treatment provided to Czechoslovaks during the past four years and commented on the immediate predicament:

“The Czechs, he said, lost their freedom for centuries, but it was restored in 1918, and for 20 years they had had a happy and progressive democratic country; they remained true to their democratic ideals, although their neighbours succumbed to fascism and Nazi influence. Czech soldiers were now fighting on both the western and eastern fronts. Lidice had become a symbol for freedom-loving people, and they were determined to fight for that freedom.”

In declaring the exhibition open, the officer expressed thanks on behalf of the Czech people for the interest manifested in the Lidice Shall Live appeal and wished the local committee success in their effort. Mr Emmett, of the inaugural Stoke-on-Trent Lidice Shall Live committee, explained that the national committee had set themselves the task of raising £1,000,000 for the purpose of resurrecting Lidice, and they had been encouraged by the assistance given by various towns.

Crewe Creates Activities And Exhibitions In Support Of Lidice - 1944 - Lidice And The Legacy Of The Lidice Shall Live Movement
Crewe’s old Kino Cinema

Other events that took place were flag days on Friday and Saturday, October 13th and 14th. Presentations were given in schools to children of eleven years and over, and prizes were offered for the best essays on the talks and the exhibition received from each school. On Sunday, the 15th, a concert was put on at the Kino Cinema by Czech performers. In November, a breakdown of the mayor’s charitable work showed that to date, £163 had been raised towards the Lidice Shall Live fund through the events taking place in Crewe.

For more information about the fundraising campaigns for a new Lidice that took place across Great Britain between 1942 and 1947, read The Path to Lidice, the definitive account of the Lidice Shall Live campaign and its legacy.
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