At a meeting of the North Staffordshire Miners’ Federation at the Miners’ Hall, Moorland Road, Burslem, on the 10th of August 1942, Dr Barnett Stross presented fresh news to the union executive with a view to securing a greater depth of commitment from Britain’s coal-mining communities:
“Some few weeks ago there was an Exhibition in the Hanley Art Gallery under the auspices of the Czecho-Slovak – British Friendship Club to commemorate Seven Years of Czecho-Slovak – Soviet Friendship. It was my privilege to thank the speakers which included the Lord Mayor of Stoke, Mr Shiborin, second Secretary to the Soviet Embassy, and Mr Mayer representative of the Czech Government, and to mention the destruction of the mining village of Lidice.
“I reminded the audience that the Nazis had put to death all the men, that the women were herded into concentration camps, and that the children had been taken away to be educated so as to learn to support the Nazis. The Ghost of the murderer Heydrich needed appeasement and the name of this village must be completely forgotten and no relic of it left standing.
I declared at that Meeting what the Nazis had planned should never come to pass, and I would call other Civic Leaders of other Towns and Cities to support this, and I was sure that the Miners of Great Britain would act in this matter as they acted in the past and would declare their intention to help the innocent victims of this abominable outrage.
The Miners would say to the world at large and to the Nazis in particular, that their comrades of Lidice would never be forgotten, that the widows and orphans would be rescued, and that the village itself would be rebuilt as a lasting monument that this crime against humanity should never succeed.
“A report of this appeared in the Local Press and a discussion occurred among the members of the Czechoslovak State Council in London. Dr Beneš himself is very anxious to see the next step and would gladly come to Stoke-on-Trent and speak on this subject. He considers that such action would be of practical assistance to the Free Nations in their struggle against the Axis powers. Repeated broadcasts would give encouragement to the Czech people and to all who live under the Nazi heel.
“It must never be forgotten that centres of resistance exist everywhere in Europe and that the men who struggle in the underground movement need all the help we can give them. Such a pronouncement as this will give this help and men who are prepared to die will know that we shall never forsake their wives and children.
“There are other reasons why the Miners of Great Britain should take this step. The history of their opposition to fascism and oppression needs no advertisement but compels them to be in the van when a fresh blow is struck against the foe. By their action, the miners declare their International solidarity to all their comrades and to all men who are prepared to fight for freedom. The Miners’ lamp dispels the shadows on the coal face. It can also send a ray of light across Europe to those who struggle in darkness.
“It is therefore proposed that the Miners of North Staffordshire, and through them the Miners of Great Britain, shall take the lead in establishing a fund earmarked for:
The rebuilding of Lidice.
The rescue of the widows and orphans of those who were murdered.
A committee of Architects and other experts shall be created to draw the plans of a village which shall be a model to the world at large of what a mining village should be. These plans will be available to all and should leave their mark not only on rebuilt Lidice but everywhere else.”
Dr Stross informed the Executive Board that a rally had been fixed for September 6th at the Victoria Hall, Hanley, and confirmed the attendance of Dr Edvard Beneš and other Czech Ministers, together with the Mineworkers’ Federation of Great Britain’s President and Secretary, Messrs Will Lawther and Ebby Edwards, respectively. His moving appeal for the rebuilding of Lidice captured the hearts and minds of the miners and the other attendees. He praised and encouraged the miners, saying that the appeal, the first in the country, was being taken up by all sections of society.
Considering events, he requested the miners emulate their earlier efforts for the workers of Spain and Russia. When he had finished, the executive warmly thanked Dr Stross for his address and decided that his suggestions be recommended to the area branches.