Today, 10th. June, is the 70th anniversary of the destruction in 1942 of the Czech village of Lidice by the Nazi occupiers in “retaliation” for the assassination of Reinherd Heydrich, architect of The Holocaust, by Czech Parachutists.
“Under suitable direction, the Jews should be brought to the East in the course of the Final Solution, for use as labour. In large labour gangs, with the sexes separated, the Jews capable of work will be transported to those areas and set to road-building, in the course of which, without doubt, a large part of them (“ein Großteil”) will fall away through natural losses. The surviving remnant, surely those with the greatest powers of resistance, will be given special treatment, since, if freed, they would constitute the germinal cell for the re-creation of Jewry.”
— from Heydrich’s speech at the Wannsee Conference, January 1942
Heydrich was attacked in Prague on 27 May 1942 by a British-trained team of Czech and Slovak soldiers who had been sent by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile to kill him in an operation code named Operation Anthropoid. He died from his injuries a week later. Intelligence falsely linked the assassins to the villages of Lidice and Ležáky. Lidice was razed to the ground; all adult males were executed, and all but a handful of its women and children were deported and killed in Nazi concentration camps.
At the orders of K. H. Frank 173 Lidice men were shot on that fateful day in the garden of the Horak farm. The women and children were taken to the gymnasium of Kladno grammar school. Three days later the children were taken from their mothers and, except for those selected for re-education in German families and babies less than one year of age, were poisoned by exhaust gas in specially adapted vehicles in the Nazi extermination camp at Chełmno upon Nerr in Poland. The women were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp which usually meant quick or lingering death for the inmates.
At the time, the Labour Stoke-on-Trent MP. Barnett Stross heard of Hitler’s plan to wipe Lidice off the map, and started a ‘Lidice shall live’ campaign. From this, the people of Stoke-on-Trent raised money, and with support from countries all around the world the village of Lidice was re-built. Stross was a Labour MP and a doctor in a mining area like Lidice and was a fearless campaigner for safer work environments.
|Gestapo photo of the Lidice men massacred at Horak’s farm|
|Sir Barnett Stross MP – Polish Jew, Medical Doctor,
Labour MP, Humanitarian and a fearless
campaigner for safe working conditions for miners
|Lidice memorial 10th June 2012|
Stross was deeply affected by the Lidice tragedy. Immediately after news of the event reached Stoke-on-Trent he spoke to miners and their leaders, proposing the reconstruction of the village of Lidice to commemorate this crime against humanity forever. On the afternoon of Sunday 6 September, in The Victoria Hall, the “Lidice Shall Live” movement was formed in the presence of Czechoslovak President, Edvard Beneš, Will Lawther, President of the Miners’ Federation , and Soviet Ambassador Bogomolov. The name of the movement came about in defiant response to Adolf Hitler’s proclamation that “Lidice shall die”. It was Barnett Stross who so vehemently replied, “Lidice Shall Live!”
An audience of 3,000 men and women heard Dr Beneš’ concluding remarks: “This meeting has made it clear that Lidice has not died: it lives on in the hearts of the people of Stoke-on-Trent at least. From now on, Stoke-on-Trent will forever be in the heart of every Czech citizen”.
In the months that followed, from its base in Stoke-on-Trent fund-raising campaigns were organised, collecting donations from British miners and workers to pay for the construction of a new Lidice. For this work, Stross was honoured by the Czechoslovak government with the White Lion of Czechoslovakia, and became Chair of the British-Czechoslovakia Society, and he used this position to highlight human rights abuses under the Communist government.
|Lidice children’s memorial|
Dr. Edvard Beneš led the Czech Government in exile from the UK during World War II based in Wingrave, Bucks and he lived at The Abbey, Aston Abbotts outside Aylesbury. After the Prague uprising at the end of World War II, Beneš returned home and resumed his former position as President. He was unanimously confirmed as the president of the republic by the National Assembly on 28 October 1945. On 19 June 1946 Beneš was formally elected to his second term as President.