The destruction of Lidice, a village in Czech Republic, by the Nazis during World War II is an important, but little known part of European history. In 1942, Hitler ordered the arrest and execution of Lidice residents, and sanctioned the destruction of the village. Of the 488 Lidice natives, only 17 children survived, having been placed with German families. News of the Lidice tragedy spread, and inspired Stoke-on-Trent city councillor, Sir Barnett Stross, to enlist the help of local coal miners to rebuild Lidice. Stross worked with the miners to launch the ‘Lidice Shall Live’ campaign, to raise funds for survivors to rebuild their village. Despite the strain of war-time recession, the city of Stoke-on-Trent raised £32,000 (the equivalent of £1 million in today’s terms) to help restore Lidice.
Although the story is an inspiring, key part of Stoke-on-Trent’s history of internationalism, it remains relatively unknown. It was a piece of history that was all but forgotten, however in 2012 a programme of events took place to mark the 70th anniversary of the tragedy. As part of the anniversary events, Inspired film and video began filming a documentary ‘Lidice: A light across the sea’, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which looks at the historic events that occurred during World War II and captures engaging accounts from a number of the survivors from the Lidice tragedy, and Sir Barnett Stross’ family members.
The film was made possible from the support of the people of North Staffordshire who gave their time, effort, positivity and goodwill to this project. A successful Crowd Funder appeal helped to raise a per-production budget to get the project off the ground. Local universities, Keele University and Staffordshire University came on board as executive producers, and Stoke City Football Club Community Trust provided much-needed financial support and helped raise awareness for the project. This support enabled Inspired to travel to the Czech Republic to film important interviews, conduct research and helped us purchase crucial footage from the Czech film archive.
A year on, the film is now complete and was premiered in London at the Czech Embassy on 20th June. Among distinguished guests at the premier were Czech Ambassador Michael Žantovský, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Tristram Hunt, and relatives of Sir Barnett Stross. After attending the film premier, Sarah Curtis, niece of Sir Barnett Stross, expressed her gratitude to Inspired for documenting the vital historic event:
“It’s so great to have the film so that my children and grandchildren may understand what my uncle (their great uncle) and the people of Stoke-on-Trent did to confront that terrible horror”.
The film received an overwhelmingly positive response, and Inspired are now working to take the films out into schools, to inspire and educate future generations.
In a recent article in the Sentinel, Tristram Hunt noted:
“With such an exciting, engaging and scholarly account of the heroic role of Stoke-on-Trent in the terrible events of 1942, there is no excuse for the next generation not to know of this past.”
It is responses such as this that have inspired further distribution of the film. Inspired passionately believe as many people as possible should hear this story – particularly in Stoke and North Staffordshire. As part of their outreach project to ensure future generations hear the story of Lidice, Inspired are providing schools with a free educational pack and will host a screening of the film for local schools. Furthermore, the film will be broadcast on both UK and Czech television. This is a proud part of Stoke-on-Trent’s history that will not be forgotten.
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