Full council tribute as Lord Mayor presents symbolic ‘key to Lidice’ to Stoke-on-Trent
A symbolic key has been presented to the people of Stoke-on-Trent in recognition of their ‘unconditional support and solidarity’ in helping to rebuild a village massacred by the Nazis.
Lord Mayor Ross Irving today (Thursday) vowed that the ‘key to Lidice’ – designed by the descendants of a family in the Czech Republic village torn apart by the Second World War atrocity – will be put on display in the city for residents to see.
Councillor Irving presented the foot-long metallic icon at a meeting of all 44 councillors at Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
The key is one of only three in existence and was given to the Lord Mayor by the British Ambassador to the Czech Republic, during a civic visit to Lidice to mark the 75th anniversary of the massacre last month.
Councillor Irving said: “Seventy-five years ago the Nazis completely destroyed a beautiful sleepy little village 20 miles from Prague – shooting every adult male and taking all the women and children away to concentration camps. They demolished all the buildings, killed animals and livestock and even exhumed and destroyed graves.
“These unspeakable acts were carried out in revenge after Reinhard Heydrich, one of the architects of the ‘Final Solution’, was killed by Czech resistance fighters.
“But the people of Stoke-on-Trent vowed that ‘Lidice Shall Live’. Doctor and councillor Sir Barnett Stross organised a campaign that saw city miners and local people raise £1 million at a time when they themselves were facing rations and hardship.
“I was honoured and deeply moved to lay a wreath in the now rebuilt village, as part of a delegation from Stoke-on-Trent for the 75th anniversary commemorations. The warmth and bonds of friendship with people from the village are as strong today as they were in the aftermath of the massacre.”
British ambassador to the Czech Republic Jan Thompson said: “I received the symbolic key to Lidice in recognition of the UK’s support for rebuilding the town after the Second World War.
“But the key belongs properly in Stoke-on-Trent, where the story of unconditional solidarity and support for Lidice began in the 1940s. It was a great honour to be able to hand the key to the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent. The key stands as a testament to the enduring bonds of friendship between the British and Czech people which continue to this day.”
Mayor of Lidice Veronika Kelnerova said: “Three keys were made by local artisan blacksmith Frantisek Kloubek – one for the UK, one for the USA and one for the Czech president.
“Mr Kloubek’s mother and his grandmother were among the Lidice women who were sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. They both returned after the war to Czechoslovakia and both were given houses in the new town of Lidice built with the help of the money collection from Stoke-on-Trent. So the circle has closed.”
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