Today’s society places a huge emphasis on education. The last Labour Government coined the famous phrase, education, education, education. They say you are never too old too learn and those words are so, so true in light of a recent story told to me by Alan & Cheryl Gerrard of Fenton’s The Art Bay Gallery.
The story told of the heroic, unselfish and compassionate actions of a Stoke-on-Trent GP during World War 2.
Sir Barnett Stross was born in Poland on Christmas Day 1899 to Jewish parents. He and his family moved to England in 1905 and settled in Leeds.
Barnett Stross was educated and attended University in the City and he qualified as a Doctor in 1926.
He moved south to set up practice in the Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent and treated mainly pottery workers and their families. He became a fierce campaigner for compensation payments for workers blighted by the industrial diseases pneumoconiosis and silicosis.
It was while he was working as a GP in Shelton that Stross was alerted to and outraged by the plight of a village in the Czech Republic just north-west of Prague called Lidice.
Heinrich Himmler, commander of the SS, head of the Gestapo, ordered the complete destruction of Lidice in revenge for the killing of an high ranking German officer.
192 men over 16 years of age from the village were murdered on the spot by the Germans, the rest of the population were sent to Nazi concentration camps where many women and nearly all the children were killed.
The atrocity caused widespread outrage among the mining communities of North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
Barnett Stross was instrumental in this and he coined the phrase “ËœLidice Shall Live” in direct contradiction to Hitler’s orders that “Lidice Would Die Forever’.
The campaign to rebuild Lidice was born and at a mass meeting in the Victoria Hall, Hanley, three months later the Lidice Shall Live Movement was formally.
The people of Lidice have never forgot the role played by Sir Barnett Stross, the miners of North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. In the Lidice Memorial Museum, his work is commemorated and attracts visitors from around the world.
Barnett Stross went on to serve the Potteries for many years. He was elected MP for Stoke-on-Trent’s Hanley Division in 1945. He served in parliament for 21 years and was often called on to speak on medical issues. He was very anti smoking and still campaigned on Industrial disease. He was Knighted in 1964 and he died in 1967.
Sir Barnett Stross was never considered for the Citizen of the Century to mark the 100 year Federation of the 6 Towns.
All may not be lost however, we do have an opportunity to recognise this truly inspirational Stoke-on-Trent character.
As Alan & Cheryl point out on their Facebook Group Page [link below],
From the Sir. Barnett Stross, Twinning Lidice & Stoke-on-Trent Group
The people of Lidice always remember the role played by Sir. Barnett Stross and the miners of North Staffordshire. In Lidice Stross’s name is well known, place names being named after him. A Lidice Memorial Museum attracts visitors from across the globe.
The creators of this group believe a twinning of Lidice with Stoke-on-Trent would be highly advantageous for Stoke-on-Trent, economically, socially and culturally as it would open many profile raising and regenerative opportunities for the city. Here are some:
It would give the young people of Stoke-on-Trent a sense of pride in their ancestry. What finer example could there be of the kind-hearted spirit of the people of Stoke-on-Trent in action.
The significance of the role of ordinary, working class people in rebuilding Lidice after that terrible event would attract UK interest (and possibly global interest come 2012) – therefore doing much to improve the perceptions of Stoke-on-Trent viz-a-viz other cities in the UK and help attract hitherto unwilling investors and visitors to Stoke-on-Trent.
Organised properly with correct consultation with the communities of Stoke-on-Trent and its private sector, it could help reduce parochialism and disaffection, give the people of Stoke-on-Trent a sense of “place” and empathy with a community thousands of miles away. Especially as it was largely due to the workers of this city that the “Lidice Shall Live” campaign grew.
The Lidice Memorial Museum contains a wealth of artworks produced by world renowned artists. Already the museum have indicated their willingness to lend
artifacts related to the event towards a commemorative exhibition in 2012. They have indicated a desire to come to Stoke-on-Trent to find out more about Sir. Barnett Stross and the people of Stoke-on-Trent in readiness for their exhibition next year to celebrate the 111th anniversary of the birth of Barnett Stross.
No other city in The UK holds such an emotional tie to the events perpetrated by The SS. Although a National Holocaust Museum exists in Newark, Sherwood Forest, it is very possible that a properly fitted, permanent exhibition to commemorate the destruction of, and celebrate the rebuilding of, Lidice would attract many, many visitors to Stoke-on-Trent each year. This is even more likely if close ties are formed with The National Holocaust Museum and The National Arboretum in Cannock.
The Lidice Memorial Museum holds a Children’s Art Competition which attracts entries from all over the world. This year they’ve received over 25,000 entrants. I believe the museum would support and market an annual Children’s Art Competition which mirrored that of Lidice’s. Stoke-on-Trent could conceivably, therefore, receive work from children across the globe and prizes could include trips to Stoke-on-Trent to visit its attractions.
Sir. Barnett Stross. presented/opened the world’s largest rose garden at Lidice as a symbol of commemoration and rebirth. Stoke-on-Trent could find somewhere to site the largest rose garden in the UK to commemorate the life of Barnett Stross, Hugh Leese and the other Stoke-on-Trent people that started the campaign. Again this could be a massive a media event and the rose garden, if promoted properly, could become an attraction for many visitors to Stoke-on-Trent
There are, of course, many, many more potential benefits that could accrue into the long term.
If you agree that a twinning, whether that be formal or informal, of Stoke-on-Trent with Lidice would do much to raise the profile of Stoke-on-Trent and help in its regeneration and help improve non-domicile perceptions of Stoke-on-Trent, please invite people to join this group, or write to your councillor, or write to The Sentinel. Like others on Regenerate Stoke, we firmly believe that Stoke-on-Trent should start aiming higher. Part of that can be making the very most of any significant role it has previously made in world affairs.[/quote]
So, the gauntlet has been laid down to our City Council and the Cabinet Member with responsibility Hazel Lyth. This could be a massive good news story for Stoke-on-Trent. In these times of the “Ëœcut, cut, cut’ culture this story could be a flashing beacon amidst all the doom.
Pits n Pots completely support the effort of Alan & Cheryl Gerrard of The Art Bay Gallery, Fenton in their efforts to commemorate the act of humanity of Sir Barnett Stross. We also support the call for a formal twinning agreement with the town of Lidice.
We ask all Pits n Pots readers to join Alan & Cheryl’s Facebook Group and we ask that all readers leave a message of support on the comments section of this article.
We urge Council Leader Pervez, his Cabinet, all other City Councillors and CEO John van de Laarschot to action this request as a matter of urgency.
We firmly believe the City Council are doing their best in these most difficult times, but request that Alan & Cheryl’s efforts be recognised with positive action.
Please do not mistake their frustration for anger. This City needs progressive citizens like Alan & Cheryl to combat the negativity of the extreme views held in this City.
Sir Barnett Stross was a Jew. This year Stoke-on-Trent voted to formally adopt a Holocaust Memorial Day, what better way would there be of sending a clear message to those who use politics to deny and denounce the Holocaust, that Stoke-on-Trent will never forget those atrocities.
Stoke-on-Trent should be proud of Citizens like Sir Barnett Stross and for those, like me, who did not know about this fantastic individual, let’s get the message out eh?