A Ray of Light: The Story of Lidice, Book Review

The Story of Lidice by Russell Phillips, A Ray of Light

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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A Ray of Light by Russell Phillips
Published by Shilka Publishing on July 18th 2016
Genres: Genocide & War Crimes, History, Holocaust, Military, Political Science, World War II
Buy on Amazon US | The Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Buy on Amazon UK

I did not know the story of Lidice. It’s fascinating, horrendous, yet heart-warming.

Assassination and reprisals

In 1942 an assassination attempt was made on Reinhard Heydrich, a senior Nazi and one of the architects of the Holocaust. In retribution, Hitler ordered a full-scale search for the assassins. Based on tenuous evidence that they had been given safe shelter in the village of Lidice in Czechoslovakia, Hitler ordered the men of Lidice to be shot, and the women and children sent to an extermination camp. The complete village was then bulldozed. Nothing remained of Lidice.

Remarkably, despite Hitler wanting to wipe Lidice off the face of the earth, the very opposite happened. Under the leadership of a city councilor in the English city of Stoke-on-Trent, local miners got together to raise funds for a new village to be constructed. Donations were received globally. In 1947 the construction work started. A new Lidice arose.

Excellently written and produced

The book’s full title is “A Ray of Light: Reinhard Heydrich, Lidice, and the North Staffordshire Miners”. It’s a lovely little book. It’s well written, obviously well researched, and conveys the story simply, clearly and compellingly. It’s been well edited, is error-free, and has been given an attractive cover. (For some insights into reviewing Indie books, check out this post).

It covers all the major elements of the story. It gives a brief history of Heydrich, outlining his leading role in Kristallnacht and the running of the death camps. The author – Russell Phillips – explains the history behind Germany’s seizing of Czechoslovakia and the growth of the resistance movement. He focuses on the two Czechs charged with carrying out the assassination of Heydrich, and their eventual assassination attempt.

The descriptions of the reprisals are not easy reading, but the rebuilding of Lidice is a triumph of good over evil. It’s a wonderful example of how empathy and generosity can rebuild what hatred and revenge has destroyed.

It’s a story that deserves to be read and remembered.


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43 responses to “A Ray of Light: The Story of Lidice, Book Review

      • Denzil

        I think it’s so good that these events are remembered by later generations. I see the video is a recent too, which is good as it is clearly in the public eye. It looks like your book is very timely Russell.

        • I completely agree that it’s important that these stories are remembered by later generations. The story of Lidice was largely forgotten in the UK for a long time, but efforts are underway to make people more aware of it. I suspect (but I don’t know) that the video came about as a result of that.

    • Honestly, I hadn’t heard of it until I happened upon a local project to spread awareness of the story. Even in Stoke-on-Trent, the story isn’t very well known, but there are ongoing efforts to change that. It’s to their credit that the Czechs, especially the people of Lidice, have never forgotten the North Staffordshire miners.

  1. Didn’t know about this story. Funny Hitler taking such reprisals – he never knew heydrichs personal secret!! Great review – gives a real sense of hope for humanity!

      • His maternal grandmother was Jewish, which was enough to make him “impure” in the Nazi eyes – he would have ended up in a camp himself. He had her name (Sarah) removed from her gravestone.

        • That rumour hounded Heydrich throughout his life, but I have to say that I don’t believe it’s true. The rumour was reported to Nazi party headquarters in 1932, and they launched an investigation, which found that his family was “free from any coloured or Jewish blood”.

          Canaris also claimed to have documents that proved Heydrich’s Jewish ancestry, but they never surfaced.

          • Hey Russell – I read about it in an old book by André Brissaud called the Nazi Secret Service, and it stayed with me if ever his name was brought up. I’m told there’s a reference in Peter Padfields “Himmler” book, but I’ve never read it. At this remove, I think its a case of “you pays your money, you takes your choice”.

    • Denzil

      Thanks Joseph. Good to see you here as well as over “there” (on the review page of your own book)

  2. Denzil, this most be one of the most worthy books around at the moment! In the midst of such horror and evil, the goodness of people helped to rebuild a whole town. Heartwarming and inspiring. Thank you so much for featuring and sharing. I’m wondering how you came across this book?

    • Denzil

      I’m listed on a website as an Indie reviewer for non-fiction Annika. As there seems to be a dearth of non-fiction reviewers I am regularly sent interesting books to review.

  3. Since there are several comments expressing an interest in the story of Lidice and the North Staffordshire miners, you might also be interested in watching this documentary:

    I don’t have any connection to the film, although I was lucky enough to see the premiere 🙂 It’s a good film, in my opinion, and also a useful resource for anyone wanting to spread awareness of the story.

    • Denzil

      Thanks for this link Russell. I have watched some of it and it looks very interesting. I’ll watch the rest later when I have some spare time.

  4. Although this also sounds excellent, I realize, having just finished a book about this time period, I could not read about these atrocities again for a while. What we have done to our fellow man in the name of whatever leaders believe they are out to prove is heavy stuff (at least for me), and has to be spaced out among other books/stories/subjects. But another great review. Tx.

  5. I’ve known about Lidice since I was in high school. Sadly, this is not the only story of its kind. But I’m glad of the efforts to remember the people Hitler tried to destroy but did not by rebuilding Lidice. Some day the world will not remember the names of the terrorists and violators – we will only remember the names of the victims and the heroes. Righteousness will have won.

    • Denzil

      Yes you are right Sharon. I do love the fact that Hitler wanted to remove the name of Lidice off the face of the earth but ended up making it more well known for years to come.

    • It’s good to hear that the story is being taught in some places. Can I ask where you went to high school?

      I really hope you’re right that in the future we’ll only remember the victims and heroes.

      • Actually, it had nothing to do with my high school but that I’m Jewish. It’s a part of our history – many of us lost family in the Holocaust. In my family I never knew their names but was told that the letters from Europe stopped coming. The implication was obvious and frightening. (Long before I was born.)

  6. I’m not sure if this book is horrifying and depressing or hopeful and uplifting. Perhaps both, the phoenix rising from the ashes. Stories of the holocaust are important to remember as well as the courage and kindness of those who refused to be swept up in the evil. Thanks for the review, Denzil.

    • Personally, I find it uplifting overall, because I already knew that the Nazis murdered millions of people and did committed some horrific atrocities. Finding out the story of Lidice didn’t really increase the horror very much. On the other hand, I didn’t know about the North Staffordshire miners until recently, and their part of the story is simply astonishing.

    • Denzil

      While nothing could ever bring the people back, I found it uplifting to see how they have been remembered in a very pragmatic way.

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