TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, AT LAST

Tapping away at his wireless and Morse Code equipment during the Second World War must have seemed to him like the height of technology when my Dad joined the RAF in 1940. It became ingrained. He could recite Morse code throughout his life and whilst it wasn't quite the last thing he said, we did listen out for a final da-da--dit.

And now, even I, primitive cyclist and lover of basic tech have just managed to Tweet - probably not very effectively or often enough, but that will come. See @StokeLidiceBike. I already have some followers and it is amazing how quickly things spread. There is no escaping it. I have been able to book accommodation across Germany at the click of a few buttons; study Czech cycle routes in detail on a smashing interactive mapping website dedicated to cycling, correspond with Simon Vollam, a more than helpful ex-pat in Prague (CircuitRider.cz) who has lavished time and advice, been contacted by well-wishers in the Czech Republic asking us to drop in and have a beer and see some of the countries historic and modern sites.

One of the more perceptive children whom I inflicted history lessons on during the earlier part of the twenty-first century asked what impact Information Technology and modern communications, especially the then young social media, would have had on the past. Specifically, she asked, "What if the Nazis had computers?" Well. of course, there were computers in the Second World War - God Bless Alan Turing. But she was thinking of our technology superimposed on the past.

One response was that it would have been bad news for anyone the Nazis did not like; they could be more efficiently destroyed if there was a data base to start from. Another said, they'd have been a lot more news - propaganda would not work. Another said that "they'd never get away with it because we would all see how awful everything was."

I think "what-ifs" make nice historical games. I'd like to think that the last of the three selected responses was true. Question is whether we'd stand and film rather than getting involved, stare appalled and then say it was a long way away and not our business, or whether our knowledge would lead to action. And then there is the question of whether social media is such pure and impartial form of journalism as some like to think; everyone can be a journalist and everyone can post what they like.

Even so, like it or not - and I often don't - we are in an age which technology has made life so, so different to the time when Lidice and its people were wiped from the face of the earth and the people of the world reacted. Of course, the Nazis arrogantly spread the word themselves, so confident were they.

One fascinating aspect of the Lidice Shall Live campaign is the reaction in the USA and South and Central America. Charlotte Brendel, who works to keep the story alive in the USA, replied to a question I put on Facebook, saying that there were many people of Czech and Slovak descent in the USA, whilst Alan Gerrard, along with Cheryl Gerrard, the leading figure in the rejuvenation of links between Stoke-on-Trent and Lidice (at least at the Potteries' end of things) suggested that the power of Wendell Wilkie's speech made huge impact. Imagine a leading US politician getting really agitated and excited about an individual incident so far away today! In Mexico and Brazil towns renamed themselves Lidice and today Lidice is a far from uncommon forename in South America. One Lidice has a sister by the name of Lezaky, a hamlet that suffered the same fate as Lidice in an additional atrocity following the assassination of Heydrich.

And the good thing is that, though we have never met, we can all communicate, learn from one another, agree and disagree and understand. Even so, there's little better than sharing a beer with friends, especially when planning a trip to people and places only seen on the internet, as yet.

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