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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October, 2003, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Village film relives Nazi horror
Silent Village - Copyright - The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales
Locals played the role of the 173 executed men
A screening of a war propaganda film depicting Nazi atrocities in Czechoslovakia will bring back memories for members of a Swansea Valley community - as they were in it.

When the British Ministry of Information wanted to make a film about the annihilation of Lidice during World War II it used the village and residents of Cwmgiedd, near Ystradgynlais, to recreate the tragedy.

Local miners, children, their mothers and grandparents were drafted in as actors and footage was shot in various locations including the school and village hall.

Butcher Eddie Thomas, now 72, remembers the production and will be among the audience when The Silent Village is shown at Pontardawe Arts Centre on Thursday.

I was one of those herded on to the vans as if we were going to a concentration camp
Betty Watkins

"They filmed for quite a while, I would say a good couple of weeks," he said.

"We were in school at the time of course and they filmed us there. They also filmed us climbing onto the back of trucks as if we were being taken way.

"They did a lot of shooting with miners at the pit head baths in Seven Sisters.

"I knew about what had happened at Lidice through the newspapers."

The massacre of Lidice - the Nazi retaliation to the assassination of Reichsprotektor Heydrich in Prague in 1942 - sent waves of repulsion through Europe.

Silent Village - Copyright - The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales
Filming took place just months after the 1942 atrocity

A total of 173 of the village's men were killed and the women and children were sent to concentration camps - where most of the children were also killed.

Just months after the Czech village was levelled, the British government asked renowned documentary maker Humphrey Jennings to make a film about the atrocity.

The Silent Village played an important role in making Lidice into an international symbol of the brutality of Nazism and in hardening resolve to defeat Hitler's forces.

County councillor for Ystradgynlais, Betty Watkins, also remembers the filming but her part in it ended up on the cutting room floor.

Survivors

"I was one of those herded on to the vans as if we were going to a concentration camp," she said.

"My grandfather was in the film as was other members of my family.

"They asked me to run up and down the village as if I was being chased.

Silent Village - Copyright - The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales
The village of Cwmgiedd in 1942

"My mother took me to see the film and I was looking forward to it but they did not use the bits with me in it."

Pavla Nepor Bellisová, a descendant of one of the Lidice survivors, will attend the screening in Pontardawe.

The horrific execution of the local men - which took place against the wall of her grandmother's farm - is recreated in the film version of the tragedy.

The event has been jointly organised by The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales and the Národní Filmový Archiv in Prague, where the film is also being shown on Wednesday, as part of European Cinema fortnight.


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