Seventy years ago the new Czechoslovak government was fully in the hands of the Communists. After the Stalinist coup d'etat in February 1948, a wave of arrests started and all democratic opposition was suppressed. Unclassified documents of the US Department of State show the degree of naïveté with which the American diplomats and intelligence officers in Prague faced their communist opponents and the subsequent shocking realization that there was nothing they could do.
The Václav Havel library, in cooperation with photographer Pavel Hroch, has recently launched an online exhibition called ‘The Faces of Resistance’. The project presents portraits and texts about 50 people who over a span of many decades stood up to political repression and brutality and who in certain moments displayed courage and a will to freedom.
Hundreds of people braved the cold to light candles and lay flowers at
monuments to the victims of Communism on the 70th anniversary of the
Communist takeover on February 25, 1948. The anniversary is being marked by
debates, exhibitions and film screenings.
A gathering in support of democracy took place on Wenceslas Square at which speakers warned of the danger of giving the Communist Party even a supportive role in the country’s next government.
4,500 people were murdered during the Communist years, 374 were killed at the country’s borders in an attempt to flee to the West, 254 were sentenced to death in political show trials, thousands were persecuted by the Communist secret police and 180,000 people fled the country.
Czechs are marking 70 years since the communist take-over which brought the
country under totalitarian rule for more than four decades.
The anniversary is being marked by film screenings, photo exhibitions and public debates.Gatherings and commemorative acts are taking place in many parts of the country at memorials dedicated to the victims of communism.
In Prague people have been laying flowers and lighting candles at the Memorial to the Victims of Communism at Ujezd and a gathering is expected to take place on old Town Square.
Historians have been stressing the need to keep alive the memory of this dark chapter of the country’s history.
On February 25, 1948, the Communist Party seized power in Czechoslovakia, marking the onset of four decades of hard-line, authoritarian rule. The Communist takeover was enabled by the party’s election success in 1946 and the resignation of the government’s remaining democratic ministers in February of 1948. President Edvard Beneš’ decision to confirm the Communists in power rather than dissolve the government and call new elections sealed the country’s fate for decades to come.
For around 40 years, so-called Victorious February was sacred for the Czechoslovak communist regime. The period from around February 17 and culminating on February 25 marked the party’s seizure of power when leader Klement Gottwald was finally named as prime minister of a communist dominated government.
A series of former Czechoslovak dissidents have criticized the use of
former communist era secret police files and comments from former agents to
discredit current politicians.
In recent days, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been the target of press attacks for reported meetings with a former Czechoslovak secret policeman using diplomatic cover.
The petition by a group of former Charter 77 activists, including former Czech prime minister Petr Pithart, František Bublan and Petr Uhl, said the former secret service files and comments from former agents should not be used to affect political events in other countries.
The Czech and Slovak StB archives show Corbyn met with a Czechoslavak agent three times but did not give any specific information and was not recruited as an agent.
But the British media attacks on the Labour leader have continued fuelled by comments from the former communist police agent.
Sylva Šimsová was 18 when her father, a Social Democrat politician, told her the family had to escape from Czechoslovakia. It was 1949, a year after the Communists had taken power. The young Sylva insisted that her fiancé, whom she had met through her beloved scouts only six months earlier, come with them. Remarkably, almost 70 years later she and her husband – a composer and broadcaster who goes by the name Karel Janovický – are still together.
Fearing prison in Communist Czechoslovakia, in March 1950 Oldřich Doležal and other ex-RAF aviators simultaneously kidnapped three planes on internal flights and escaped to West Germany. On board one of those planes was Doležal’s son, then just an infant. Today Tom Dolezal runs the Czechoslovak Free Airforce website and is an authority on the Czech and Slovaks who served in the RAF.
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