Archive: History | Second World War Second World War

“Sala’s Gift”: a whole war in a tin box

17-03-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

You will probably not have heard of Gross Sarne, Brande, Blechhammer or Schatzlar, but these are places that should be remembered. They were all Nazi slave labour camps in World War Two. The last on that list, Schatzlar, or Žacléř as it is known in Czech, was in what is now the Czech Republic, in the part of north-eastern Bohemia annexed by the German Reich in 1938. Few people in this country, even among the inhabitants of Žacléř itself, know that the camp even existed, but a new book should help to put that right. The daughter of one of the survivors has just been in the Czech Republic, to launch the Czech edition of her book “Sala’s Gift”. The book tells her mother’s story, drawing richly from Sala’s own memories and from several hundred letters that, against all odds, survived the war. David Vaughan tells the story.  More

An Englishwoman who has lived in Prague for over six decades – ‘war bride’ Ivy Kovandová – Part II

25-02-2012 02:01 | Sarah Borufka

Ivy Kovandová In the previous episode of Czech Life, we brought you the first part of the life story of Ivy Kovandová – one of the so-called war brides, English women who got married to Czech soldiers or pilots during World War II and then followed their husbands back to their native Czechoslovakia. Today, it is time for the second part of Ivy’s story – which starts with her arrival in her husband Oldřich Kovanda’s home country.  More

Jan Kaplan: Operation Anthropoid more appreciated as years go by

20-02-2012 | Ian Willoughby

As part of an exhibition linked to the 70th anniversary of the Lidice massacre in June, Prague's Dox Centre for Contemporary Art is currently hosting a video installation by the London-based Czech documentary maker and editor Jan Kaplan entitled 10:35. The name refers to the time of day that the operation to assassinate the Nazi governor of Bohemia and Moravia – which preceded the Lidice atrocity – reached its climax in a Prague suburb on May 27, 1942. The UK-based Czechoslovak paratroopers who carried out the attack later met their deaths in a church in the city.  More

A long-forgotten story of survival from WWII comes to light

16-02-2012 17:13 | Daniela Lazarová

A black and white photograph of a smiling Jewish girl unearthed in a photographer’s studio some years ago has led a young Czech journalist to piece together the dramatic story of a large group of Jewish children who were smuggled to Denmark to escape the Holocaust. While the story of the Nicolas Winton children is well known, this one is only just coming to light and will hopefully reunite long-lost friends scattered around the globe. The freelance journalist who is singlehandedly tackling the task is Judita Matyasova whom I invited to the studio. She began by telling me how it all came about.  More

An Englishwoman who has lived in Prague for over six decades – ‘war bride’ Ivy Kovandová

04-02-2012 02:01 | Sarah Borufka

Ivy Kovandová Ivy Kovandová is one of the few remaining so-called war brides in the Czech Republic. ‘War brides’ are Englishwomen who married Czechoslovak pilots or soldiers stationed in the UK during WWII – an estimated 10,000 soldiers and about 2,500 pilots from Czechoslovakia fought alongside the allies, and many of them married local women. Some of those women accompanied their husbands back to their native land after the war. But most left Czechoslovakia due to the strain that the arrival of the communist regime placed on their lives, or simply because they felt lost and homesick. Ivy Kovandová, however, still lives in her cozy apartment in Prague’s Vršovice neighborhood and says she has never even considered leaving. Just a few weeks ago, she celebrated her 90th birthday. I recently visited Ivy at her home, where she told me all about her adventurous life over cake and coffee.  More

Charles Ota Heller: a soldier at the age of nine

21-01-2012 02:01 | David Vaughan

Charles Ota Heller, photo: David Vaughan In the last days of World War II, nine-year-old Ota Heller picked up a revolver and fired it at a German soldier. He did not wait to see if the man was still alive. For decades afterwards he talked to no one about the experience, and only recently has Ota Heller – or Charles Ota Heller, as he is now called – felt able to return to his memories of the war, collecting them in his book “Out of Prague”. In this week’s Czech Books he talks to David Vaughan.  More

Fighter against dictatorships: Cardinal Josef Beran

03-01-2012 16:02 | Chris Johnstone

Archbishop, later Cardinal, Josef Beran, become a symbol of opposition to totalitarian regimes. He was dubbed the archbishop who refused to be silenced. The punishment for speaking out was imprisonment first under the Nazi occupation and then the Communists.  More

Village commemorates arrival of parachutists who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich

29-12-2011 16:43 | Jan Richter

Photo: www.nehvizdy.cz The village of Nehvizdy, in central Bohemia, on Wednesday commemorated the 70th anniversary of the start of Operation Anthropoid, the targeted killing of the Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich. Two Czechoslovak commandoes who carried out the killing, landed near the village on the night of 28 December, 1941.  More

A Christmas message from the survivors of Lidice in 1945

17-12-2011 02:01 | David Vaughan

With Christmas just round the corner, we break our chronological journey through the archives this week to go back to Christmas 1945. We’re in Kročehlavy, a suburb of the industrial town of Kladno near Prague. This was home to the survivors of one of the horrors of the wartime occupation, the murder in June 1942 of all the men and most of the children from the nearby village of Lidice. Only one Lidice family had survived the massacre intact: Josef Horák was one of two young pilots from the village who had fled at the beginning of the occupation, and he spent the war serving in Britain’s Royal Air Force. After the liberation he moved straight back to Czechoslovakia with his English wife Wynne and their two small children. The family was a symbol of a new life for Lidice, and over Christmas 1945 Czechoslovak Radio arranged a radio bridge to Britain from a Christmas party in the Horáks’ living room. Here is a slightly edited version of that broadcast.  More

The bombing of Prague from a new perspective

13-12-2011 17:05 | Christian Falvey

Photo: Stanislav Maršál For all the suffering that Bohemia and Moravia endured during WWII, relatively little of the damage was physical. Prague escaped the terrible bombing that left so many of the ancient cities of Europe wasted. There were incidents, however - two in particular in the last year of the war that brought large-scale destruction and great loss of life.  More

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