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. In this week’s Czechs in History we look at Josef Beran’s exemplary life on the 40th anniversary of his death in exile.
It’s been described by one historian as one of the greatest finds about the Czechoslovak communist era. Several kilometres of film and sound were recently discovered at a factory and they cover the show trial of one of the country’s top communist officials. Details of the discovery and plans for the find were revealed on Thursday.
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.
A Prague court has halted a case centred on Communist persecution of kulaks following the death of a man believed to have been the country’s oldest defendant. His alleged crimes took place in the early 1950s when Czechoslovak agriculture was being collectivised, often using extremely harsh measures.
The Czech Catholic Church says that it is near to sealing an agreement with the Vatican for the return of the remains of Cardinal Josef Beran back to his homeland. Cardinal Beran was persecuted by the communist regime when it came to power in 1948 but eventually left for Rome, where he ended his days.
Several now elderly people who were persecuted by the Communist regime were
honoured with the Memory of Nations award at Prague’s National Theatre on
Friday night in one of a number of events marking Struggle for Freedom and
Democracy Day. The award went to former political prisoners František
Suchý, Mária Matejčíková and priest František Lízna, as well as to
Otto Šimko, a Holocaust survivor who was repeatedly persecuted because of
his Jewish origins.
The Memory of Nations award has been presented annually since 2010 by the non-profit organisation Post Bellum, which records and makes accessible interviews with victims of the Nazi and Communist regimes.
The long-awaited film about Milada Horáková, a democratic MP executed by the Communists in 1950 and perhaps the most powerful symbol of resistance to Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime, officially premieres in Prague on Thursday evening. The film was made by Czech US-based director David Mrnka. The role of Milada Horáková is played by Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer:
None of a trio of communist-era secret policemen suspected of involvement
in a campaign to force dissidents to leave Czechoslovakia in the 1970s and
1980s will face trial, Czech Television reported on Tuesday.
The state attorney recently halted the investigation into one of the three as he was judged not well enough to stand trial. The other two had already been released.
The three had stood accused of threatening to kill a dissident in North Bohemia. The man, who was a doctor, subsequently left the country with his family.
The communist operation to force dissidents to leave Czechoslovakia was known as asanace (clearance).