The National Museum in Prague is currently running a special Exhibition called “Knights of the Heaven”. As the name betrays, it is focused on the Czechoslovak pilots who fought in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Located in the newly renovated historical building of the museum, it features a massive array of personal items and uniforms of the fighting men, who dedicated their lives to their country, only to be hunted by the communist regime later on.
This May marks the centenary of the birth of Ladislav Sitenský, among the most celebrated Czech photographers of the 20th century. He’s perhaps best known today for his iconic World War II work documenting the Nazi occupation of his homeland and lives of his fellow servicemen in the RAF’s Czechoslovak 312th squadron. But for over seven decades, Sitenský – who was also an accomplished sportsman, essayist and novelist – lovingly turned his lens to the people and architecture of Prague and other European capitals.
A memorial plaque to a Czech member of the British Royal Air Force who took
his own life after being expelled from the Czechoslovak Army by the
Communists was installed on Sunday near České Budějovice.
Lieutenant Colonel Václav Martínek began serving in a Czechoslovak unit under RAF command in 1942. He shot himself after being expelled from the Czechoslovak Army after the Communists seized power in the so-called Victorious February coup in 1948.
A member of the Society for Military History said that Martínek could be considered as among the first military victims of the regime, which imprisoned scores of former RAF pilots and other servicemen who fought with Western allies.
Kurt Taussig is one of the 669 Czech Jewish children who were saved from the Holocaust by Sir Nicholas Winton on the eve of the Second World War. The 95-year-old man, who went on to join the RAF as a fighter pilot, has since lived in Great Britain and, until recently, was unknown to Czech historians. Now, more than 75 years after he left his country, he was granted honorary citizenship in his birth-town of Teplice.
Members of the Czech Air Force, the British Royal Air Force, Second World War veterans, church and cultural dignitaries attended celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Czechoslovak Airforce at the Winged Lion Memorial in Prague’s Klarov park on Tuesday. The fact that both the Czechoslovak Airforce and the RAF are celebrating their centenary this year was an occasion to highlight the close ties between Czech and British airmen.
Petra Tonder’s father Ivo Tonder took part in the Great Escape in 1944 and later also succeeded in breaking out of prison in his native Czechoslovakia. There, like many former RAF aviators, he had been persecuted by the Communists after their 1948 takeover. In the second half of a two-part interview, Petra Tonder shares details about her own incredible journey to freedom as a very small child, and the lives her family led in the UK. But first she discusses her parents' post-war return to – and subsequent escape from – Czechoslovakia.
RAF officer Ivo Tonder played an important part in what became known as the Great Escape, a mass breakout by Allied airmen from a German prisoner of war camp in March 1944. But this was only one of many escapes by the Czech pilot, who evidently had nerves of steel – and a lot of luck. I recently spoke with his daughter, Petra Tonder, who came to our studios with a copy of In the Heavens and in Hell, a book by Tonder and the famous photographer Ladislav Sitenský. In the first half of a two-part interview, Petra Tonder describes her father’s remarkable
Hundreds of people including several senior Czech politicians attended a
ceremony at the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius in central Prague on
Monday commemorating the heroes of Operation Anthropoid.
New plaques were unveiled in the pavement by the church honouring Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, who assassinated Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich, and other resistance men who met their deaths there 76 years ago this year.
Social Democrats leader Jan Hamáček said the killing of Heydrich had been one of the most important acts of resistance in Europe and was certainly the most important on Czech territory. He said the men had laid down their lives for their nation’s freedom and deserved to be respected and remembered.
Zuzana Wienerová emigrated to the United States in the 1960’s with her late husband, RAF pilot and World War II hero Jan Wiener. Mr. Wiener was imprisoned by the Communists for five years after returning from Britain. We spoke today about their romantic love story, their life in the U.S. and the challenges they faced. I first asked her how she and her husband met.
Tomáš Lom is one of the very few surviving Czechoslovaks who served in Britain’s RAF during World War II. Born Tomáš Löwenstein into a Jewish family in Prague, he signed up in London the moment he turned 18 and ended up serving as a wireless operator in the Bahamas in the latter period of the conflict.