The Czech Radio archives give us a rich and nuanced picture of the months leading up to the Munich Agreement of September 1938 that resulted in Nazi Germany annexing huge areas of Czechoslovakia. So many recordings survive that we can reconstruct the events leading up to Munich almost day by day. They include insights from many different angles, not least the perspective of the German-speakers of Czechoslovakia, those who supported, but also those who opposed Hitler. The archives offer a sober warning of how easily a democratic state can be shattered
A plaque was unveiled at Liben railway station in Prague on Saturday in
memory of the East German exodus via the Czech capital in the early autumn
Around 13,000 East Germans who camped out on West German embassy grounds for days, boarded special trains from Liben railway station to West Germany after being granted free passage by the authorities.
The plaque’s unveiling, by the former federal minister for special affairs Rudolf Seiters, who helped negotiate their free passage, was one of a series of events in Prague marking the anniversary of the exodus.
The German Embassy in Prague organized a festival titled The Way to Freedom on the embassy grounds that included panel debates and meetings with former politicians and witnesses of the events.
The German Embassy in Prague this Saturday will mark the 30th anniversary
of the mass influx of East Germans to the Czech capital in the early autumn
of the revolutionary year of 1989.
Thousands of citizens of the former GDR had flocked to Prague after Czechoslovak authorities agreed not to prevent them from emigrating via the West German Embassy. The Berlin Wall fell months later.
To mark that anniversary, the Lobkowicz Palace will be open to the public, who can take part in a debate with the witnesses of the seminal events of 1989, and view exhibitions of photographs and historical documents.
At the time, the Czech capital was suddenly filled with hundreds of Trabants, whose owners had abandoned them often with the keys still in the ignition. A display of historic East German cars on Malostranské náměstí will recall the phenomenon.
After the end of the Second World War it was often very difficult to catch and bring Nazi war criminals and their collaborators to justice. Historian Vojtěch Kyncl from the Czech Academy of Sciences has written a new book called Beasts: Czechoslovakia and the Persecution of Nazi Criminals, which explores the Czechoslovak side of this endeavour. I began by asking him when the allies, including Czechoslovakia, first committed to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.
Communist Party chairman Vojtěch Filip has criticised the participation of
the Czech ambassador to Berlin in a meeting of the Sudeten German Homeland
Association last month, accusing Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček of
trying to demolish the Beneš decrees.
Mr. Filip said the Sudeten German group could not be a partner of the government and that he had never felt such disgust at a Czech foreign minister.
For his part, Mr. Petříček said nobody had questioned the Beneš decrees. He said Mr. Filip was acting like a parasite toward the past and what’s more was doing so a month late.
The Beneš decrees sanctioned the expulsion of Czechoslovakia’s German minority and the confiscation of their property after WWII.
Eighty years ago today, on March 15 1939, Hitler gave Czechoslovak President Emil Hácha a stark choice: accept becoming a protectorate or face destruction. After Hácha reluctantly agreed to give up his country’s independence the German army started moving in. It was the beginning of six long years of occupation.
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