In November 1945, six months after the end of World War II, the units that had taken part in liberating Czechoslovakia began their official withdrawal. Various ceremonies were held, first on November 15, to say farewell to the Red Army troops, who had fought their way in bitter fighting through Slovakia all the way to Prague. Then a few days later, on November 20, the withdrawal began of the American units that had liberated Western Bohemia.
In last week’s From the Archives we heard about radio’s central role in the Prague Uprising against the German occupation at the end of World War II. Not only did the signal for the uprising to begin come over the air, but the radio also helped to co-ordinate the fighting. It also played a third role. At the time the Red Army was already approaching Prague from the east, and General Patton’s Third Army was in Plzeň just a few dozen kilometres to the west. Many of those fighting in the streets of Prague were untrained and had few weapons, and the
“Calling all Czechs! Come quickly to our aid! Calling all Czechs!” It is May 5 1945, and with these words Prague radio appeals to Czechs to join the uprising against the German occupation. This was to be one of the last European battles of World War Two and the greatest moment in the history of Czechoslovak Radio. For some time radio staff had been working secretly with the Czech underground to prepare the ground for the uprising. Their radio appeal marked the beginning of the battle. In the confusion of the following three days with street battles
The wartime president of occupied Bohemia and Moravia, Emil Hácha, is one of the saddest figures of Czech twentieth century history. An elderly academic, he only agreed reluctantly to become head of state after Edvard Benes resigned over the Munich Agreement in 1938. He made the tragic mistake of remaining in office when Hitler marched into the country six months later. Hácha’s hopes of preserving at least some of his country’s independence were gradually worn down, and as his health failed, he eventually became nothing but a puppet of the
During the wartime occupation, German-language broadcasts from Prague were absorbed into the radio network of Nazi Germany, the so-called “Reichssender”. A number of archive recordings in German survive from the time. Most vivid and chilling among them are the long lists of names broadcast each day of Czechs arrested and executed. But there are also some propaganda curiosities. In June 1941, Prague’s German programme interviewed a nurse. She was living and working in the city, and remembered with great nostalgia one particular patient who had come
In last week’s From the Archives, we heard how German troops marched into Prague on March 15 1939. The next day, Edvard Beneš, who had resigned as Czechoslovakia’s president in the wake of the Munich Agreement, and was in exile in London, told Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that from now on, he would be leading the resistance against the German occupation. Five months later, war broke out and at the end of 1939 the BBC began its broadcasts in Czech.
A now famous appeal broadcast from the Czech Radio building on May 5, 1945, sparked the Prague Uprising. After hearing it on the air, thousands of people took to the streets to fight the Nazi oppressors. On Thursday, several events were held to mark the 66th anniversary of the start of the Prague Uprising, including a ceremony in front of the Czech Radio building.
In recent weeks, I’ve tried to capture something of the tense atmosphere of the time leading up to the Munich Agreement of September 30 1938, when the British and French Prime Ministers Chamberlain and Daladier allowed Hitler to carve up Czechoslovakia and march unopposed into the Sudetenland. The agreement left the country as a fragment of its former self; not only Germany, but also Hungary and Poland, claimed large chunks of Czechoslovakia’s borderlands. Here is how Radio Prague reported on the final border agreement, reached some weeks after
We quite often hear it said that in the run-up to World War Two, no-one quite realized the scale of the threat that Nazi Germany posed in Europe. When Hitler set his eyes on Czechoslovakia, there were plenty of politicians in Western Europe who really seemed to believe him, when he said that the Czech borderlands, the so-called Sudetenland, were his “last territorial claim”. But Czech Radio’s archives show only too clearly, that here in Prague there were also plenty of people who were only too aware of the worldwide menace that Hitler posed. As
One of the most dramatic - but least known - events in Czechoslovak Radio’s history dates back to September 21 1938. This was the day that the government announced that it was willing to succumb to German pressure, and would give up large areas of the country’s borderlands to Nazi Germany. By this time it was clear that Britain and France would not be willing to fight for Czechoslovakia’s territorial integrity, and that to say no would mean invasion. The announcement sent a shockwave through Czech society, and immediately thousands took to the streets
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