In last week’s From the Archives, we heard how German troops marched into Prague on March 15 1939. The next day, Edvard Benes, 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.
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 clearly that here in Prague there were also plenty of people who were only too aware of the worldwide menace that Hitler posed. As Britain and
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
It was exactly seventy years ago this week, at 11 pm on a cold and snowy Christmas Eve in 1937, that Czechoslovak Radio attempted a fascinating radio experiment. A radio bridge was set up to bind three continents – reaching India in the east, and across the Atlantic to the United States in the west. The Czech writer, Karel Capek and the inventor of the arc-lamp, the 90-year old Frantisek Krizik, exchanged messages of goodwill for the coming year with Albert Einstein in Princeton and with the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore in Bengal. The
Internationally the Czech writer Karel Capek is best known as the inventor (together with his brother Josef) of the term “robot” in his 1920 play R.U.R. With his novels, stories and plays combining humour, satire and a strong humanist vision, Karel Capek was hugely popular in pre-war Czechoslovakia. But this was a time when Hitler’s Germany was casting a dark shadow over Central Europe and it is hardly surprising that one of the few recordings of Capek in our archives - speaking on Christmas Eve 1937 - does not bear a cheerful message.
Starting next Thursday, our colleague David Vaughan will be introducing new series entitled From the Archives. As the name suggest he'll be dusting off some of the many unique recordings to be found in the archives of the Czech Radio. I asked David what drew him to explore the archives in the first place.
If we delve into the Czech Radio archives, we find recordings in English going right back to Radio Prague's beginnings 70 years ago. Some of the extracts we are going to feature in this programme have not been aired for well over half a century. They capture some of the most interesting and dramatic moments in our history.
Thirty-eight years ago on August 21, 1968, Czechoslovak citizens woke up to find that the country had been invaded by Warsaw Pact forces. It was the beginning of the end of the so-called Prague Spring, a period of reform communism ushered in by Alexander Dubcek, who is known for wanting to create "socialism with a human face." Yet this experiment involving freedom of the press and the opportunity to travel abroad was not looked upon kindly by the Communist Party leadership in Moscow, nor by the leadership in neighbouring socialist states. The solution
The appeal "Volame vsechny Cechy" - calling all Czechs - is probably the best known recording in Czech Radio's archive. A radio announcer calls on Czechs to rise up against the German occupation. The date is the 5th May 1945, in the dying days of the war, and the broadcast marked the beginning of the Prague Uprising. In three days of fighting, over three thousand Czechs lost their lives, before the Red Army finally entered the city. Much of the fighting took place right here, in the radio building in Vinohradska Street. This Friday, as every year,
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