Some figures are cast as heroes and others as villains. Emanuel Moravec - the face, voice and main force behind Czech collaboration with the occupying Nazis during WWII - unmistakeably belongs to the latter category. For his actions he became dubbed ‛the Czech Quisling’ – a reference the more famous Norwegian collaborator. In this week’s Czechs in History, Chris Johnstone explores Moravec’s complex character and path to collaboration.
At the end of September 1941, Hitler appointed Reinhard Heydrich as acting Reichsprotektor of occupied Bohemia and Moravia. The radio reported on his inauguration at Prague Castle, and the sound of the SS military band hammering out the German national anthem followed by the Horst Wessel song still sends a shiver down the spine.
In 1939, the chairman of the German Social Democratic Workers Party in the Czechoslovak Republic, Wenzel Jaksch, saw himself forced to escape his native land after it was invaded by Germany – staying would have put him, who opposed the growing influence of the Nazis in Sudeten-German politics, in grave danger. Wenzel Jaksch successfully escaped to London, via the Beskydy Mountains and Poland. He later shared his amazing story – and based on his written account, his children, George and Mary Jaksch, have set out for a pilgrimage in their father’s
Thousands of people on Saturday took the opportunity to inspect the historic premises of Prague Castle which are usually off-limits to the public. Thousands queued up since the early morning hours to see the castle’s interior, including the Spanish Hall, the Throne Room and the Mirror Hall. Visitors can see where the presidential elections take place, which rooms former presidents favoured and the dining room used to host banquets for visiting royals and heads of state. The Office of the President opens these premises to the public only on special occasions. The next opportunity to view them will be on October 28, a public holiday marking the birth of independent Czechoslovakia in 1918.
In sombre tones the second Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš announced his resignation on Czechoslovak Radio on October 5 1938. Since becoming president in 1935, he had been haunted by the spectre of Nazi Germany, as Hitler had fuelled separatist sentiment among the country’s 3.5 million German speakers. Here is an extract from one of President Beneš’ vain appeals for reconciliation, in April 1938.
At the beginning of this series we heard the voice of the first Czechoslovak President, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. The Masaryk family included several remarkable women, who were also to play their part in 20th century Czech history. Tomáš’s wife Charlotte was American, born in New York in 1850. When the couple married in Brooklyn in 1878, he took on her surname Garrigue as part of his own name, as a gesture of respect. Charlotte went on to devote her life to all things Czech, and she was every bit as energetic in her defence of women’s rights, winning
Earlier this week we remembered the 72nd anniversary of the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia on March 15 1939. Much has been written about the years that led up to the occupation: the growing tensions with Czechoslovakia’s German speaking minority, Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and then the Munich Agreement of September 1938 that ceded a quarter of Czechoslovakia’s territory to the German Reich. There is a sense of inevitability about the events, but could things have been different and could Czechoslovakia’s President Edvard Beneš have
The first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk is remembered as the founding father of the country. It was he who from his exile in Britain and then America in the First World War negotiated the terms for an independent Czechoslovakia. When he died on 14th September 1937 at the grand old age of 87, the whole nation went into mourning. In sombre tones, Czechoslovak Radio broadcast the entire funeral. The five-hour event was the radio's first major outside broadcast, using a whole team of the star presenters of the time.
Over the next six months we'll be looking at some of the most fascinating recordings to be found down in the Czech Radio basement. Czech - and previously Czechoslovak - Radio has been archiving its material since way back in the 1920s, and has built up one of the richest radio archives in the world, surviving war, invasion and even a German aerial torpedo in May 1945. We start the series with our very earliest recording, the first Czechoslovak President, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, talking 79 years ago, on 28th October 1928. President Masaryk was born
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