The late Sir Nicholas Winton saved the lives of 669 children, most of them Jewish, when he organised for them to leave Czechoslovakia for his native UK on the eve of WWII. His daughter Barbara Winton has told his remarkable story in the book If It's Not Impossible...: The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton and in July discussed what drove him and much more at the Melting Pot forum at Colours of Ostrava music festival, which is where I caught up with her.
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.
To promote neo-Nazi ideology is a crime in the Czech Republic. Giving the Seig Heil salute and denying the Holocaust is also forbidden, as is hate speech in general. But to profit from the sale of products featuring the words or images of Adolf Hitler and the like is permitted – if it cannot be proven the seller was looking to propagate hateful ideology.
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
One of the last remaining Czechs who served with Britain’s RAF during
World War II, Pavel Vranský, has died at the age of 97. Mr. Vranský was
promoted to the rank of brigadier general by the president last year.
The war hero, who came from a Jewish family in Ostrava, joined the RAF in 1942 and served with the 311 Squadron, which was a Czechoslovak-manned bomber squadron. Prior to that he had fought in Syria and at Tobruk.
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.
Government officials, war veterans, cultural figures and foreign
representatives attended a ceremony commemorating the 76th anniversary of
the razing of Lidice by the Nazis on Sunday.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said the massacre of the village’s inhabitants in 1942 should serve as a warning to future generations. In his address the prime minister emphasized the role of the EU and NATO in securing peace on the continent.
The head of the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters Jaroslav Vodička noted that the Lidice atrocity had touched people the world over and many towns now bore the name Lidice in memory of the village that was wiped off the face of the Earth.
In the last edition of Czech Books we featured an interview with Zuzana Justman, who with her older brother and mother survived the wartime Terezín ghetto. Her brother Jiří Robert Pick later wrote a remarkable novel set in the ghetto, under the title “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals”. The book draws richly from his own memories; with an unexpected lightness and humour it tells the story of a teenage boy and the people around him – his friends and the older men sharing a ward with him in the ghetto infirmary. Thanks to Zuzana Justman
The police is investigating a case of vandalism at the memorial in Lety,
the site of a former concentration camp for Romanies during WWII.
Unknown perpetrators fixed plaques with hate messages on the memorial erected to the hundreds of Romanies who died there. One of the messages read that the memorial is in commemoration of “the last Romanies who ever worked on Czech territory”.
The web site Romea.cz which reported the vandalism claims it is the work of the nationalist grouping My proti vsem, which has been vocal in criticizing the amount of money that has been spent by the government to buy out a pig farm standing close to the site, so that the memorial would be in dignified surroundings.