Events have been held in the Czech Republic marking the 72nd anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Defence Minister Martin Stropnický, Chief of the General Staff Josef Bečvář and other senior Czech Army figures attended the main event at Prague’s Vítkov National Memorial on Monday morning. In the afternoon President Miloš Zeman named new generals, including the country’s first woman general, Lenka Šmerdová. Ceremonies marking the anniversary of VE day were also held at Prague’s Klárov and in Brno, while several days of celebrations in Plzeň reached a climax.
On the occasion of the anniversary of the end of WW II, I speak with well-known historian Matěj Spurný about the Sudeten Germans whose future in post-war Czechoslovakia was sealed when many lined up with Nazi Germany ahead of the Munich Agreement. Most of the ethnic German population was forced to leave – spelling the end of what had been a largely peaceful coexistence going all the way back to the 13th century.
Czech Radio’s Prague headquarters was very much the focal point for the Prague uprising against Nazi rule at the end of WWII. And today’s top state personalities assembled on Friday outside the radio building to pay homage to the hundreds who fell at the barricades in Prague and in scattered skirmishes across the country.
Culture Minister Daniel Herman has said that the Terezín Memorial should remind visitors not only of the horrors of the Holocaust but also serve as a warning. The minister made the statement while attending a ceremony marking 70 years since the memorial’s completion two years after the end of World War II. The minister reminded attendees that some survivors who had been held in the Terezín ghetto or been held in the Gestapo prison at the Small Fortress were still living that it was the duty of society to cultivate the memory of what had happened at the site into the future. The minister said that his own grandmother had been one of those imprisoned at the Gestapo prison at the Small Fortress during World War II. The Nazis used Terezin as a ghetto and camp for the internment of Jews who were later sent on to death camps such as Auschwitz.
Wreathes were laid on Saturday in the village of Javoříčko in Moravia at a monument to 38 local men who were murdered by the Nazis during WWII, Czech Television reported. The mass killing came on May 5, 1945, just days before the end of the war, in response to local people’s support for Soviet partisans. The Nazis later razed the majority of homes in the village, where only a few dozen people live today.
Two new additions look set to be made to the Czech Republic’s list of official “significant days”. The Chamber of Deputies has voted to make June 18 the Day of the Heroes of the Second Resistance, referring to those who fought back against the Nazis during World War II. The anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, on 9 March 1944, is also in line to become a significant day. A co-author of the bill, Robin Böhnisch of the Social Democrats, said it paid a debt to the heroes of WWII.
Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka has invited Pope Francis to visit the Czech Republic. The invitation was made during an audience with the pope as EU leaders gathered in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the founding treaty of what was to become the European Community. The papal visit could take place in June when the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Czech village of Lidice by the Nazis will be marked. An earlier invitation had already been made by Czech head of state Miloš Zeman.
Czech scouts have begun mapping the fates of scouts who died during World War II in battle, in concentration camps or in prisons, Czech Television reported on Tuesday. Within the project War Heroes they are attempting to trace their fallen predecessors’ life stories in a bid to preserve them for future generations of Czech scouts. The Nazis banned the scouts in 1940 and many of its members joined the resistance. Around 700 died in the course of the war.
Prior to being dropped in Nazi-controlled Bohemia to carry out the assassination of German governor Reinhard Heydrich, the Czechoslovak parachutists Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš were based in the English village of Ightfield, where they befriended the local Ellison family. Now – 75 years after their daring mission – the pair are set to get a monument there. The man behind the campaign to honour them in this way is Englishman John Martin, the author of a book on Operation Anthropoid.
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