Hundreds of thousands of documents were recently added to the website of the Arolsen Archives organisation, which houses the world’s most comprehensive collection on Nazi persecution. Not only do they offer new opportunities to find out what happened to victims, but they also provide details on some of the leading figures of 20th century Czechoslovakia.
The Czech Radio archives include many recordings from the time of World War II. They come from both sides: propaganda from within occupied Bohemia and Moravia aimed at intimidating the population and bullying them into supporting the Reich, but also recordings from abroad. Both the BBC and the government in exile in London were broadcasting to occupied Europe in Czech, at the same time informing the wider world about the fate of Czechoslovakia in English. Some of the extracts we’ll be hearing have become well known, but our archives also hold many
The Moravian town of Nové Město is renaming a street on its main square in honour of a Jewish family whose tragic fate featured in the international bestseller Hana’s Suitcase. The tribute comes ahead of the anniversary of the death of the only family member to have survived the Holocaust – who was denied a Czech state honour due to an unrelated political spat.
The Russian Embassy in Prague has criticised plans to erect a monument in
the capital’s Řeporyje district to the so-called Vlasov Army, whose
leader was hanged by the Soviets for collaborating with the Germans during
World War II.
The Russian Embassy said in a press release building such a monument would constitute a violation of the Czech commitments to the 1968 Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, defined at the Nuremberg trials.
At the start of the war, General Andrei Vlasov commanded the Red Army on the Smolensk front. After being captured, he embraced the German cause and went on to lead a collaborationist force comprised mainly of former Soviet prisoners of war.
By February 1945, his “army” – which had only one fully formed division – fought briefly on the Oder Front before switching sides and helping the Czechs liberate Prague from Nazi occupation in early May 1945.
November 11 is the 80th anniversary of the death of Jan Opletal, a Prague student who had been gunned down at an anti-Nazi demonstration in the city a fortnight earlier. Opletal became a symbol of Czech resistance to the German occupation and a march held in his honour helped spark the Velvet Revolution five decades after his death.
Though little-known today, Marie Schmolka was for several years one of Prague’s key organisers helping Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis, while she also helped arrange transports of children to the UK that saved hundreds of lives. On Monday Schmolka is receiving, in memoriam, honorary citizenship of Prague 1, as officials finally honour the heroic work she carried out in her native city.
The Czech Radio archives give us a rich and nuanced picture of the months leading up to the Munich Agreement of September 1938 that resulted in Nazi Germany annexing huge areas of Czechoslovakia. So many recordings survive that we can reconstruct the events leading up to Munich almost day by day. They include insights from many different angles, not least the perspective of the German-speakers of Czechoslovakia, those who supported, but also those who opposed Hitler. The archives offer a sober warning of how easily a democratic state can be shattered
In a speech at a Holocaust conference in 2015, President Miloš Zeman falsely claimed one of the nation’s most respected journalists had penned a pre-war article titled “Hitler is a gentleman”. Ferdinand Peroutka, he claimed, was an admirer of the Nazi dictator. On Monday, a Prague court ruled against his granddaughter, who had sued for an apology.
After the end of the Second World War it was often very difficult to catch and bring Nazi war criminals and their collaborators to justice. Historian Vojtěch Kyncl from the Czech Academy of Sciences has written a new book called Beasts: Czechoslovakia and the Persecution of Nazi Criminals, which explores the Czechoslovak side of this endeavour. I began by asking him when the allies, including Czechoslovakia, first committed to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.
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Film about tragic fate of great Czech actress highlights communist atrocities in the 1950s