Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has surprised many by honouring the anti-communist fighter Josef Mašín. Mr Topolánek was due to present the US resident with a prime minister’s medal at the Czech Embassy in Washington on Thursday – the first ever official recognition of the controversial actions of Mr Mašín, his brother and the other men who employed violence before and during a dramatic bid to escape to the West in 1953.
In the early summer of 1938 an unprepared visitor would have found it hard to find a hotel in Prague. Tens of thousands of people from dozens of countries, including Yugoslavia, France and the United States had gathered in the city. This was tenth international gathering of the Sokol movement, which had been founded in Prague back in the 1860s with the idea of using physical exercise to build a sense of patriotism. Sokol took its inspiration from Ancient Greece, but in 1938 the event also had more than a hint of pan-Slav solidarity in the face
On Sunday The Counterfeiters, based on the memoirs of Prague resident Adolf Burger, won the Academy Award for best foreign language film. Mr Burger’s book The Devil’s Workshop tells the remarkable story of a Nazi scheme under which Jewish concentration camp prisoners – including the author – were put to work forging US and UK banknotes, with the aim of destabilising the Allies’ economies. Adolf Burger, who is 90, was in Hollywood to enjoy The Counterfeiters Oscar victory. To celebrate his success we are re-broadcasting Mr Burger’s story, which first
A replica of the Czech made Tatra aero sledge, which was produced for the Germans during the Second World War, has recently been made for a collector in the United States. The little car with skis instead of wheels and a large propeller at the back was intended to serve the German Army in Russia. On Tuesday the replica was successfully tested on the snow of Jeseníky Mountains.
In this edition of Czechs Today, we talk to Ondřej Kohout, a painter and stage designer who left Czechoslovakia with his family in the early 1980s after signing the Charter 77 manifesto. He went to live in Vienna where he reunited with his father, the poet and playwright Pavel Kohout, who had been forced out of his country by communist authorities. In the Austrian capital Ondřej Kohout established himself as an independent artist, and since 1983 he has had more than 60 exhibitions in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and other European countries.
Not everyone who marked the 60th anniversary of the communist takeover on Monday was mourning the victims of the regime. Several hundred mostly elderly Communist Party sympathisers gathered in Prague, shouting slogans and waving red banners with the hammer and sickle. It was a reminder that not everybody in this country believes the class struggle is over. So how do today’s communists see the events of February 1948?
It was 60 years ago Monday, that Czech President Edvard Beneš, under enormous pressure, capitulated and appointed a communist government led by Klement Gottwald. This event, known as the February putsch is viewed by many as a tragic blunder on the part of the president – had he stood firm, and not accepted the resignations of the non-communist parties in the government, which outnumbered the communists, the ascendancy of one party rule may have been averted.
Recent editions of this programme have been rather full of doom and gloom, as we have approached the Second World War in our archives. So this week we look at something a bit more cheerful. Here is a Scottish visitor to Prague in 1938. After singing the praises of Czechoslovakia, he suddenly changes tone – making a rather curious observation.
As a writer Jiří Stránský has never had to look far beyond his own extraordinary life story for inspiration. He was born in 1931 into an influential Prague political family – in fact his maternal grandfather even served for three years as prime minister in the 1930s. During the German occupation Jiří’s father Karel survived Auschwitz, and as a teenager Jiří took part in the Prague Uprising in the last days of the war. But ironically, the family suffered just as much under the communists after the war as they had under the Germans. They had never
In 1938 at the height of the Sudeten crisis, Jan Masaryk was Czechoslovakia’s ambassador in London. He was the son of the country’s first President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and was well known as being both articulate and entertaining. He was also completely bilingual, his mother Charlotte being from the United States. But Jan Masaryk’s abilities as a communicator failed to influence the politicians in Britain, when, in September 1938, they agreed to let Hitler take over the Sudetenland. Masaryk resigned immediately as ambassador and in the following