Monday marks the 60th anniversary of the mysterious death of Jan Masaryk, foreign minister of Czechoslovakia in the 1940s and son of the country’s founder and its first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. On the morning of March 10, Jan Masaryk’s body was found in the courtyard of Černín Palace, the seat of the Foreign Ministry. To this day his tragic death remains unexplained and is one of the great mysteries of modern Czech history.
Just a few years ago the Jewish Museum in Prague launched its Lost Neighbours project, aiming to piece together the stories of forgotten Czech Jews persecuted by the Nazis in the Holocaust. The project, most unusually, brings together stories recorded and researched not by journalists or professional historians, but by elementary and secondary school students, with the aim of helping young people learn firsthand about what happened sixty years ago.
This week in Mailbox: the beneficial properties of sea water once again, the Barrandov film studios in Prague, an Oscar for Czech musician Markéta Irglová, the 30th anniversary of Czech cosmonaut Vladimír Remek’s flight into space. Listeners quoted: Robert Fraser, Howard Barnett, Stephen Hrebenach, Thomas Kuca.
The six months leading up to the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939 were a strange period. After Germany, Poland and Hungary had annexed over a quarter of the country’s territory as a result of the Munich Agreement in September 1938, it was hard to see how the rump Czechoslovakia – the so-called “Second Republic” - could keep going. But Radio Prague’s shortwave broadcasts continued, and not surprisingly they focused on sustaining the much shaken international confidence in the country. Here is the famous Czech professor and scholar
Thirty years ago Vladimír Remek became the first man in space who was not from either the United States or the Soviet Union. Remek became a hero not in only in his native Czechoslovakia but throughout the Eastern Bloc after taking part in an eight-day Soviet space mission in March 1978. The former cosmonaut spoke to me about his memories of that historic flight – and the propaganda which accompanied it
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek awarded Milan Paumer, the third member of the so-called Mašín group, with a medal of honour on Tuesday. Last week, during a trip to Washington, Mr Topolánek broke one of the greatest Czech taboos by awarding medals to the two Mašín brothers, who along with Milan Paumer and two other anti-Communist fighters made a daring escape from Czechoslovakia in 1953, killing six armed men in the process. For decades the group were demonised by Communist propaganda, and Czechs are still deeply divided over the legitimacy
Today in Mailbox we disclose the identity of our February mystery woman and announce the names of the four winners who will receive small gifts from Radio Prague for their correct answers. Listeners quoted: George Matusek, Don Schumann, Jaromír Hauzar, Andrew Connelly, David Eldridge, Paul R. Peacock, Charles Konecny, Hans Verner Lollike, Jacob Donaldson, Evelyn Coviello, Colin Law, Stephen Conlin, Ralph Francis.
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