One of the darkest chapters in modern Czech history has just been reopened, with the news that police in north Bohemia have named two men responsible for the killing of Sudeten Germans in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Though the alleged culprits are long dead, some have welcomed the fact that the matter has finally been investigated.
A small piece of history was made on Monday morning as the U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Europe formally handed over the keys to their former headquarters to a new tenant: the National Museum. The iconic steel and glass building a few metres from the top of Wenceslas Square has gone through several incarnations over the decades, but the latest will see its doors finally thrown open to the public.
At Prague’s Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Vladimír Bosák went through thousands of photographic negatives from the files of the StB, Czechoslovakia’s communist-era secret police, selecting the 200 plus images that now form a fascinating coffee-table photography book, Prague Through the Lens of the Secret Police.
Last year in this programme I played some archive recordings from the pre-war gatherings of the “Sokol” movement, which brought together tens of thousands of people in displays of mass gymnastics, all in an atmosphere of great patriotic fervour. After the war, the communists suppressed the Sokol movement as part of the old political order, instead staging their own spectacular calisthenics displays in honour of the Communist Party.
It’s 67 years today since one of the most audacious acts of resistance against the Nazi occupiers – the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, acting Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, by Czechoslovak parachutists. For six decades there’s been no memorial to commemorate the act - an act for which the parachutists and hundreds of innocent Czechoslovaks paid a terrible price. That, however, has now changed with the unveiling of a bronze statue on the spot where Heydrich was killed.
Part of the American response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 was a threat to boycott the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. The Soviet troops stayed put and the boycott went ahead, initiated by US President Jimmy Carter. To a greater or lesser extent, dozens of countries joined the protest.
Sir Nicholas Winton – the British man who helped save 669 Czechoslovak Jewish children from the Nazis in 1939 – will receive a telegram from the Queen on Tuesday to mark his 100th birthday. As well as the traditional reunion with those “Winton children” who settled in Britain after the war, there were a number of events in the Czech Republic to mark his centenary.
In the last years of the Cold War, Radio Prague’s English department was many times bigger than it is today and divided into several sections, devoted to different parts of the world. One of the most important was the Afro-Asian service. Africa was an important Cold War battleground and Radio Prague’s Afro-Asian service was not just telling the people of Africa about Czechoslovakia. It also covered events within Africa itself, following closely the Soviet political line. At one time the department was receiving tens of thousands of listeners’ letters
The Hittites Empire dominated a swath of the Near East for some 600 years in ancient times. It was a vastly precocious civilisation with better tools, more modern methods of warfare, and the newfangled commodity of iron. As is the way with empires however, the Hittites collapsed and all that the great trading civilisation had recorded of its world was left in oblivion until a Czech orientalist deciphered their forgotten language and became the first to hear their words in 3000 years. This week’s Czechs in History by Christian Falvey is devoted to
One of the stranger projects dreamt up in modern Czechoslovakia has just come to light. According to a newspaper report on Tuesday, engineers in Prague created a plan to build an underground rail tunnel all the way to the Adriatic Coast – and to create an artificial island that would have belonged to Czechoslovakia.