In the 1930s Prague was a modern city, with a passion for innovation. New buildings were springing up, celebrating the technology of steel, chrome and glass, jazz and swing were playing on the radio, and despite the impact of the world economic crisis, the Czech love of the motor-car was growing fast. One of the gems in our pre-war archives is a report from 1st January 1936 on the city's first traffic light. The intrepid reporter is standing at a busy Prague crossroads, and we hear the traffic roaring around him.
In this week’s Czech History we look at the phenomenon of cross border agents, people employed by Western intelligence services to cross the frontier during the early days of the Czechoslovak communist regime to gather information, create networks and bring back chosen individuals. Some crossed the border many times, some were caught on the first attempt. For some the transient phenomenon helped launch them onto a new life, for others heroic, and not so heroic acts, ended with treachery, death and long terms of imprisonment.
The first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk is remembered as the founding father of the country. It was he who from his exile in Britain and then America in the First World War negotiated the terms for an independent Czechoslovakia. When he died on 14th September 1937 at the grand old age of 87, the whole nation went into mourning. In sombre tones, Czechoslovak Radio broadcast the entire funeral. The five-hour event was the radio's first major outside broadcast, using a whole team of the star presenters of the time.
The Czech government wants to correct some of the injustices inherited from the communist regime. Twenty years after the fall of communism, coalition leaders agreed to a plan to slash the retirement benefits of former communist security service officers and high ranking Communist party officials. The funds should be used to increase the pensions of opponents of the former regime.
The visual history archive of the Shoa Foundation of University of Southern California contains more than 50,000 testimonies of holocaust survivors. A year ago, Prague became one of three European locations where the complete database can be accessed. The database should soon be extended by testimonies from the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, that will also be made accessible from the Czech capital. In this edition of One on One, RP talked to the Czech filmmaker Martin Šmok, who works with the foundation and even shot filmed of the material.
Over the next six months we'll be looking at some of the most fascinating recordings to be found down in the Czech Radio basement. Czech - and previously Czechoslovak - Radio has been archiving its material since way back in the 1920s, and has built up one of the richest radio archives in the world, surviving war, invasion and even a German aerial torpedo in May 1945. We start the series with our very earliest recording, the first Czechoslovak President, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, talking 79 years ago, on 28th October 1928. President Masaryk was born
A short walk from the Vltava in Prague’s New Town is the church that witnessed some of the most dramatic moments during the Nazi occupation of the country. The crypt beneath the church was the last hiding place for seven Czechoslovak commandoes, including Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík who assassinated the Reinhardt Heydrich in 1942. The site now houses an exhibition dedicated to their heroic actions. But the church also remains a place of worship for the small Czech Orthodox community.
Several events were held in the Czech Republic on Thursday to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the 66th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Several Jewish veterans and resistance workers from the Second World War met at Prague’s Czech Centre on Thursday afternoon to pay tribute to the victims of the Shoa, and to remember their fellow fighters.