Historians in South Bohemia last Friday the 13th dug up the exceptionally well-preserved wreckage of a German fighter jet shot down during World War II. The Fw-190 Focke-Wulf, of which almost 20,000 were originally produced, went down near the village of Otín. The plane was one of several targeted by US pilots on August 24th, 1944 in what was one of the biggest air battles over Bohemia. The German pilot, Hubert Engst, ejected in time and would survive the war. But the aircraft itself smashed into the ground and remained lost and forgotten until
In 1939, the chairman of the German Social Democratic Workers Party in the Czechoslovak Republic, Wenzel Jaksch, saw himself forced to escape his native land after it was invaded by Germany – staying would have put him, who opposed the growing influence of the Nazis in Sudeten-German politics, in grave danger. Wenzel Jaksch successfully escaped to London, via the Beskydy Mountains and Poland. He later shared his amazing story – and based on his written account, his children, George and Mary Jaksch, have set out for a pilgrimage in their father’s
Every year in May, ceremonies take place on town and village squares across the Czech Republic to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II. Since the fall of communism, a particular effort has been made to remember the Czechs and Slovaks who fought in the British armed forces, whose role was long neglected by the communist regime. Recently rediscovered recordings offer a unique and highly atmospheric insight into the life of the Czechoslovak RAF pilots. David Vaughan has more.
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 Tomáš 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
The Czech lands have a long military history to be sure, but for a place that lacks a sea there is a surprisingly interesting naval history as well. Episodes of Czech sailors serving in the Austro-Hungarian Navy are the subject of a series of books by military historian Jindřich Marek called “Under the Austrian Flag”, “The Emperor’s Sharks” and “The Pirates of Freedom”. In this week’s Czech History we look at some of the heroic – and infamous – adventures of Czech mariners around the time of the First World War.
In sombre tones the second Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš announced his resignation on Czechoslovak Radio on October 5 1938. Since becoming president in 1935, he had been haunted by the spectre of Nazi Germany, as Hitler had fuelled separatist sentiment among the country’s 3.5 million German speakers. Here is an extract from one of President Beneš’ vain appeals for reconciliation, in April 1938.
In the run-up to the 66th anniversary of the end of WWII Czech public television featured a documentary throwing more light on events that have received little publicity in the past – the atrocities committed on German civilians in post-war Czechoslovakia. The subject has been avoided for years, but film director David Vondráček says Czechs need to hear about what happened and face up to events they may not be proud of.
A now famous appeal broadcast from the Czech Radio building on May 5, 1945, sparked the Prague Uprising. After hearing it on the air, thousands of people took to the streets to fight the Nazi oppressors. On Thursday, several events were held to mark the 66th anniversary of the start of the Prague Uprising, including a ceremony in front of the Czech Radio building.
This month marks the 60th anniversary of the official launch of Radio Free Europe, the American-funded broadcaster which was established as an anti-communist source of information during the Cold War and is widely considered to have played a critical role in the ultimate collapse of communism. Now based in Prague, Radio Free Europe continues to provide news and information to countries where independent media reporting is either banned by government authorities or not fully developed. In this edition of Panorama, we look back at the history of Radio
In the jumble of alleyways that is Prague’s Old Town, if you look carefully, you’ll make out the form of the ancient fortress of Ungelt, built over with baroque and renaissance facades, but still standing after 1000 years. This is the customs house of Ungelt, where foreign merchants came to store their wares, and a reminder that Prague has always been a cosmopolitan, multinational city ever since its earliest days.