The wartime president of occupied Bohemia and Moravia, Emil Hácha, is one of the saddest figures of Czech twentieth century history. An elderly academic, he only agreed reluctantly to become head of state after Edvard Benes resigned over the Munich Agreement in 1938. He made the tragic mistake of remaining in office when Hitler marched into the country six months later. Hácha’s hopes of preserving at least some of his country’s independence were gradually worn down, and as his health failed, he eventually became nothing but a puppet of the
We have now reached the sixth part in our serialized reading of “If I had been a boy, I would have been shot…”, the memoirs of Jaroslava Skleničková. Veronika Hyks has been reading the story of Jaroslava’s childhood in Lidice, brought to a violent end in June 1942, when the Nazis decide to wipe away any trace of the village. Jaroslava – or Jaří – is the youngest of the women of Lidice to be sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, and she is there with her mother and sister, Míla. Nobody dares to think about what might have happened to the men
One of the best kept secrets among Czech castles and historic sites is the gorgeous Kozel Chateau founded in the late 18th century in western Bohemia. Founded by nobleman Jan Vojtěch Černín, a member of Emperor Joseph II’s court, the stone residence served an as exquisite hunting chateau and today is one of the best examples of Classicist architecture in Bohemia. The site is surrounded by fine lawns, a beautiful park and forests perfect for visits in the spring and summer. What’s more, Kozel is only an hour or so away from Prague and just minutes
Two years ago, representatives of 46 governments gathered at the former Nazi concentration camp in Terezín, an hour’s drive north of Prague. Among the many pledges contained within the pages of the Terezín Declaration was a promise to expedite the return of private property seized from Jews during the Holocaust and still not returned. Many descendants, however, are still waiting to get their family's property back.
Standing in the centre of the Clementinum – if you can locate such a thing in the labyrinth – you are surrounded by around a millennium of history and millions of volumes of books inside one of the most beautifully preserved masterpieces of Baroque art the city of Prague has to offer. This is the seat of the Czech National Library and the whispering and rustling that echoes through its grand halls add perfectly to its natural mysteriousness.
In Czech Books we hear the fifth part of Jaroslava Skleničková’s moving memoirs, “If I had been a boy, I would have been shot…”, read by the Czech-British actress, Veronika Hyks. After the assassination of the Nazi Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, the “Butcher of Prague”, Reinhard Heydrich, the Czech village of Lidice was chosen for complete destruction on the night from 9-10 June 1942. Jaroslava – or Jaří – was among 184 women from the village sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. David Vaughan gives us the story so far.
The scene is Prague. It is just before midday on St Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1945. An air-raid siren begins to wail. In previous weeks, Czechs have got used to the sirens, as Allied bombers have launched raid after raid on German cities, but so far the German-occupied Czech capital has been spared. This time it is different. Not long after the sirens stop a fleet of American Flying Fortresses appears in the skies. 152 tons of bombs are dropped on the densely populated centre of the city. The result is 701 people killed and over a thousand
Ossuaries, grim collections of mostly medieval bones, are to be found all over Europe, with one of the most striking examples anywhere being the infamous Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora, sometimes called one of the spookiest places in the world. Only ten years ago though, archaeologists working under the streets of Brno discovered a crypt that would earn a new claim to fame; the largest collection of human bones in the country and the second largest in Europe after the Paris Catacombs.
It was exactly 120 years ago this week that Praguers got their first ride in an electric tram. Today they are a staple of the city’s hilly streets and state-of-the-art wagons have long been one of the country’s best products. To mark the occasion and remind the city what its first trams were like, the National Technical Museum has opened up its garage and sent a fleet of historic trams back out into the traffic.