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.
The Regional Museum in Mikulov, in southern Moravia, has opened an exhibition of historic scientific instruments once used at the town’s 380-year-old grammar school. The exhibition highlights the beauty of the elaborate antique objects, and it also shows what role the school, founded by the Catholic order of the Piarists in the middle of the Thirty Years’ War, played in the town’s history.
In recent weeks, I’ve tried to capture something of the tense atmosphere of the time leading up to the Munich Agreement of September 30 1938, when the British and French Prime Ministers Chamberlain and Daladier allowed Hitler to carve up Czechoslovakia and march unopposed into the Sudetenland. The agreement left the country as a fragment of its former self; not only Germany, but also Hungary and Poland, claimed large chunks of Czechoslovakia’s borderlands. Here is how Radio Prague reported on the final border agreement, reached some weeks after