One of the hottest tickets at this year’s Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival was main competition film RINO, a fascinating portrait of the only Communist mole known to have infiltrated the CIA: Czechoslovakia’s Karel Koecher. Director Jakub Wagner interviewed numerous former US agents and other officials for the film. But it is the charismatic and elusive Koecher who steals the show.
Karel Weirich is perhaps an unfamiliar name to most Czechs and to most of the world. Yet this modest man contributed in large part to keeping the world informed about the plight of Bohemia and Moravia under Nazi occupation. And he also helped to save the lives of hundreds of Jews living in Italy during WWII. The exact number is not known.
After three years of extensive renovation, the burial site of the House of Liechtenstein in the south Moravian town of Vranov was re-opened and re-consecrated. The unique mausoleum to the influential noble family was seized by the Czechoslovak state after WWII and has been crumbling apart ever since.
An exhibition in Opava, called In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes has focussed on how, in the 20th century Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective was depicted and in some cases misrepresented or even parodied in the Czech lands. The show, covering book illustration but also theatre and film, was put together by art historian Tomáš Kolich.
In this special programme on Czech Independence Day I am joined by noted historian Jan Rychlík, and we will also be hearing from Jan Hartl of the STEM polling agency. We will examine the influence of foreigners and minority groups in the Czech lands throughout history and try to gain a greater understanding of contemporary Czech attitudes in this regard.
In the course of a life that spanned over 90 years, the writer and translator Heda Margolius Kovály survived the very worst that the twentieth century could bring: first Auschwitz and then the anti-Semitic show trials in 1950s Czechoslovakia, in which her husband was sentenced to death and executed. Heda Margolius Kovály died in 2010, but her moving account of her life, Under a Cruel Star, continues to be read widely. She also wrote a second book, a detective story set in Stalinist Prague. The book is a novel – taking inspiration from Raymond Chandler
A mass public drum session to remember the first Jewish transports from Prague on 16 October, 1941 was held in the Czech capital on Friday. The event took place at the former Bubny railway station, from which around 50,000 people were sent to their deaths. Called Drumming for Bubny, it was organised by the Memorial of Silence and DOX Centre for Contemporary Art.
In this week’s Czech History we will be looking at three civic initiatives to try and save aspects of the country’s past where the state and other institutions have failed to deliver. The projects all relate to aspects of Czechoslovakia’s totalitarian past, in particularly as regards the Jáchymov complex of uranium mine camps, though the history of the Uherské Hradiště prison, and the Svatobořice internment camp go back a lot further in the past. Leading members of projects aimed at regenerating all three sites got together recently at a seminar
Hello and welcome to a special programme marking Czech Statehood day, which is also the feast day of St. Wenceslas. I am joined for a look at the life of St. Wenceslas – or St. Václav – by Tomáš Petráček, who is a theologian, priest, religious historian, and author with a diocese in the Czech city of Hradec Králové.
Ever since the publication of the first Czech translation of Longfellow’s Hiawatha in the 1860s, Czechs have had a special affection for the American West. This was always more than just a fantasy about the space and freedom of the open plains; for many Czechs, after centuries under Austrian rule, there was also a somewhat romanticized sense of identity with the fate of Native Americans at the hands of white settlers. So it is not surprising that when scouting gained popularity at the time of the First Czechoslovak Republic, it took on many symbols