The pilots of two Gripen fighter jets on Monday conducted the first flyover above Prague Castle in more than a quarter century, launching, together with a military honour guard on the ground, a slew of commemorative events marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. And, on Monday, Prague Castle opened a new unique exhibition of never-before-seen photographs of Czechoslovak serviceman during the war.
In this week’s edition of Czech History we look at the situation in Bohemia and Moravia in late April and early May 1945 in the run up to commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. We draw on the recollections of US soldiers Czech resistance fighters, and forced labour and concentration camp workers seeking to return home as the hostilities ended.
Forty years ago this week, on 8 April 1975, Václav Havel sent an open letter to Czechoslovakia’s President Gustav Husák. The letter was to become one of the key documents of dissent during the period of “normalization”. It outlined the creeping fear, apathy and humiliation faced by Czechs and Slovaks amid the cultural stagnation in the first years after the Soviet-led invasion of 1968. Today times are very different, but the warnings in the letter remain as relevant as ever. Azadeh Mohammadi is a Prague-based student from Iran, who came across the
Tempus Libri is a Czech company specialising in the production of authentic copies or ‘clones’ of rare historic manuscripts, often of immense cultural value. To date, the most significant tome the firm copied is the Vyšehrad Codex, dating back to the Romanesque period. The manuscript, made up of one hundred and eight parchment folios – 26 of which are illuminated – focusses on numerous topics, including the genealogy of Christ. The Codex also depicts the first Czech King Vratislav II and features a reference to St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of
People from all over the world will soon have a chance to visit the office of the late Czech president Václav Havel. Although the office won’t open its door to the public, it will be accessible on-line. Next Monday, the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation Vize 97 will launch a virtual tour of the space, where Mr Havel worked for the last eight years of his life.
The Bubny Railway Station in Prague, which saw tens of thousands of Czech Jews leave for the ghettoes and Nazi death camps, is set to become a new Holocaust Memorial. A ceremony at the future Memorial of Silence on Monday was attended by Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman, representatives of the Israeli, US and German embassies as well as Holocaust survivors. I spoke to Tomáš Bouška, coordinator of the Shoah memorial and first asked him about the special “sculpture” being unveiled:
Saturday is the 70th anniversary of one of the blackest days experienced by the Czech lands during WWII, when US planes dropped some 150 bombs over Prague, leaving 700 people dead and levelling around 100 buildings. Foggy conditions had led the American airmen to mistake the city for Germany’s Dresden, over 100 kilometres to the north. I discussed the tragic error – and other aspects of the events of February 14, 1945 – with historian Jan Adamec.