When Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in the night from August 20-21 1968, the Czechoslovak Radio building was one of the first places that they tried to bring under control. In the process the building was damaged, several people were killed and dozens injured. Broadcasts went on in secret for several days, keeping the world informed of what was really happening, initially from within the building itself, and then from other locations in the city, using mobile studios and transmitters.
It was five years ago this week that our much-loved colleague, Olga Szántová, died at the age of 71. As a child she had spent most of World War II in New York, which was where she picked up her perfect East-Side English. Olga became one of the most familiar voices of Radio Prague’s English broadcasts during the political thaw of the 1960s, and she was also among the radio journalists who managed to carry on broadcasting secretly during the Soviet invasion of 1968, as several recordings from the time still bear witness.
If the Czech Radio building in Prague Vinohrady were ever to be bombed again, like it was in 1945 by the Germans and in 1968 by the Russians, the employees are to meet in front of the church at the nearby Náměstí Míru, presumably to launch guerrilla broadcasting against whoever happens to be the country’s current occupier. I was told this vital piece of information when I started working for the English service of the Czech public broadcaster, Český rozhlas, just a year ago, as part of the official emergency drill. But besides getting ready for
In November 1945, six months after the end of World War II, the units that had taken part in liberating Czechoslovakia began their official withdrawal. Various ceremonies were held, first on November 15, to say farewell to the Red Army troops, who had fought their way in bitter fighting through Slovakia all the way to Prague. Then a few days later, on November 20, the withdrawal began of the American units that had liberated Western Bohemia.
In last week’s From the Archives we heard about radio’s central role in the Prague Uprising against the German occupation at the end of World War II. Not only did the signal for the uprising to begin come over the air, but the radio also helped to co-ordinate the fighting. It also played a third role. At the time the Red Army was already approaching Prague from the east, and General Patton’s Third Army was in Plzeň just a few dozen kilometres to the west. Many of those fighting in the streets of Prague were untrained and had few weapons, and the
“Calling all Czechs! Come quickly to our aid! Calling all Czechs!” It is May 5 1945, and with these words Prague radio appeals to Czechs to join the uprising against the German occupation. This was to be one of the last European battles of World War Two and the greatest moment in the history of Czechoslovak Radio. For some time radio staff had been working secretly with the Czech underground to prepare the ground for the uprising. Their radio appeal marked the beginning of the battle. In the confusion of the following three days with street battles
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 Beneš 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
During the wartime occupation, German-language broadcasts from Prague were absorbed into the radio network of Nazi Germany, the so-called “Reichssender”. A number of archive recordings in German survive from the time. Most vivid and chilling among them are the long lists of names broadcast each day of Czechs arrested and executed. But there are also some propaganda curiosities. In June 1941, Prague’s German programme interviewed a nurse. She was living and working in the city, and remembered with great nostalgia one particular patient who had come
A still-life by French painter Georges Braque called The Green Basin (1942) was sold in auction in Prague on Sunday for 11.5 million crowns (the equivalent of around 716,000 US dollars). The price is the 5th highest ever paid for a work of art in a Czech auction house. The record belongs to Elevation, a work by Czech painter Frantíšek Kupka, which sold for 22.1 million crowns in October.
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