Archbishop, later Cardinal, Josef Beran, become a symbol of opposition to totalitarian regimes. He was dubbed the archbishop who refused to be silenced. The punishment for speaking out was imprisonment first under the Nazi occupation and then the Communists. In this week’s Czechs in History we look at Josef Beran’s exemplary life on the 40th anniversary of his death in exile.
Martin Šmok moved to the US in the 1990s to work with the USC Shoah Foundation, which has recorded video interviews with more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors. Long back in Prague, he remains a senior international program consultant with the project and is also active in the field of education. When we spoke, the conversation took in Czech attitudes to the Holocaust, “constructs of the enemy” in Czech society and more. But I first asked Šmok how he had been shaped by working with the testimonies of Holocaust survivors for over two decades.
The oldest living female Czechoslovak World War II veteran, Anděla Haida,
has died in the United Kingdom at the age of 104, the Czech Embassy in
London has announced.
During the war Mrs. Haida served as a driver with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force after signing up as a volunteer in 1942.
In 2017 the North London resident received a medal for heroism from the Czech president, Miloš Zeman. She was born Anděla Beníčková in Uherský Brod in October 1913.
War veteran Colonel Josef Holy has died at the age of 99. Holy fought in
the Eastern front in WWII and was later taken into German captivity.
After being released he joined a resistance group composed of Volhynian Czechs and volunteered for the newly formed 1st Czechoslovak army corps. He fought in the battle for the Dukla pass, where he was hit in the head by a shrapnel.
After the war he was a member of the anti-communist resistance for which he was sentenced to 18 months in jail and later only allowed to do menial labour. Holy was rehabilitated after 1989 and received the Memory of the Nation Award.
Scores of Czechoslovak pilots took part in the Battle of Britain, the famous July to October 1940 military campaign in which the RAF fought off massive German air raids and changed the course of World War II. Those Czechoslovak heroes are among those commemorated at the fascinating Battle of Britain Museum at a former key air base at Hawkinge near Folkstone in Kent, just kilometres from the English Channel.
Emil Boček, who the Czech News Agency describe as the last living Czech
airman who served in Britain’s RAF during WWII, has launched a new book.
The autobiographical Strach jsem si nepřipouštěl (I Didn’t Accept
Fear) was published in connection with Major General Boček’s 95th
birthday last month.
He served with the RAF’s 312 and 310 squadrons and notched up 26 operational flights. Two years ago he got to fly a Spitfire in the UK, 70 years after he had last done so.
Miroslav Liškutín, one of the last Czechoslovak fighter pilots who served with the British RAF during WWII, died in Great Britain on Monday at the age of 98. Last year, the veteran pilot was promoted to the rank of brigadier general by the Czech head of state. The head of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, General Jiří Bečvář, had praise for the hero and his contribution during the war.
A collection of photos of the RAF’s Czechoslovak 312 squadron by the great photographer Ladislav Sitenský has just been published in Prague. The book was meant to come out in 1948 but was pulped, and the new edition has been timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia.
Fearing prison in Communist Czechoslovakia, in March 1950 Oldřich Doležal and other ex-RAF aviators simultaneously kidnapped three planes on internal flights and escaped to West Germany. On board one of those planes was Doležal’s son, then just an infant. Today Tom Dolezal runs the Czechoslovak Free Airforce website and is an authority on the Czech and Slovaks who served in the RAF.
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