In the days and weeks that followed the end of the Second World War, 31-year-old Josefina Napravilová noticed that there was a job that needed to be done and without any fuss set about doing it. It was a time of chaos – families had been broken up and the lists of missing persons were frighteningly long. Many of those on the lists were children. Through sheer determination and endless detective work, Josefina Napravilová managed to reunite several dozen of these children with their families. For decades, Josefina saw no particular reason to tell
In the course of 1968 the Soviet Union made it increasingly clear that it disapproved strongly of the Prague Spring reforms. Yet, despite mounting tensions with Moscow, the Soviet led invasion on the night from August 20-21 1968, came as a huge shock. Today we are going to hear some of the broadcasts from that fateful day. We start with Radio Moscow, with an official Soviet version of events.
The Czech Republic has been marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which comes on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in occupied Poland. Numerous events have been taking place across the country and in Prague in particular. Dominik Jůn spoke with Zuzana Tlášková of the Jewish Museum in Prague to find out more.
The political reforms of the 1960s accelerated dramatically when on January 5 1968 Alexander Dubček became First Secretary of the Communist Party, the most powerful position in the country. Dubček immediately set Czechoslovakia on a course of economic and political reform, to create what was described as “socialism with a human face”. Today we are going to hear two recordings of Dubček from 1968 that show both the hopes with which the year started and the despair which followed the Soviet invasion in August.
A Renaissance mystery is beginning to unravel in Prague. A team of experts from Denmark have asked the authorities for permission to open and explore the grave of the Danish-born astronomer Tycho Brahe who died in Prague in 1601. They are hoping to learn more about one of the most famous scholars of the time – and perhaps to throw more light on his mysterious death.
In this edition of Czechs in History, we take a look at the controversial legacy of Jan Palach. This young Czech history student shocked the world by setting himself on fire in the centre of Prague in protest at the Soviet-led invasion of communist Czechoslovakia in 1968, which crushed the democratic reform movement known as the “Prague Spring”.
In 1409, Wenceslas IV, King of Bohemia, was in a tight spot. He had already been imprisoned several times by his own advisors, and was being undermined by those in his kingdom with different religious views. So what did he do? Well, he commissioned a document which gave his opponents less of a say. The Kutná Hora or Kuttenberg Decree is seen by some historians as the first ever Czech nationalist document. Six hundred years ago on Sunday, it gave Czechs sitting on the council of Charles University in Prague more votes than their Saxon, Polish and
During the Second World War, over 140,000 people were imprisoned in the Terezín ghetto north of Prague. Their only crime was to be Jewish. One in four died in the ghetto itself, and most who survived later perished in other Nazi camps. But despite appalling overcrowding, there was still a semblance of normal life in Terezín. The ghetto’s streets still had names; people would still go to work in the morning, and come home to their cramped barracks at night. And against the odds, Terezín had a thriving cultural life. This included theatre, a fact
Following his suicide, Jan Palach was adopted by Czechs as a national hero, while the communist authorities tried – in vain – to erase all trace of what he had done. When Czechs gathered to mark his death 20 years later in 1989, they were met with tear gas and unprecedented police brutality. The clampdown resulted in a week of protests, which some say led to the Velvet Revolution in November that year.
The horrible death of Jan Palach shook the Czechoslovak nation. In the ten days between Palach’s self-immolation and his massive funeral, the country saw a number of rallies and protests, as people expressed their opposition to both the Soviet occupiers and the home-grown communist elite that was beginning to collaborate with them. Commemorating the 40th anniversary of Jan Palach’s death, a new exhibition has just opened in Prague featuring rarely seen photos of those events.