The Czech PEN club on Monday marked its 85th anniversary. Established in Prague just three years after the worldwide association of writers was founded in London in 1922, the Czech PEN club brought together some big names in pre-war Czech literature, including Karel Čapek, František Langer and Viktor Fischl. Today, the Czech PEN club carries on its mission of promoting freedom of speech, supporting oppressed writers in many countries around the world.
The Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes has launched an on-line research project which will unearth more about the practices of the country’s communist regime. The institute wants to collect and publish the personal histories of all those who were killed trying to flee communist Czechoslovakia.
Today in Mailbox we disclose the identity of the mystery lady from our January quiz. Listeners quoted: Henrik Klemetz, Dileepa Ehelepola, Dimtry Mezin, S B Sharma, Hans Verner Lollike, Uday Nayak, Gordon Martindale, David Eldridge, Anne Harding, Jayanta Chakrabarty, Kristýna Pletková, Charles Konecny, Colin Law, Barbara Ziemba.
A Czech Radio reporter and colleague from the Los Angeles Times in a joint interview have helped uncover evidence which could prove crucial in the current trial of John Demjanjuk, a man accused of involvement in Nazi death camp crimes. The evidence – the testimony of a witness – could help pin Demjanjuk down as a guard who participated in the murder of thousands of Jews at an infamous Polish camp.
The village of Husinec, in south Bohemia, wants to open a new centre commemorating its most famous son, the 15th century religious reformer Jan Hus. While the municipality hopes the new visitor and research centre will open in time for the 600th anniversary of his death in five years’ time, critics say the project is over the top.
Since the fall of communism, Petr Pithart has been a central Czech political figure. As one of the first people to sign the human rights manifesto, Charter 77, he spent the last years of the communist regime as a political dissident. But as the regime collapsed in November 1989, he shot to prominence – firstly in Civic Forum, which brought together those fighting for an end to one-party rule, and then as the first post-communist prime minister of the Czech part of the Czechoslovak federation. Later he went on to be chairman of the Czech Senate and
Later this year, ABL FM services, a company in charge of a number of Prague’s historic sites, will re-open the bell tower on St Nicholas’ Church, where 20 years ago the Communist-era secret police, the StB, kept a hidden lookout. The cubby-hole with views of Prague’s Malá strana district was used to above all monitor activities outside nearby embassies, especially that of the US.
The assassination in May 1942 of the Nazi governor of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich, was one of the most dramatic events of World War II. The Czechoslovak resistance fighters parachuted into Prague to carry out the attack later met their own deaths in a church in the city, after being surrounded by Nazi troops. Their brave actions are the focus of an exhibition in the church’s crypt which has now been given a major facelift.