A small group of Czechs who have been seeking justice for almost 70 years have now been promised they will be compensated for property lost before and after WWII. The Czechs lost out when the Hungarians and then the Soviet Union took over Subcarpathian Ruthenia – formerly the most eastern tip of Czechoslovakia. After many setbacks, Czech lawmakers have now given the final go-ahead for compensation.
If you tune in to Czech Radio on New Year’s Day, at some point you will hear the stirring tones of the presidential fanfare, introducing the president’s annual address to the nation. It was Czechoslovakia’s first head of state, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, who established the tradition, when he spoke to listeners on the Czechoslovakia’s tenth birthday in 1928. Here is a short extract from his address, which also happens to be one the oldest recordings in our archives:
The five-day conference on Holocaust era assets, held as the final major event of the Czech EU presidency, came to a close in Prague on Tuesday. Representatives of more than 40 countries around the world adopted the Terezín Declaration – a set of guidelines aimed at providing better care for Holocaust survivors, as well as at easing the restitution of property stolen during the Holocaust.
In June 1989, a group of people around the dissident and future president, Václav Havel, put together a petition to the communist authorities asking them to stop oppressing freedom in the country. Over five months, more than 40,000 Czechs and Slovaks signed the Několik vět petition, fuelling the demise of communism in Czechoslovakia.
The expression “jako kůl v plotě” – “like a fencepost” - entered Czech folklore in the summer of 1989. The date was July 17 and Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party chief Miloš Jakeš was meeting local party activists in the small West Bohemian town of Červený Hrádek. The authority of the party was being increasingly challenged, and thousands had signed Charter 77's appeal for greater recognition of human rights, "Několik vět" (a few sentences). Not realizing that he was being recorded, Jakeš complained bitterly that he felt he was standing on his own
Part of a large art collection that once belonged to the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is dispersed in several Czech museums – often without their curators being aware of it. That’s what researcher Jiří Kuchař discovered after three years of investigation. Following last week’s TV report on the case, a gallery in south Bohemia even removed three statues from public display, citing security reasons.
In the early morning of June 21, 1949, General Heliodor Píka, a hero of World Wars I and II, became the first Czechoslovak to be executed by the new communist regime. Today, almost 60 years to the date, the Czech Republic honoured the memory of one of the greatest of heroes and most profound of victims.
In the second half of the 1980s the sweeping reforms in the Soviet Union were being echoed in several of the country’s Eastern Bloc satellites. But in Czechoslovakia there were few signs of change, despite growing diplomatic pressure from abroad. A key moment came in December 1988, when President Francois Mitterrand made the first ever official trip to Czechoslovakia by a French head of state. This was part of a broader attempt to improve dialogue with communist countries, but Mitterrand also came with clear human rights agenda. Just before his