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.
An exhibition showcasing items and documents from Czech collections recently listed on a UNESCO list of world documentary treasures has got underway in Prague. Visitors can see the Great Siege of Malta Map from the 16th century, the Kynžvart daguerreotype or items from composer Leoš Janáček’s archive.
Members of the Czech scouting movement are marking the 50th anniversary the movement’s short-lived revival in communist Czechoslovakia in 1968. The scouts were banned a total of three times in their more than 100-year-long history in the Czech lands: first by the Nazis and then twice by the Communist regime.
It’s been described by one historian as one of the greatest finds about the Czechoslovak communist era. Several kilometres of film and sound were recently discovered at a factory and they cover the show trial of one of the country’s top communist officials. Details of the discovery and plans for the find were revealed on Thursday.
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.
Seventy years ago the new Czechoslovak government was fully in the hands of the Communists. After the Stalinist coup d'etat in February 1948, a wave of arrests started and all democratic opposition was suppressed. Unclassified documents of the US Department of State show the degree of naïveté with which the American diplomats and intelligence officers in Prague faced their communist opponents and the subsequent shocking realization that there was nothing they could do.
Saturday marks the 70th anniversary of the still murky death of Jan Masaryk. The son of Czechoslovakia’s founder Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Jan Masaryk was foreign minister in the Czech government in exile in the UK and retained that post until 10 March 1948, when he was found dead beneath the window of his second-floor apartment at the Foreign Ministry’s Černín Palace.
The Václav Havel library, in cooperation with photographer Pavel Hroch, has recently launched an online exhibition called ‘The Faces of Resistance’. The project presents portraits and texts about 50 people who over a span of many decades stood up to political repression and brutality and who in certain moments displayed courage and a will to freedom.