Saturday saw the opening of an unusual exhibit held in both Prague and in London, honoring Sir Nicholas Winton, who organized the rescue of nearly 700 Jewish children by train from German-occupied Czechoslovakia to London in 1939. The exhibit, organized by director and photographer Jaroslav Brabec and Olga Menzelová, wife of the well-known Czech director Jiří Menzel, tells the stories of those who later came to be known Winton’s children. In attendance were some of them, as well as Sir Nicholas himself, who celebrated his 102nd birthday last week.
Recent editions of this programme have been rather full of doom and gloom, as we have approached the Second World War in our archives. So this week we look at something a bit more cheerful. Here is a Scottish visitor to Prague in 1938. After singing the praises of Czechoslovakia, he suddenly changes tone – making a rather curious observation.
The Rožmberks, a lavish new exhibition, opened on Thursday at the Waldstein (Wallenstein) Riding School, looking back at one of the most prominent and influential Bohemian noble families. The Rožmberk dynasty dates back to the 13th to 16th centuries, with its members holding key positions in the royal and later imperial courts. The castle at Český Krumlov, admired by countless visitors in South Bohemia today, was the family seat for three hundred years.
It’s one of the most Romantic places in the Czech capital. With its charming row of tiny houses built in the Mannerist style Prague’s Golden Lane attracts visitors from near and far. Painters strive to capture its old-world charm and tour-guides elaborate about the colourful personalities that once inhabited them – alchemists who tried to turn stone into gold or make youth elixirs, Franz Kafka who reportedly resided there for a time, or fortune-teller and astrologer Magdalena Prusova also known as Madame de Thebes who was killed by the Gestapo
Historians in South Bohemia last Friday the 13th dug up the exceptionally well-preserved wreckage of a German fighter jet shot down during World War II. The Fw-190 Focke-Wulf, of which almost 20,000 were originally produced, went down near the village of Otín. The plane was one of several targeted by US pilots on August 24th, 1944 in what was one of the biggest air battles over Bohemia. The German pilot, Hubert Engst, ejected in time and would survive the war. But the aircraft itself smashed into the ground and remained lost and forgotten until
In 1939, the chairman of the German Social Democratic Workers Party in the Czechoslovak Republic, Wenzel Jaksch, saw himself forced to escape his native land after it was invaded by Germany – staying would have put him, who opposed the growing influence of the Nazis in Sudeten-German politics, in grave danger. Wenzel Jaksch successfully escaped to London, via the Beskydy Mountains and Poland. He later shared his amazing story – and based on his written account, his children, George and Mary Jaksch, have set out for a pilgrimage in their father’s
Every year in May, ceremonies take place on town and village squares across the Czech Republic to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II. Since the fall of communism, a particular effort has been made to remember the Czechs and Slovaks who fought in the British armed forces, whose role was long neglected by the communist regime. Recently rediscovered recordings offer a unique and highly atmospheric insight into the life of the Czechoslovak RAF pilots. David Vaughan has more.
In 1938 at the height of the Sudeten crisis, Jan Masaryk was Czechoslovakia’s ambassador in London. He was the son of the country’s first President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and was well known as being both articulate and entertaining. He was also completely bilingual, his mother Charlotte being from the United States. But Jan Masaryk’s abilities as a communicator failed to influence the politicians in Britain, when, in September 1938, they agreed to let Hitler take over the Sudetenland. Masaryk resigned immediately as ambassador and in the following
The Czech lands have a long military history to be sure, but for a place that lacks a sea there is a surprisingly interesting naval history as well. Episodes of Czech sailors serving in the Austro-Hungarian Navy are the subject of a series of books by military historian Jindřich Marek called “Under the Austrian Flag”, “The Emperor’s Sharks” and “The Pirates of Freedom”. In this week’s Czech History we look at some of the heroic – and infamous – adventures of Czech mariners around the time of the First World War.
In sombre tones the second Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš announced his resignation on Czechoslovak Radio on October 5 1938. Since becoming president in 1935, he had been haunted by the spectre of Nazi Germany, as Hitler had fuelled separatist sentiment among the country’s 3.5 million German speakers. Here is an extract from one of President Beneš’ vain appeals for reconciliation, in April 1938.