This week marks exactly 500 years since the minting of the first Joachimsthaler coins, the predecessors of the US dollar. The first thalers or tolars, as they were nicknamed by Czechs, were minted on January 9,1520 in the West Bohemian town of Jáchymov. The popular silver coins soon spread across the Hapsburg Empire and into the New World, where they eventually became the official currency.
In this programme, the eighth in our series mapping this country’s history through the radio archives, we start with the dramatic events of the last days of the war in Prague. The radio played a major role in the Prague Uprising, and through the archives we can map how the city liberated itself from the German occupiers. In the two years that follow, the radio archives give us a picture of a Czechoslovakia returning to some kind of normality, but in February 1948 everything changes. We tell the story as it was heard on the airwaves.
More than half of Czechs believe that Czech modern history is being falsely reinterpreted and over 60 percent have a problem with constructing new memorials that change the accepted view on history, according to a fresh MEDIAN poll conducted exclusively for Czech Radio. The news comes in the wake of controversy surrounding the suggested transfer of a memorial to Soviet marshal Ivan Konev and the construction of another to the controversial Vlasov troops who helped liberate Prague.
Thirty years ago this Christmas, Czechs were in an especially festive spirit – the entire Communist Party leadership had resigned a month before, and in a matter of days a majority democratic parliament would elect Václav Havel as president, bringing the Velvet Revolution to a glorious end. Ahead of the holiday, I spoke to Adéla and Petr Mucha – a historian and theologian, respectively, born into practicing Catholic families under Communism – about their experiences with the “Underground Church”, religious figures active in the dissident Charter 77
A few years ago I spent an unforgettable day with Jaroslav and Alžběta Hofrichter. It was 2013, Jaroslav was 93, Alžběta 91, and they were living in sheltered accommodation for Second World War veterans at Prague’s Military Hospital. I was there to hear their life story, a tale of courage, resilience, a touch of luck and, above all, of the enduring power of love. The Hofrichters were known by their many friends as the “turtledoves”. Having met them I could see why. If there is an elixir for a happy marriage, they had found it. Jaroslav spent four
Plans are afoot to move the remains of General František Moravec from the US to his hometown of Čáslav in central Bohemia. If the funding can be raised, the local authorities are offering a new site for the ashes of the man who headed Czechoslovak military intelligence before and during WWII and is said to have ordered Operation Anthropoid.
The local council of Prague’s western Řeporyje district has unanimously voted in favour of building a memorial to the Russian Liberation Army troops that helped fight Nazi forces during the Prague Uprising in May 1945. The vote was preceded by a heated confrontation between the district’s mayor and representatives of the Russian federation about the historical legacy of the troops often referred to in Czech as “Vlasovci”.
Hundreds of thousands of documents were recently added to the website of the Arolsen Archives organisation, which houses the world’s most comprehensive collection on Nazi persecution. Not only do they offer new opportunities to find out what happened to victims, but they also provide details on some of the leading figures of 20th century Czechoslovakia.
The Czech Radio archives include many recordings from the time of World War II. They come from both sides: propaganda from within occupied Bohemia and Moravia aimed at intimidating the population and bullying them into supporting the Reich, but also recordings from abroad. Both the BBC and the government in exile in London were broadcasting to occupied Europe in Czech, at the same time informing the wider world about the fate of Czechoslovakia in English. Some of the extracts we’ll be hearing have become well known, but our archives also hold many