A series of events are set to take place in New York and Washington this week to mark the upcoming 75th anniversary of the liberation of Pilsen by US troops. The main goal of the events, which culminate on Wednesday at the National Bohemian Hall, is to invite Americans to take part in the annual freedom celebrations, which are going to be even bigger this year.
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the most infamous of Nazi death camps. Throughout the Czech Republic, memorial services are taking place to honour the memory of the millions condemned to death by Hitler’s fascist regime. It is also a day for helping young Czechs better understand the incomprehensible tragedy – through a historic children’s opera called Brundibár, performed at the wartime Jewish ghetto and concentration camp in Terezín, northern Bohemia.
Philosopher and one-time dissident Jan Sokol is perhaps best-known among the Czech public as a failed presidential candidate, having missed out to Václav Klaus in the final round of voting in 2003, the last time the country’s head of state was chosen by legislators. Professor Sokol has known the current, directly elected president since before 1989 – and offers sharp criticism of Miloš Zeman in this the second half of a two-part interview. But first we discuss the period when, after the fall of communism, he was finally allowed to pursue an academic
European Commission vice president Věra Jourová, whose portfolio includes promoting EU values, transparency and the rule-of-law, called out Russia last week for “distorting” the history of World War II. Specifically, the former Czech minister objected to attempts “to paint victims, like Poland, as perpetrators”. We look into the ongoing war of words between Moscow and former Soviet satellites, not least the Czech Republic, over historical facts.
In connection with this year’s 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Czech Embassy in London has just launched a special project entitled Never Forgotten. During this year Ambassador Libor Sečka plans to lay flowers at every known grave and memorial of Czechoslovak soldiers who died in the UK in the war years, as well as gathering information on the current state of those sites. I discussed the project with Mr. Sečka on the phone from London.
Teplice, the oldest spa town in the central Europe, this autumn plans to send the relics of a clergyman martyred in the 4th century to Dubai. The skull of St. Clari – the patron saint of spas and so-called ‘hot healing’ – will feature prominently at the Czech national pavilion at Expo 2020. While Teplice is a popular destination also for visitors worldwide, the hope is St. Clari could also make the town a site of pilgrimage.
Philosopher Jan Sokol was an MP in the early 1990s, served as Czech education minister and lost in the final round of voting for president in 2003. Barred from studying under the Communists, Professor Sokol came to philosophy via his father-in-law Jan Patočka, an early signatory of Charter 77. In the first part of a two-part interview, he discusses Patočka’s death, the achievements of Charter 77 – which he also signed – and the Velvet Revolution. But our conversation began with Jan Sokol’s family background and his own beginnings.
Czech interest in African American culture goes back to the 19th century. When Antonín Dvořák spent three years in the United States in the 1890s he explored African American and Native American musical traditions, seeing parallels with the Czech experience of living under Austrian domination. In the Czechoslovakia of the 1920s and 30s, interest in American jazz spread rapidly and Native American culture was romanticised in the so-called “tramping” movement. After the war communist Czechoslovakia was quick to point to discrimination and segregation
A new book on Communist Czechoslovakia was launched under the auspices of the Minister of Foreign Affairs at Prague’s Czernin Palace this week. Titled Czechoslovakia: Behind the Iron Curtain, it tracks the history of the communist state, through a combination of narrative, contemporary pictures and extensive oral history in over 600 pages. It was penned by two female Slovak academics Dr Gabriela Beregházyová and Dr Zuzana Palovič. After the official ceremony was ended by a symbolic ringing of keys, I asked Dr Palovič how the idea to write the publication