This past two weeks have been a bit crazy in the Czech Republic. And we are not just talking about the on-going World ice-hockey championship. It has also been the celebration connected to the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe.
This Friday, 8th May, there was a bank holiday in the Czech Republic, because on this day the Nazi, who were occupying Prague capitulated. It is a bit later than in other European cities and afterwards the transition of power was not smooth. Despite the fact that Adolf Hitler was already dead for a week, the Nazi army under the rule of general Schörner wanted to make an unbeatable fortress from of Bohemia. The final act was the violent Prague uprising, which took four days. The Old Town Hall at Old Town square, which was later attacked by Nazi tanks, New Town Hall and the Charles square and the building of the Czech radio became the centers of resistance.
An interesting, and by well known (by Czechs), story is the attack on the Prague radio station on 5th May. It was this attack, which became the breaking point of the uprising. The Nazi military, in an effort to take over the building, killed 80 members of the resistance movement. But they could not win the building over, so they decided to bomb it. Despite the fact that they were successful, the radio went silent only for 20 minutes. Shortly after the attack, the radio resumed from a provisional studio in Strašnice. Right now, you can visit an exhibition of photographs from these fights over the radio directly at the building of the Prague radio at Vinohradská 12, Prague 2, just above the Wenceslas square.
During the night of 6th May, over 2000 barricades were erected all over Prague, but the resistance fighters only had light weaponry and without outside help their chances of winning were very low. Today you can see a photo exhibition of these barricades in front of the City museum at Florenc. To build the barricade people used cobble stones, trams and furniture, which they were bringing directly from their homes. When everything was over, they took the undamaged furniture back. Some of these barricades were built earlier by Nazi, who were preparing for invasion.
Luckily, an unexpected ally joined the forces in Prague - Russian general Andrej Andrejevic Vlasov, fighting with an independent army, who were not connected to the Soviet Union. There was also a hope that the American army would come, but the American troops stopped their advance at the agreed line at the city of Pilsner. This was very unfortunate as the Soviet army was still far and the uprising could have been accomplished in a much shorter time with American assistance. Even after the official Nazi capitulation was signed in Reims during the night of 7th May, the fights in Prague continued, because the Nazi troops wanted to escape to the West, so they would be captured by the American and not the Soviet army.
During this big anniversary, you could see many concerts, wreathes and candles at the many war memorials, parades of old military maneuvers and even reenactments of the fighting in Prague 3. An interesting exhibition is also taking place in the Old Town Hall, a world exhibition of war posters – an important form of war propaganda during WWII.
WWII is very a dark period of human history. However, it is important to learn about it and to celebrate the heroes, who helped to end it. If you are in Prague right now, you have the chance to learn more about was happening in this beautiful city 70 years ago.
The picture above is the courtesy of www.myjsmetonevzdali.cz.
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