Showing posts with label Prague. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prague. Show all posts

Prague in the Third Reich

Nazi Map of Prague
Although outside the intended scope of this site, I thought I'd add a page to Prague given the time I spent investigating its recent past associated with the Nazis.
 
One can't go anywhere in Prague without coming across such memorials to those killed in the last few days of the war. These, literally a corner from each, remember two killed on May 5, 1945.
Staromestske Namesti Then and Now 
Staromestske Namesti on that day and today
If hell on earth existed, than it existed in Prague after May the 5th. 1945. Old men, women and children were beaten to death and maimed. Rapes, barbaric cruelties, horror-scenarios of hellish proportions - here they had been let loose.
Luděk Pachman, Czechoslovak-German chess grandmaster, chess writer, and political activist.
Czech Invasion 1939 
German motorcycle division crossing the Charles Bridge March 15, 1939 in scenes Vladimir Putin's fascist regime is now re-enacting in 2014 using the same language Hitler had made earlier (replacing 'Germany' and 'Czechs' with 'Russia' and 'Ukraine':
- We will never attempt to subjugate foreign peoples. speech of May 27, 1933.

- We have no territorial claims to make in Europe. speech of March 7, 1936

- The German Reich Government shall thus unconditionally abide by the other articles governing the coexistence of the nations, including territorial provisions, and put into effect solely by means of peaceful understanding those amendments which become inevitable by virtue of the changing times. speech of May 21, 1935.

- It is the last territorial demand I shall make in Europe... I repeat here before you, once this issue has been resolved; there will no longer be any further territorial problems for Germany in Europe! speech of September 26, 1938.

- We do not want any Czechs at all. ibid.
Swastika Charles Bridge 
Looking towards St. Vitus cathedral from the bridge

Wenceslas Square
Wenceslas Square Then and Now
The feelings of Czechs as the Germans annexed their country can clearly be seen in their expressions of hatred and anger
 
Left: Outside the Bata shop where the Gestapo displayed evidence and the offer of a reward for information leading to the assassins of Reinhard Heydrich (see below). Right: Makeshift memorial to the victims of communism at the site where student Jan Palach set himself on fire to protest the regime.
The Old Town Square when the Germans entered in 1939 and in the last days of the war and today.
Nazis Swastikas Tyne Church 
Tyne Church unter dem hakenkreuz and today
Jan Hus Memorial Then and Now
The Jan Hus Memorial at the Prague Old Town Square during the occupation and today


Deutsches Theatre (Prague State Opera)
Prag Deutsches Theatre Einst und Jetzt
In the 1930s, with the growing Nazi threat, the New German Theatre in Prague was among the bastions of democracy, serving as a refuge for artists fleeing from Germany. Political developments shortly before signing of the Munich Agreement along with financial problems however led the German Theatre Association to close the theatre in September 1938. The Czechoslovak state expressed an interest in the building. But the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939 and establishment of the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia" thwarted its plans. Under the new title Deutsches Opernhaus, the theatre served for political assemblies of the Nazi Party, and for the occasional guest presentations by ensembles from the Reich.

Former Gestapo HQ
The Gestapo headquarters of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was seated in this building, the Petschek Palace, during the war where many Jews and suspected members of the resistance were interrogated and tortured. Today it is used by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
 
A plaque attached on the outer wall commemorates the Gestapo victims who were murdered in this building whilst inside implements of torture are kept on display.

Hradcany Castle

Hitler at Hradcany Castle 
Standing where Hitler set up German headquarters.
At 2:03 P.M. Hitler’s train reached the little Bohemian frontier station of Leipa, where Panzer Corps Commander General Erich Hoepner awaited him with Colonel Erwin Rommel (who was to command the ‘Führer HQ’). To the consternation of Himmler and the security staff, Hitler decided to drive right on to Prague. At four P.M. the frontier barrier was raised for him to cross into Czecho-Slovakia, and in a snowstorm his convoy headed on to the capital. He stood in his open car, saluting as he passed his regiments. It was dusk when he arrived in Prague. At first nobody knew where Hácha’s official residence, the Hradcany Castle, was. Hitler’s drivers finally entered it through a gate in the rear. A palace flunky was found to guide them to a wing where these unexpected visitors might sleep, but Hitler did not rest yet. He began dictating a law establishing a German ‘Protectorate’ over Bohemia and Moravia. At two in the morning a cold buffet arrived, provided by the local German Centre. There was Pilsen beer: Hitler was prevailed upon to sample a small glass but he grimaced, did not finish it, and went to bed. The first that the citizens of Prague knew of his presence in their midst was next morning, when they espied his personal swastika standard beating from a flagpole atop the snow-bedecked palace roofs.
from David Irving's Hitler's War and The War Path, page 162
Hitler is shown addressing a crowd from a second-floor window. Hitler's invasion took place after having repeatedly pledging himself and his movement to respect the right to self-determination of other ethnic groups:
   We will never attempt to subjugate foreign peoples. speech of May 27, 1933. 
   We have no territorial claims to make in Europe. speech of March 7, 1936 
   The German Reich Government shall thus unconditionally abide by the other articles governing the coexistence of the nations, including territorial provisions, and put into effect solely by means of peaceful understanding those amendments which become inevitable by virtue of the changing times. speech of May 21, 1935. 
   It is the last territorial demand I shall make in Europe... I repeat here before you, once this issue has been resolved; there will no longer be any further territorial problems for Germany in Europe! speech of September 26, 1938. 
   We do not want any Czechs at all. ibid.
Heydrich at Hradcany Castle Then and Now
Heydrich taking up his position as 'protector' of Bohemia and Moravia

The Protectorate government was required to attend Heydrich's funeral. Remarkably, David Irving actually claims that Heydrich had been genuinely mourned by the Czech population:
Surprisingly, the ‘protectorate’ brought blessings for the Czechs as well. Their economy was stabilised and unemployment vanished. Their menfolk were not called upon to bear arms in Hitler’s coalition. Their armed forces were dissolved, and their officers were given state pensions on Hitler’s orders, to purchase their dependence and complicity. The industrious Czechs accepted rich contracts from the Reich and learned eventually to cherish the pax teutonica enforced by Reinhard Heydrich in 1941. It was the peace of the graveyard, but Heydrich won the affection of the Czech workers to such an extent – for instance, by introducing the first ever Bismarckian social security and pension schemes – that 30,000 Czechs thronged into Wenceslas Square in Prague to demonstrate against his murder in 1942. The Czechs had not been required to sell their souls, and this was what Hitler had promised Hácha in Berlin. Hácha himself never felt any grievance. He inquired of Morell about the prescription he had been injected with and thereafter obtained a regular supply from Morell’s pharmacy. He would die, forgotten, in an Allied prison in 1945; Tiso and Tuka were bo th hanged.
   (163) Hitler's War

Operation Anthropoid
On May 27, 1942, at 10:30 AM, Obergruppenführer-ϟϟ Reinhard Heydrich proceeded on his daily drive from his home in Paneneske Brezany to Prague Castle. Warrant Officer Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš waited at the tram stop on the curve near Bulovka Hospital. Valčik was positioned about 100 metres north of Gabčík and Kubiš as lookout for the approaching car. As Heydrich’s open-topped Mercedes-Benz approached, Gabčík stepped in front of the vehicle, trying to open fire, but his Sten gun jammed. Heydrich ordered his driver, ϟϟ-Oberscharfuehrer Klein, to stop the car. When Heydrich stood up to try to shoot Gabčík, Kubiš threw a grenade at the vehicle, and its fragments ripped through the car’s right-rear fender, embedding shrapnel and fibres from the upholstery into Heydrich’s body. Kubiš was also injured by the shrapnel. Heydrich, apparently unaware of his shrapnel injuries, got out of the car, returned fire and tried to chase Gabčík but soon collapsed. Klein returned from his abortive attempt to chase Kubiš, and Heydrich ordered him to chase Gabčík. Klein was shot twice by Gabčík (now using his revolver) and wounded in the pursuit.

The assassination site is located at V Holesovickach at the junction with Zenklova; today this bizarre memorial marks the site.

Heydrich was taken here to Bulovka Hospital where, after a week when his condition appeared to be improving, he collapsed whilst eating lunch and went into shock, dying the next morning. His physicians concluded that he had died from infection of his wounds. On the right is the stamp issued on the first anniversary of Heydrich's death, June 4, 1943 on the commission of Karl Hermann Frank. The design is taken from the death mask of Heydrich created by Berlin Professor Franz Rotter.
Heydrich's coffin in Bulovka hospital
Heydrich's coffin in Bulovka hospital, attended by an ϟϟ honour guard
You can download a scanned copy of Reinhard Heydrich - Ein Leben der Tat (Walter Wannenmacher, 1944)


During the savage repression unleashed by the Nazis immediately after the assassination, the paratroopers – thanks to the representatives of the Orthodox Church – found safe refuge in the Church of Ss. Cyril and Methodius (during the Occupation it was known as St. Charles Borromeo) in Resslova Street in Prague. Under the pressure of the raids all seven paratroopers staying in Prague eventually gathered in the church building: Josef Bublík, Josef Gabčík, Jan Hrubý, Jan Kubiš, Adolf Opálka, Jaroslav Švarc and Josef Valcík. The combination of terror generated by the massacre of entire families and the annihilation of Lidice, and the promise of pardons and huge financial rewards, eventually bore results. The paratrooper Karel Curda from the OUT DISTANCE unit, who left Prague immediately after the assassination and hid out with his mother in Nová Hlína near Trebon, finally gave in to his own fear and the reproaches of those closest to him. He betrayed. First, on June 13, 1942, he wrote a traitorous letter in which he identified Gabcík and Kubiš as the assassins. When the expected reaction did not materialize, he personally set out for Prague on 16 June 1942, and, shortly before noon, reported to the Gestapo administrative headquarters in Petschek Palace. There he caused a sensation with his all-encompassing testimony, because up to that point, all of the Nazis’ efforts to find the assassins had proved fruitless. Curda betrayed to the Gestapo everyone he knew personally who had assisted the paratroopers, not only in Prague but in Pardubice, Lázne Belohrad and Pilsen. Through his betrayal he caused the deaths of dozens of patriots and their families. The very next morning, the Gestapo began extended raids on the apartments of the people who had assisted the paratroopers. The first in line was the Moravec family in Biskupcova Street in Prague. More and more patriots followed. By using the most brutal interrogation techniques, the Gestapo succeeded in the afternoon of June 17, 1942, in finding out where the paratroopers were hiding. At 3:45 am on June 18, 1942, the Commander of the ϟϟ forces in Bohemia and Moravia, ϟϟ-Brigadeführer Karl von Treuenfeld, issued an order to the Reserve Battalion Deutschland and the Guard Battalion Prag to surround the area around the Church of Ss. Cyril and Methodius. The inner and outer perimeters closed at 4:15 a.m.
Church of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Then and Now
The church surrounded by German soldiers in 1942 and me standing in front today.
 
The inner sanctum where Adolf Opálka, Josef Bublík and Jan Kubiš were keeping guard in the gallery and the choir.
German soldiers and fire brigade members try and flood the crypt
 
The same spot today with a memorial to the heroes.

The attackers tried to reach the choir through a narrow staircase, defended by the gunfire of Adolf Opálka. There is a museum inside the church dedicated to them as national heroes.
 
The dead laid out for identification by Karel Čurda, a former member of the OUT DISTANCE unit who had left Prague immediately after the assassination and hid out with his mother in Nová Hlína near Třeboň, was captured by the Gestapo and betrayed the names of the team’s local contact persons for the bounty of 1 million Reichsmarks. I'm standing on the site today
Kubis and Gabcik
Kubis and Gabcik, and their severed heads presented to their relatives. The heads of Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubis were preserved whole, while the flesh of the other five heads was removed and the heads made into skulls. None knows the final fate of the heads, although it is likely that the Nazis cremated them in Strasnice crematorium shortly before the War ended. The director of Strasnice crematorium described how one day several SS men arrived with several barrels full of human heads and tossed them into the furnace like footballs. He also mentioned that one of the heads looked very much like that of bishop Gorazd who was executed after Heydrich's assassination. More than 1350 people were executed in the aftermath of the assassination, and hundreds died during interrogation. The villages of Lidice and Lezaky were levelled after all male inhabitants were shot and women and children deported.
First Lieutenant Adolf Opálka
Between 1937 and 1938 First Lieutenant Adolf Opálka studied at the Military Academy in Hranice and graduated with the rank of Lt. of Infantry. In July 1939 he left for France through Poland, served in the Foreign Legion in Sidi bel Abbes ́and later in Oran. He enlisted in Agde in September 1939. He progressively went through all the regiments of the 1st Czechoslovak Division. He participated in battles on the French front. Upon arrival in Britain he served in a machine gun company. He volunteered for missions behind enemy lines. He was sent to the occupied homeland as a commander of OUT DISTANCE. He established contact with Capt. A. Bartoš, whereupon he was sent to Prague to become the Commander of the “Prague Paratroopers”. He participated in preparations of Heydrich’s assassination. He died in the Church on Resslova Street when, finding himself in a hopeless situation with a shattered-bone fracture in his right arm, he took poison and simultaneously ended his life with a pistol shot to the left temple.
Josef BublíkJaroslav Švarc
Sergeant Cadet Josef Bublík (left), wounded by many fragments, ended his life with a bullet from his own pistol. Staff Sergeant Jaroslav Švarc (right) took poison and simultaneously ended his life with a shot from his pistol.
 Jan HrubýJosef Valcík
Sergeant Jan Hrubý (left) ended his life with a shot from his 9 mm Browning pistol whilst Second Lieutenant Josef Valcík (right) ended his life with a pistol shot.
One can enter the crypt where the last moments of the siege took place. The tombs intended for coffins became the last refuge of the paratroopers. In the hopeless situation they all chose a heroic death. The two photos on the right I took show busts of the seven martyrs, and the hole they tried to dig to escape

The ventilation window as seen from inside the crypt
Across from the church/museum is this restaurant that doubles as a shrine.

First time I've had a pint under the saluting images of top ϟϟ officials and Nazi posters
After the assassination the parachutists were looked after by families. Here plaques can be seen honouring the Moravec family on Biskupcova 7 and Jan Zelinky on Biskupcova 4. The apartment of the Moravec family was the paratroopers’ main Prague sanctuary. It was located at 1795/7 Biskupcova Street (Biskupec Strasse). Marie Moravcová was able to obtain aid for the paratroopers through former colleagues from the Volunteer Sisters of the Czech Red Cross. Her son Vlastimil acted as a messenger for the paratroopers and was actively involved in setting up of the assassination. Her second son, Miroslav, fought as a pilot of the No 310 (Czechoslovak) Fighter Squadron in Britain; he died on June 7, 1944 in a plane crash. Marie Moravcová committed suicide during her arrest by the Gestapo on June 17, 1942. Vlastimil Moravec and his father Alois were executed in Mauthausen on October 24, 1942.
Jan Zelenka-Hajský was one of the leading supporters of the paratroopers. This teacher, a former station leader of the Krušnohorská Sokol Group and a member of the Czechoslovak Intelligence Service, unreservedly supported plans to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich. Along with his son, Jan Milíce, and his wife, Františka, he helped the paratroopers in every way possible, and supplied them with accommodation in his apartment at 1837/4 Biskupec Street(across from Moravec’s apartment). Jan Zelenka and his son, Jan Milíce, committed suicide on June 17, 1942. Františka Zelenková was executed in Mauthausen on October 24, 1942.
Hitler ordered the ϟϟ and Gestapo to “wade in blood” throughout Bohemia to find Heydrich’s killers. More than 13,000 people were ultimately arrested. The most notorious incident was in the village of Lidice, which was destroyed on June 9, 1942: 199 male residents were executed, 95 children taken, 8 of which were taken for adoption by German families, and 195 women arrested
Nerudova ulice and Mariánské námestí then and now
 Church of St. Norbert and Celetná ulice

The Hotel Flora, formerly at Schwerinstraße 121, now Vinohrdska 121 

Vitkov National Memorial
 
The National Liberation Memorial was built between 1928 – 1938 in honour of the Czechoslovakian legionaries and later extended after the war to commemorate the anti-Nazi resistance. After 1948, it was used to promote national ideology and regime. Prominent representatives of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia were buried here:
 
The mausoleum of Klement Gottwald was established here in 1953. After 1989, all of the remains buried here were taken away; his nondescript grave can be seen below. After over two years of reconstruction, the Memorial was opened to the public on October 29, 2009.

The Munich Agreement
video
A Czech television commercial featuring a cleaner with a strong sense of memory.

Prague Military Museum (Armadni Muzeum)

 
Beside a T-34 tank at the entrance whilst inside one of Heydrich's Mercedes 320 Convertible B cars, similar to the one in which he was mortally wounded, is exhibited. 

Other exhibits pay tribute to the British Empire and its allies against worldwide fascism


Jewish Ghetto
Pinkas Synagogue Then and Now
The Pinkas Synagogue, dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust from Bohemia and Moravia.
Maisel and Klausen synagogues
The Maisel Synagogue where Hitler intended to establish his "Museum of the Extinct Race" and on the right the Klausen synagogue, the largest in the ghetto and the seat of Prague´s Burial Society.

The Old Jewish Cemetery, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe, is located on a small plot of land between the Pinkas Synagogue and the Klausen Synagogue. Because the cemetery was only capable of holding around ten percent of the amount of Jews buried there, the graves spanned about twelve tombs deep. The most famous tomb belongs to Rabbi Loew, legendary creator of the Golem. Surprisingly, the cemetery and ghetto itself would not be intact today, if Hitler hadn't ordered it to be saved to serve as part of a museum after all the Jews were extinguished.

Olšany Cemeteries
Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery

264 soldiers are buried here, the majority of which - 188 graves - were members of the ground forces captured by the Germans who died in prisoner-of-war camps. The cemetery also holds the graves of 39 airmen who died in the area during the period of November 1 - 3, 1944 while they were supplying weapons and material to the Warsaw Uprising. Besides the 198 British graves are those from the Empire of Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Cypriots, and one Indian. The graves were brought into the cemetery from 73 small cemeteries scattered all over the Czech Republic. Many of those buried here died as Prisoners of War. There are also eight Polish war graves. At the entrance is the inscription: "The land on which this cemetery stands is the gift of the people of Czechoslovakia for the perpetual resting place of the sailors, soldiers, and airmen who are honoured here." The British had to trust the communist regime to establish this cemetery along their plans.
The stones differ in colour to those usually found in CWGCs as seen in my other site Echoes of war.

Soviet Cemetery

Prague Soviet Cemetery  
This graveyard holds the remains of 436 Soviet soldiers, among them soldiers of the First Ukranian Front under Generals Jeremenko, Rybalko and other commanders, who liberated Prague under the command of Marshall Konjev.
 
Left: Memorial to Bulgarian soldiers who were killed in the liberation of Prague in May 1945. Right: Memorial to the members of the First Czechoslovak Army Corps in the USSR who died after the war as a result of wounds.
A remarkable set of graves belonging to members of the Roesskaja Osvoboditelnaja Armija (Russian Liberation Army), established by Russian officers whilst in German captivity under former Red Army general Andrey Vlasov, who tried to unite anti-communist Russians opposed to the communist regime and wanting to liberate Russia from the Stalin dictatorship. During the Prague uprising of 1945, the ROA was thrown in battle by the Germans against Czech insurgents. At the most critical moment of the battle, the ROA turned on the Germans and joined the insurgents.The former soviet soldiers soon left the city towards west to escape future Russian captive. Nevertheless they were handed over to the Soviets by he American army and shot in the woods around Prague.
 
Left: Jan Palach's grave. Right: Klement Gottwald's, a far cry from his previous resting place

New Jewish Cemetery
 
A couple of the many such memorials found on the south wall of the cemetery.
 
Franz Kafka's Grave. A Jewish German in Czechoslovakia, he would not be recognised until after his death. The plaque below the grave commemorates his three sisters, victims of the Holocaust.

Near Kafka's grave to the east of the cemetery is this forlorn area that should give even Holocaust-deniers pause for thought- a large area left unfilled by the generation that had been annihilated by the Nazis. If no Holocaust, where are the missing graves?

Cernínský Palác

Cernínský Palác Then and Now
This was the seat of the Reich Protector from 1939 to 1944. After the war, foreign minister Jan Masaryk (son of Czechoslovakia's first president) lived in a flat on the top floor of the palace. On March 10, 1948 he was found dead in the courtyard below his window, assumed to have been defenestrated, paving the way for forty more years of oppressive rule.

Jan Masaryk’s limp body, shown here lying in state, was discovered wearing his silk pyjamas. Despite the frigid temperatures on this winter morning, a single window two stories up, above the body, was wide open, and seemed to indicate whence Masaryk had fallen. In the tradition of Prague’s gruesome defenestrations dating back to the beginning of the 15th century, he was most likely thrown from the window.When the communists, under their chairman and prime minister, Klement Gottwald, started to lose support, they acted quickly with the help of the Soviet Union and seized power in a stunning coup at the end of February 1948. Within two weeks, Masaryk was found dead, and the country was quickly disabused of any notion that the communists would behave any less brutally than the Soviets under Stalin. Masaryk’s funeral took place three days later, and was attended by President Edvard Beneš, for all intents and purposes a lame duck who no longer wielded much power and had suffered two strokes the year before, who would resign his post less than three months later.
Across from the building (now serving the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is this statue of Beneš. Both men received a state funeral, though under very different circumstances. While resistance within Czechoslovakia was neither intense nor extensive, Edvard Beneš successfully established a very active Czech government in exile in London. In Great Britain, Beneš formed a Czech legion, a unit of brigade strength, consisting of 5,000 men equipped with tanks, which served in the Normandy landings (D- day) and in subsequent engagements. Three Czech fighter squadrons and one Czech bomber squadron flew with the Royal Air Force, and Czech intelligence operatives served with the British throughout the war. In July 1941, the Beneš's government concluded a treaty with the Soviet Union by which the USSR recognized the legitimacy of the government in exile and, with the United States and Great Britain, upheld its status as an Allied power.
Alan Axelrod (263) Encyclopedia of World War II Bavaria's state premier Edmund Stoiber said at a meeting of the Sudeten German Landsmanschaft that the statue was a provocation given the so-called Beneš decrees which formed a legal basis for the expulsion of over 2.5 million Sudeten Germans from post-war Czechoslovakia.

Former Site of World's Largest Statue of Stalin
Stalin's Monument was a massive granite statue honouring Stalin, unveiled in 1955 after more than 5½ years of work. It was the world's largest representation of Stalin, and was destroyed in 1962. The monument was located on a huge concrete pedestal, which can still be visited in Letna Park and was the largest group statue in Europe, measuring 15.5 metres in height and 22 metres in length. The sculptor was Otakar Scec who, under pressure from the government and secret police whilst receiving hate mail from Czech citizens, killed himself three weeks before the unveiling. The process of deStalinisation began shortly after the unveiling of the monument. The monument, therefore, became an increasing source of embarrassment to the Czech Communist Party which blew it up with 800 kg of explosives.
In 1996 the pedestal was briefly used as a base for a 35 foot statue of Michael Jackson whose ego at the time rivalled that of Stalin's at the height of the latter's Personality Cult as a promotional stunt for the start of his HIStory European tour.
Then and now, standing in front of the site November 2010

Paying my respects at Winston Churchill Square

Winston Churchill’s statue is located at Winston Churchill’s square Zizkov district in front of the Prague Economic University. This statue is a replica of the statue of Sir Winston Churchill by Belsky from 1969 that stands in London’s Parliament Square and it was unveiled in Prague on 17 November 1989. In the opening ceremony of his monument in Prague there were many the guests including former British Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Czech Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus and Churchill’s grandson, Rupert Soames. The statue of Churchill reminds us that the price of freedom can be high, that it may indeed require the sacrifice of “blood, toil, tears and sweat” and that liberty must never be allowed to perish from the earth; it must forever endure.

Throughout Prague are found numerous references to the saviour of Western civilisation.