RAF officer Ivo Tonder played an important part in what became known as the Great Escape, a mass breakout by Allied airmen from a German prisoner of war camp in March 1944. But this was only one of many escapes by the Czech pilot, who evidently had nerves of steel – and a lot of luck. I recently spoke with his daughter, Petra Tonder, who came to our studios with a copy of In the Heavens and in Hell, a book by Tonder and the famous photographer Ladislav Sitenský. In the first half of a two-part interview, Petra Tonder describes her father’s remarkable
One of the last remaining Czechs who served with Britain’s RAF during
World War II, Pavel Vranský, has died at the age of 97. Mr. Vranský was
promoted to the rank of brigadier general by the president last year.
The war hero, who came from a Jewish family in Ostrava, joined the RAF in 1942 and served with the 311 Squadron, which was a Czechoslovak-manned bomber squadron. Prior to that he had fought in Syria and at Tobruk.
Hundreds of people including several senior Czech politicians attended a
ceremony at the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius in central Prague on
Monday commemorating the heroes of Operation Anthropoid.
New plaques were unveiled in the pavement by the church honouring Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, who assassinated Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich, and other resistance men who met their deaths there 76 years ago this year.
Social Democrats leader Jan Hamáček said the killing of Heydrich had been one of the most important acts of resistance in Europe and was certainly the most important on Czech territory. He said the men had laid down their lives for their nation’s freedom and deserved to be respected and remembered.
Government officials, war veterans, cultural figures and foreign
representatives attended a ceremony commemorating the 76th anniversary of
the razing of Lidice by the Nazis on Sunday.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said the massacre of the village’s inhabitants in 1942 should serve as a warning to future generations. In his address the prime minister emphasized the role of the EU and NATO in securing peace on the continent.
The head of the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters Jaroslav Vodička noted that the Lidice atrocity had touched people the world over and many towns now bore the name Lidice in memory of the village that was wiped off the face of the Earth.
In the last edition of Czech Books we featured an interview with Zuzana Justman, who with her older brother and mother survived the wartime Terezín ghetto. Her brother Jiří Robert Pick later wrote a remarkable novel set in the ghetto, under the title “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals”. The book draws richly from his own memories; with an unexpected lightness and humour it tells the story of a teenage boy and the people around him – his friends and the older men sharing a ward with him in the ghetto infirmary. Thanks to Zuzana Justman
The police is investigating a case of vandalism at the memorial in Lety,
the site of a former concentration camp for Romanies during WWII.
Unknown perpetrators fixed plaques with hate messages on the memorial erected to the hundreds of Romanies who died there. One of the messages read that the memorial is in commemoration of “the last Romanies who ever worked on Czech territory”.
The web site Romea.cz which reported the vandalism claims it is the work of the nationalist grouping My proti vsem, which has been vocal in criticizing the amount of money that has been spent by the government to buy out a pig farm standing close to the site, so that the memorial would be in dignified surroundings.
On the night between June 9 and 10 candles are to be lit near the Lidice
Memorial around the precise area where the original village of Lidice
stood, officials from the institution told Novinky.cz. The candles will
help create a sombre atmosphere before more events commemorating the
anniversary of June 10, 1942, when the Nazis razed the small Central
Bohemian village to the ground and killed over 300 of its inhabitants in
one of the worst atrocities in modern Czech history.
Similar events are planned for June 24 at the site of Ležáky, a second village wiped off the map by the Nazis. Whereas the people of Lidice were killed in retaliation for the assassination of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich, Ležáky was targeted due to the presence of a resistance group.
“Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” is a remarkable book by many standards. It is a comic novel set in the wartime Jewish ghetto in Terezín, written by the Czech satirist Jiří Robert Pick some twenty years after he survived the ghetto. The book is a classic, sparkling with life and humour, in defiance of the dehumanizing environment in which it was written. Thanks to J. R. Pick’s sister, the award-winning documentary film-maker Zuzana Justman, the book has just been published in English translation. In a two-part special, Zuzana talks
Hundreds of politicians and members of the public attended the annual
commemorative ceremony in Terezín, the site of a former Nazi concentration
camp and the Gestapo prison during WWII.
Speaking at the gathering, marking the camp's liberation, chairman of the lower house Radek Vondráček said we cannot allow history to repeat itself and we cannot permit its misinterpretation.
Between 1940 and 1945, more than 150,000 people, mostly Jews, passed through the Terezín ghetto on their way to Nazi extermination camps; 117,000 of them did not live to see the end of the war.
Zuzana Wienerová emigrated to the United States in the 1960’s with her late husband, RAF pilot and World War II hero Jan Wiener. Mr. Wiener was imprisoned by the Communists for five years after returning from Britain. We spoke today about their romantic love story, their life in the U.S. and the challenges they faced. I first asked her how she and her husband met.