“Calling all Czechs!”: the Prague Uprising begins

Zdeněk Mácal

“Calling all Czechs! Come quickly to our aid! Calling all Czechs!” It is May 5 1945, and with these words Prague radio appeals to Czechs to join the uprising against the German occupation. This was to be one of the last European battles of World War Two and the greatest moment in the history of Czechoslovak Radio. For some time radio staff had been working secretly with the Czech underground to prepare the ground for the uprising. Their radio appeal marked the beginning of the battle. In the confusion of the following three days with street battles going on around the city, radio was to play an important role, and the radio building also became the focus of much of the fighting. On some recordings that survive you can still clearly hear gunfire in the background.

“Czech hands are defending the radio building,” the reporter announced, “We are with you, remain with us. Prague is and will remain free!”

Thousands answered the radio appeal, among them a young escaped prisoner of war from Scotland, William Greig. Speaking in English he described the dramatic situation:

William Greig
“At present we are broadcasting from the broadcasting station and outside a battle is raging.”

In the meantime the German side was also using radio. They still had control of the transmitters in Liblice and Mělník north of Prague.

“Citizens of Prague,” the Germans appealed in Czech, “it is not too late to choose between violence, destruction and unnecessary bloodshed, and calm, order and wellbeing until stable conditions can be reestablished.”

But here in the centre of Prague, the radio was by now firmly under Czech control and on the 415 metre frequency it responded to the German appeal in no uncertain terms.

“Through the Mělník and Liblice transmitters and by distributing leaflets the Germans are spreading lies. At the last minute they are trying to intimidate the brave defenders of Prague. Do not let yourself be deceived by these treacherous German reports. Stay firmly at your posts until the final victory.”

The radio even gave instructions to the people on the barricades

“Once again we appeal to the people of Prague and its surroundings to continue buildings barricades and obstacles to block all the roads leading into Prague.”

The battle continued, and in next week’s programme we’ll be hearing more archive recordings from the dramatic days of the Prague Uprising.

The episode featured today was first broadcast on July 17, 2008.

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