Historians compiling database of Czechs and Slovaks fought abroad in WWII
They are the country’s unsung war heroes: thousands of men and women who fled Nazi-occupation to serve in foreign armies during the Second World War. Those who returned to communist Czechoslovakia after the war were branded enemies of the state, those who stayed away were given no credit, unless they had fought alongside the Soviet forces on the Eastern front. Historians are now working on an internet project which aims to map the fate of some 83 thousand Czechs and Slovaks who fought against Nazi oppression in different parts of the world.
Julius Baláž, the director of the Czech Military History Archive, heads the project:
“The idea to create a complete database of Czechs and Slovaks who fought abroad in WWII was first discussed in 2004, shortly after we finished compiling a database of Czech and Slovak soldiers killed in the war. Logically the next step was to try and produce an overall data base to include all Czechs and Slovaks who fought abroad. Our primary sources are recruitment files, medical records and we also have at our disposal databases collected after the war documenting people’s role in the resistance movement and active service in the war against Nazi Germany.“
Some names are instantly recognizable such as that of Jan Masaryk, the son of president Tomáš G. Masaryk, or Jozef Gabčík, one of the paratroopers who took part in the assassination of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich. Thousands of others remain anonymous. Julius Baláž says he wants to give many of these unsung war heroes a face and name.
“We are considering embellishing this data base in time. Soldiers of a certain rank –say from the rank of lieutenant – or those who were awarded for bravery would rate a small profile with a photograph that would give more than just the dry facts about when they were recruited, wounded in battle, or raised to the rank of general. We want to use all the information available in our archives to give these heroes names and tell their stories, so that they are given the credit they deserve.”