New mobile app brings modern Czech history to life

A freshly released mobile app tells users the stories behind nearby sites linked to 20th century Czech history, as well as allowing them to trace often dramatic events on specially created routes. Entitled Místa Paměti národa (Memory of Nations Sites), the free app is the work of the NGO Post Bellum, which for years has been publishing the testimonies of witnesses to modern Czech history. I spoke to the group’s Jana Háková.
“They are the stories of witnesses of the 20th century. They are war veterans, political prisoners and Holocaust survivors.

“And the aim of the application is to bring these stories to life.

“If you use the application and walk down a street, you can find out what happened in a house you are passing, what happened in the places you pass on your way to work every day.

“So this history is just living.”

Roughly how many places are included in this app? And what kind of places are they?

“There are around 1,500 places in the application.

“They are places like flats where members of the resistance secretly met during the war.

“Or police stations or prisons where victims of communism were tortured or held.

“Or places where some bombing happened during the war. And so on.”

Jana Háková,  photo: archive of Post Bellum
In the app there are also routes that people can follow. Who created those routes, and can you give us some examples of where they take people?

“The routes were created by people from Post Bellum working with famous Czech historians and journalists, like Jiří Padevět or Petr Zídek.

“In Prague, for example, you can follow a route that takes you to places linked to Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.

“Or in the west of the Czech Republic, in the Šumava mountains, you can follow a route by which people fled the Communist regime – where they were trying to get across the border into the West.”

Have you yourself been surprised by any of these places? For example, I was looking at the app and there’s a building 50 metres from my home that I didn’t even know had an interesting history.

Illustrative photo: Barbora Kmentová
“Sorry, I can’t remember any particular place [laughs].

“But you know, there are so many places. In every ordinary building you are passing you can find out what really dramatic things happened there.

“The great thing about the application is that not only can you read about this, you can also hear the authentic voice of a witness of the thing that happened there [in the Czech version only].

“You can also see the historical pictures that are included in the application – so you can see how the place looked at the time.”