Not only the walls had ears

Public surveillance was one of the most depressing features of the former communist regime, carried out as it was by the former secret police - the STB. Well, a new exhibition called 'Not only the walls had ears' opened in Prague this week displaying many of the sophisticated devices used by the STB to monitor the public. Peter Smith went along to the opening of the exhibition, where he spoke first to the Director of the Office of Investigation and Documentation of the Crimes of Communism, Irenej Kratochvil.

Irenej Kratochvil: These things are old - they are not used today. They are from the 50s, 60s and 70s. They we used against the law - their first aim was to discriminate against these persons.

Radio Prague: Now although a lot of the exhibits look rather old compared to some of the technology that we are used to today, it really is amazing the lengths that they went to to observe people - In front of me now are the secret photography and filming devices - quite large cameras, special bags with lenses for taking secretive photos as well as filming.

IK: Society must be well informed about our history. These horrible things that were used against their opponents.

RP: Long lenses, recording equipment - a lot of it was actually produced in the 1960s in the United States, interestingly. Special telephones that contain bugs - we have what is called the KOMAR, which was used for shifting between different phone lines so they could listen to different people.

Daniel Herman: My name is Daniel Herman, I am the spokesman for the Czech Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church. The persecution of the church in the former Czechoslovakia - all monasteries and friaries were closed in the 1950s, and the whole life of the religion community was forbidden for 40 years - everything was possible only underground.

RP: Did you ever personally experience any surveillance of this kind?

DH: Yes I did. For example telephones and control of my correspondence, and my contact with some friends in Germany or the United States. And when I became a secretary to the Bishop of Prague and before then Ceske Budejovice, I remember this demoutage of all these things in the residences of the bishops. I think it is important because the roots should be known because without knowing these roots it is not possible to understand also our reality of today.