Sokol Memorial Day

Sokol Memorial Day honours the memory of more than 1,500 members of the nation’s oldest athletics association, who were arrested by the Gestapo on October 8, 1941 by the order of Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich.

Photo: Military History Institute

The arrested members of Sokol were tortured and sent to Nazi concentration camps, with only few of them surviving the war.

During the following years of World War II, thousands more Sokol members died. Despite the danger they faced, many of them participated in Heydrich’s assassination.

History of Sokol

Sokol members with founder Miroslav Tyrš  (above) | Photo: ed. R. Chadraba,  J. Krása,  R. Švácha a A. Horová: Kapitoly z českého dějepisu umění I: Předchůdci a zakladatelé,  public domain

The gymnastics and sport movement Sokol, which means falcon in Czech, was founded in 1862, by two leading figures of the National Revival movement. It was based on the ideal of the ancient Greek ideal of harmony of the body and mind, called kalokagathia.

Since its foundation, Sokol has been in conflict with both the Nazi and Communist regimes. It was first dissolved in October 1941, shortly after the arrival of Reinhard Heydrich, the new governor of the so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

Photo: Česká obec sokolská

The Sokol movement was banned again in 1952 after the Communists seized power. Its activities were restored after the velvet Revolution of 1989 and today it is one of the largest associations in Czechia, joining around 160,000 members.