Sometimes one just has to act, says defence minister at Prague Uprising memorial

Photo: Filip Jandourek

A memorial ceremony was held in front of Czech Radio on Tuesday marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the Prague Uprising. There was a fierce battle for control of the station during the insurgence, which saw thousands of Czechs take up arms against the Nazi occupiers in the dying days of the war.

Photo: Filip Jandourek
Tuesday is 70 years to the day when Czechoslovak Radio gave the call for an uprising against the Nazis on May 5, 1945. The exhortation sparked four days of fighting in which many lost their lives in a battle with the SS for control of the radio building and almost 12,000 people in total died as WWII slowly drew to an end.

The start of the revolt was marked at a solemn memorial ceremony in front of Czech Radio on Prague’s Vinohradská St. attended by senior politicians, veterans of the dramatic events of that time and other members of the public.

Among those who addressed the assembled was Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.

“We return to a place that represents a positive turning point in the history of our country during World War II. To a place that personifies liberation, the freeing of the country and society from totalitarian evil. To a place that is connected to many victims and stories of personal heroism. And above all to a desire for freedom and a democratic state without repression.”

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Speaking in the foyer of Czech Radio, Defence Minister Martin Stropnický gave his view of the significance of the Prague Uprising, which was quelled on May 8, one day before the Red Army liberated the city.

“Of course the war was about to end and the Germans were in bad shape. But nevertheless they fought very furiously.

“For me the value is that ordinary people, so to speak, started to fight. They forgot about their fears and the risk – and the risk was quite high.

“They didn’t of course know that the war would end within days, but they stopped being… anonymous, too cautious, and the courage and the necessity to express themselves prevailed.

“For me, that’s the most important thing, because nowadays people are – of course I don’t want them to be confronted with such a situation – but nevertheless we tend to wait, to sit, to watch, to discuss, and not to act. And there are definitely some moments in human life when one has to act.”

Martin Stropnický,  photo: Czech Television
Tuesday’s ceremony culminated with the unveiling of a new plaque at the entrance to Czech Radio bearing the names of 81 people previously not known to have died in the battle for the station. Space has been left so that further names can be added if they are uncovered in future.