Monday, April 21, 2008

Taking A Stand

Those that know me are aware that I hold some pretty firm socio-political views. I even write about them from time to time (big surprise). One thing I've ruminated about from time to time is the question of how far a person will go to demonstrate their beliefs. (No worries, I'm not planning anything crazy here.) Last summer I happened across two small monuments that gave me a good idea of just how far someone might go to demonstrate their opposition to two of the biggest evils of the 20th century - Communism and Nazism.

A simple cross in Wenceslas Square commemorates Jan Palach, a 21-year-old student who committed suicide by self-immolation in 1969 in protest against the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. In the Museum of Communism, a few hundred yards up the boulevard, some chilling post-mortem pictures of Palach were on display. Needless to say it was a pretty gruesome spectacle.

A memorial plaque outside Prague's St. Cyril and Methodius Church marks the place where resistance fighters responsible for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich took refuge. In June, 1942, after being betrayed by an informant and surrounded, the two surviving fighters took their own lives rather than surrender after attempts to tunnel out of the church failed. In reprisal for Heydrich's death, the Bohemian villages of Lidice and Lezaky were razed to the ground and the majority of the townspeople were executed.


jennifer of nunablog said...

There is no end to the respect I have for people who not only make great sacrifices (and these examples are the ultimate) for something they believe in, but for something so pivotal, so...I can't even come up with the words...important to humankind. And before your post, I'd never heard of these people. There must be a book of "unsung" heroes like these.

Way Way Up said...

To the best of my knowledge, a grass roots organization is lobbying the Czech government to have a memorial built to honour the actions of the Czech paratroopers involved in Heydrich's assassination to honour them as well as the priests who gave them sanctuary.

There is a rather large memorial in Lidice in remembrance of the children killed there. You can see it on Google Earth actually. There is no memorial in Lezaky as, sadly, it was never rebuilt after the war.

Palach's body was secreted from Prague by the communists shortly after the funeral as they did not want people flocking to his grave and viewing him as a martyr. A few years ago (I don't recall exactly when), his remains were returned to his mother and he was given a proper burial in Prague.