The Day of Defiance-Czechs Commemorates November 17th


Albert demonstration in Prague – November 17, 1989.PHOTO: Michal Kalina, George Krump, ČTK

In 1941 it was declared on November 17 in London after the International Students’ Day as a reminder of the tragic events that occurred in the period from 28 October to 17 November 1939 in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. To commemorate the Velvet Revolution in 1989 was renamed the Day of Struggle for Freedom and Democracy, the fact remains the fact that the significant anniversaries of important events, political and human stories. Year 1939 undeservedly gets into the background, the two events, however, are strongly associated with students at Czech universities.

“In the first case, a Czech intelligence defiance against the Nazi occupation and the oppressive regulation of German state authority within the Protectorate, who was cruelly punished executions of student leaders along with workers’ representatives. This was the kind of unity expressed by the propaganda of mental and physical labor, multiplied by the theories of social fear, “says 17 November historian, writer and educator Zbynek M. Duda.

Forgetting and for 1989?

“In the second case, a revolt of their youngest followers, who stood up domestic repression of the communist regime, supported since 1945 by Moscow , but he did not need a second time to intervene militarily. This opened space to feel freer life, which led also to the fact that the Czechs, Moravians, Silesians and Slovaks waited again return to a unified map of Europe, “says that fears of forgetting not only the year of 1939.

Some young people, including current students do not even know what happened on November 17, 1989.

Zbynek M. Duda, historian and educator

“With regret I observe that some young people, including students do not even know what happened on 17 November 1989. However, the direct participants of student events of 1939 go on forever, and given that it is a national holiday, it is essential that both the historical a tragic event could fully explain the teaching of modern Czech history in elementary and secondary schools. It is a milestone from which exemplarily is proud to build next generation population, “says Duda.

“It is a general problem of awareness of historical events and their context in the experience of the contemporary world: May, February, August, years, data … In doing so, we can assume that at least the key points of history in the perception of each of us in some way will lock – without that continuity today in all questions and trying to answer the current problems can not do, “agrees with him, historian, journalist and university teacher Jan Halada.

Emotional affair and closing schools

According fraternity Agora from the Faculty of Education of Charles University (UK) 1939 sets aside rather because the Velvet Revolution as we old-timers still emotionally connected.

The first event on November 17 began the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations to mark the 21st anniversary of Czechoslovakia on October 28, 1939 in Prague , during which he was seriously wounded student the Faculty of Medicine Jan Opletal and killed by bakery worker Vaclav Sedlacek. Opletal died of his injuries on November 11.


Student Jan Opletal.PHOTO: ČTK

After the funeral, Opletalova 15 November 1939, the closing of Czech universities, college leaders were arrested and nine were executed: Joseph Adamec, Jan Cerny, Frauwirth Marek, Jaroslav Klima, Frederick Koula, Josef Matousek, Francis Skorkovský, Vaclav Šaffránek and Jan Weinert. Another 1,200 students were beaten and dragged to concentration camps.

In the protectorate function after November 17, 1939, three German universities: German Charles University in Prague, the German Technical University in Prague and Brno German technology, as follows from Site UK, Czech Technical University (CTU) in Prague and Brno University of Technology (VUT) in Brno .

Českojazyčné colleges were not up to the termination of the protectorate in May 1945 opened. Some Czech students have completed studies in Bratislava.

For example, former student and future military pilot Jaroslav Novak, discussed in an article from Rights by Miroslav cones, referring to Novák’s biography Přisolíme you could study in the Protectorate only a few weeks. Then he wanted to disappear over the border and participate in the fight against the occupiers. Also it happened, but none of his friends wanted him to follow. [ Read more ]

Name dispute

Although this was a tragic event for 27 years it somewhat overshadowed, perhaps unjustly, “the other” November 17, in the course of 1989. This still raises controversy.

It was suggested precede marking the International Students’ Day before the name of the national holiday, which is a day of struggle for freedom and democracy. The name, according to supporters, mainly from right-wing parties, recalls the events and it does not have profaned by the communist regime.


Funeral of Jan Opletal.PHOTO: ČTK

On March 2, 2016 approved the Deputies renaming the national holiday on International Students’ Day and the Day of the fight for freedom and democracy, which had strongly refer to the events of 1939. Group of the bill but rejected by the Senate a veto to overrule failed. Student Chamber of the Higher Education Council then condemned the result. [ Full report ] can not be excluded that the topic of the House returns.

prerevolutionary journey

November 1989 first began to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Nazi repression. But it soon grew into a demonstration against the communist regime. On Friday 17 November at Albert gathered Prague university students. At 15:40 there was a roughly 500 to 600 people, but their number is rapidly growing.

At 22:38 protesters attacked last red berets. Were injured 600 people.

Rallies began at 16:00 singing the song Gaudeamus igitur and Martin Klima manifestation of Independents grouping students. The State Security estimated the number of participants to 15,000, another source speaks up about 50 thousand.

At 16:40 this part of rallies ended and organizers called for a march on Vyšehrad to the grave of Karel Hynek Macha. Part of the people wanted but point to Wenceslas Square , where demonstrators had originally come. At Vysehrad gradually crowd arrived approximately 10,000 people. At 18:15 the demonstration officially ended.

After the official part, the crowd went to the city center. Around five thousand people went toward the Charles Square. A considerable proportion have children dissidents Marek Benda , Jiri Dienstbier , Jan Dus, who together with Simon Pánek had an influence on the direction of the procession into the city center along the waterfront.


Wenceslas Square became the center of the events of the Velvet Revolution. At the microphone Simon Panek. According to many real leader of the students. He listens and Monika Pajerová.

PHOTO: Archive Monica Pajerová

Approximately at 19:12 came the order that has become blocked crowd. A police cordon blocked the bridge May 1 (present Legion Bridge), thus protesters turned into the street and continued toward Wenceslas Square. When it was about half past seven in the forehead stopped the demonstration, participants sat on the floor in front of riot units and the girls began to push the shields for members of flowers.

Fifteen minutes later there was a road closure and Mikulandska Vorsilski and blocking the path back to the National class. Around 10,000 demonstrators that had been concluded between two police cordons. Continued non-violent protest. At this point, he could still go as individuals.

At a quarter to nine, the situation changed, the police cordon area began to thicken. Members of the Emergency Group of the Department of Public Safety and special purpose (ie. Red berets) began to brutally beat demonstrators with batons. To 21:20 was as follows demonstrations violently scattered, some participants were arrested and loaded into prepared buses.

Release of the dead students resulted mainly outside Prague radicalization of students and society.

As recalled Web Totalita.cz, at 21:16 managing crew safety events stated that there was a restoration of public order. Members but also challenged all who were in the vicinity intervention. At 22:20 on National Avenue liquidated burning candles.

Finally, at 22:30 emergency regiment and went into the street came the first ambulance. They gathered the students and watching people, places of brutal violence were lighting candles. At 22:38 against them last attack red berets. As he later discovered a parliamentary commission of inquiry were injured 600 people.

Helped rumor about the dead students

17th November between demonstrators began to spread the rumor that supposedly died when hit student Martin Smid. This rumor invented Drahomíra Drázský while in the hospital waiting for treatment. She herself was slightly injured when hit. As stated in an interview marking the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, she said it out of anger.


Monika Pajerová at a meeting of the Civic Forum. On her right, Jiri Dienstbier. Photographer looking directly into the camera Vaclav Klaus.

PHOTO: Archive Monica Pajerová

In the afternoon on November 18 with Drázský Šabatová met Anna, the wife of dissident Petr Uhl. So the news had gone to foreign broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. Publication of this report resulted largely outside Prague radicalization of students and society. Many students saw the lifeless body taken away in an ambulance, which along with anger gave birth Fame.

Miroslav Siska wrote about it, it was an incredible coincidence. Because real student Martin Smid November 17, actually found among the thousands of protesters on National Avenue. Organizers not prepared for confrontational action, which could lead to the downfall of the regime. Change in direction but helped bombshell: they killed a young boy!

“Halada gave the keys to revolution”

Overall positive experience offers a more direct, but unplanned actor, cited by teacher Jan Halada. Revolution sees himself as sober as the change that had come and that was necessary in terms of both society and individuals (even though her people could build differently) for the country and the world.

“At that time I worked in the People’s Publishing House. In the incriminated Friday I returned from Wenceslas Square across the street MIKULANDSKÁ home. Somehow I could not get there because of the National class began to expel students. I mingled with the crowd and tried to get in front of his house in Island Street. Suddenly I got a nightstick across the back. It was a pretty strong blow, but it would it was not the worst. One girl next to me started screaming, ‘Do not beat the old man!’ It struck me more. I recall that I was born in 1942, “he continued.

On Tuesday a friend came to him Dusan Provazník if he would not let Vaclav Havel and others on the balcony.

“Publishing is housed in the Palace Melantrich on Wenceslas Square. Director there at the moment and I was as an editor, I had the keys to the balcony, which was the largest in the building Melantrich – so I let go there. He later became a winged phrase that Halada gave the keys to the revolution, “he concluded.

For the turning point of the Velvet Revolution it is also considered Thursday, November 23 , when the Communist MEP Miroslav Stepan booed at a meeting of the workers at the Vysočany CKD. Until then, there was the possibility of military suppression of the revolution. After this event, the Communists but know that they have lost the support of those who are decades appealed, that working people.


The first hearing of the former Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec (right) and Vaclav Havel November 26, 1989 at the Municipal House.

PHOTO: Václav Jirsa, Right

On December 29 Vaclav Havel was elected president of Czechoslovakia. It is interesting that absolutely was elected unanimously and Communist deputies, for which he was until recently a political enemy.

Except for the events of November 17 but not a revolution accompanied by violence during the coup d’etat was thwarted only life. For its nonviolent character is described as “velvety.”

1) What do you date November 17 mean?

2) neglected not only the young generation on the first November 17, 1939?

Catherine Valachová, Minister of Education

1) Not just for me symbolizes courage Nov. 17 students and university professors oppose totalitarian despotism and power that destroys freedom and human dignity. They were students who did not hesitate to clearly express rejection of Nazi power – and they were again students whose public appearances triggered the fall of the communist regime in autumn 1989.

2) I applaud the bravery of the young, who in complex historical events have chosen the side of freedom and human dignity, even at the risk of his own life. I regret that today only a small part of the company on November 17 connects with the year 1939, and forgets that it was the October 28, 1939, the anniversary of the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia during the peaceful demonstrations fatally shot by Jan Opletal.

This year I attend a memorial rally at the memorial plaque Jan Opletal and Vaclav Sedlacek. Last year he students from the Faculty of Philosophy in Brno got a lantern as a memorial places of Nazi terror in Brno. The same lantern now symbolically give the students at Albert’s, which is to connect students and even Prague to emphasize the importance 39th year. It is a feast studenstva, not just a reminder of a much lighter and more optimistic of the Velvet Revolution.

Jaroslav Sonka, a political scientist and journalist

1) The significance of the anniversary suffer from a post-communist “old men” in various positions, even in the highest position. After their careers collective farm chairmen and cooperation with the CPC and shook Czech people poured into the ear poison. It then ear hears, and does not reflect the brain.

But there is some hope: so far all systems in transition laid Posthumous past after one generation. In Germany in 1968, ie 23 years after the end of the war. Spain also ended the first post-revolutionary generation as Franco ‘and resistance fighters in 1996. Only ours generational period gone on long enough.

2) Memorial Sachsenhausen, where they lived for several years, students from that conviction on Nov. 17, the memory of this old example. Only there were hardly Czechs from Czech schools moves. This reflect on its past, in context, rather than on the basis of some národoveckých speeches, we still have to learn.

The Americans western Germans after 1945 learned well. We here still do not have anyone like that and survive public debate is full of curses, insults and ineptitude, but also a golden time hammering own problems. In this atmosphere no dignified remembrance fecundate not.

Nicole R. Dream, a student of philosophy and literature

1) Not only the opportunity to remember the events of 1939 and 1989, but also the opportunity to reflect upon their own approach: I fulfill the ideals enough desideratum these years? I have betrayed his legacy nation’s concept of history and Students? I could meet with personalities adherent with these events and stand their speculative look?

2) does not forget – those who on 17 November 1939 heard he wears in memory. If you have not heard about it, it became a serious mistake somewhere, but I do not think on the part of students, not those who last year gathered at Albert’s.

The current generation considers November 17 as one of the most symptomatic data, which can be openly draw attention to the problems of contemporary society. This term means the arrangement after 1989. Therefore, we see mostly on November 17 in conjunction with this year and its events.

Michal Horacek, writer, producer, presidential candidate

1) Among national holidays Czech Republic, 17 November valuable to me in a special way. By celebrating our modern history unfortunately rare value: active defiance. And this defiance against what threatens bondage, humiliation, individuals and companies that is inhumane. Celebrates responsibility and courage. Those who embody it is necessary to remember as a permanent inspiration.

2) I have. And it’s more than a feeling. The performance of students in 1939, we can and should rely Czech pride at least as well as the withdrawal of their colleagues in 1989.

Jana Černochová, the mayor of Prague 2

1) It is for me the day of freedom. Although I know that the current political situation in the Czech Republic is not entirely favorable, it is still better than having here communism and socialist normalization of Nazi despotism mention.

2) The fact that originally it is an important day coupled with the death of Jan Opletal a “velvet” revolution occurred on the day of its 50th anniversary, has really forgotten, not only among young people. Between them, but they belong to the “prehistory” Unfortunately, the year 1989. And it frightens me, Czech nation many years have enjoyed free and should not be forgotten on 17 November. In Prague 2 marks both traditionally important years on Nov. 17 – at Hlávkova around the Nazi repression against students in 1939, to Albert then parade in 1989.

Jiri Dienstbier, Senator and ending with the Minister for Human Rights

1) Prior to November 17, 1989, a number of students trying to contribute to the restoration of free conditions. Some student journals published. I, along with others in the group Ribbon We strive to promote academic freedom, we have gathered thousands of signatures for the introduction of the student government at Czech universities.

The ribbon was also organized a demonstration on November 17 Albert, which began unexpectedly sharp move back towards free conditions. Time after November 17 was the social atmosphere of enthusiasm and hope the loveliest season to remember.

2) On Tuesday, I spoke at a student rally to mark the 75th International Day of publication years studenstva and 17 November, the students also am going to the memorial of Jan Opletal and Vaclav Sedlacek in the Prague Charles Square. At least among students manifestly tradition of 17 November 1939 as the feast commemorating the willingness of people to stand up for democratic Czechoslovak state exists.

Daniel Prazak, a student of the Faculty of Education of Charles University, chairman of the association Drosophila

1) I see this not only as a powerful symbol of democracy, but also as a demonstration of agility students who were agents for change in society. Group, which was never afraid to speak loudly and carry the ideals which our company prides itself since the First Republic. November 1989 for me also means a surge in creativity strike colleges, where they held a lot of talks and lectures and faculty lived.

2) I am afraid that on November 17 the first day of the public knows few people even in the classroom rather be making compared to the other events of the time. In contrast with the present situation resonates November 17, 1989 the company more. Theme course in teaching at primary and secondary schools, unfortunately, still suffers from the fact that he often misses, sometimes deliberately, because teachers afraid to teach the subject.

Marketa Sichtarova, economist

1) I feel a particular memory of November 17, 1989. I was a little girl, so I perceive the situation inches. On Friday, I still did not record anything special. Some strange activity adult I’ve noticed over the weekend, but to my understanding of the child all fully penetrated only until Monday afternoon , when they were in school clubs canceled because “teachers do not get because of what is happening in the center of Prague to school.”

I dare say that at that moment for me occurred during the subsequent few hours a sort of half transformation from a child to a minimum inflamed teenager. From the second day I lived the events. I have often thought laugh when I think of our generation had thirteen children and compare it with today – how many others have been our thinking, how much we were interested in politics …

2) I have a feeling that not only forgotten by people younger than 35 years old in November 1939, which was on a personal level much harsher, but also for November 1989. Freedom is understood as a matter of course. Commonplace although it should be, but is not. I have an uncomfortable feeling that the whole of Europe is inevitably more and more again points to the lack of freedom, and a strange form of modern socialism.

Vaclav Klaus ml., Teacher, expert ODS for Education

1) It is my recollection, increasingly on youth than political, because when I November 17, 1989 at the National demonstrated was ‘m 20 . Son is now 19th So I look at him and say “so takovejhle I was a kid, when the revolution” … It seems to me the incredible speed of time.

2) Yes, definitely. But already on the Albert Opletala recall only one of the speakers. The oldest academician Miroslav Katětov. For the younger ones it had already been 50 years of history. Let alone now. In the 25 years from the “revolution” will remain only some media interpretations.

Miroslav Kalousek, MP, chairman of TOP 09

I’m the dates 1939 and 1989 from each other can not and do not want to separate. They merge into one common term, and that is freedom and democracy. The first freedom we have gained October 28, 1918, with the strongly related to me. In 1939, especially the young generation has made it clear he does not want to live without freedom. And in 1989 it continued.

Source:www.novinky.cz