Saturday, June 30, 2007

Forgetting To Remember

Civilian groups take matters into their own hands to commemorate WWII Resistance

Photo/The Prague PostOn June 24, hundreds gathered at the former site of Ležáky village, east Bohemia, to commemorate the 65th anniversary of its destruction at the hands of the Nazis.

A week prior, on June 18, a similar group gathered at a church on New Town’s Resslová street to remember the seven Czechoslovak Resistance fighters who died there 65 years ago during a shootout with the Gestapo.

Jan Kubiš photo/The Prague PostThough separated by time and place, both tragedies were the fallout from one morning in May 1942 when resistance fighters attacked a Nazi convoy in Prague 8. As a result of that day’s events, one Nazi despot died, thousands of civilians were murdered and the future of the nation was cemented.

“We are talking about the assassination of the most important officer of the Third Reich,” says military historian Michal Burian of the killing of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich. “The Czech nation paid a bloody tax for this deed, but it had declared its resistance to the occupation clearly in front of all the world.”

But undercutting both remembrance ceremonies this month was a growing swell of protest that the government has failed to properly commemorate this episode of history.

Speaking at the memorial ceremony in Ležáky, Senate Chairman Petr Pithart told the Czech News Agency that a planned memorial chapel at the site of the razed village has yet to be built.

And years of stalling mean there’s still no proper memorial in Prague 8 to the two men who assassinated Heydrich. Plans for one have snagged on disagreements over the nature of the memorial and its location.

Fed up with waiting, two citizens’ groups secretly erected their own illegal memorials June 10 and 18. The two plaques were placed near the site of the assassination.

One of the groups, an amateur historians’ organization calling itself AMEC, has been considering the move since 2005, said spokesman Filip Barták. “I am not sure if there is the political will to build a memorial,” he says. “We didn’t want to celebrate or criticize the assassination, we just wanted to commemorate this act.”

While local officials aren’t pleased with the illegal memorials, they don’t plan to take action either, says Prague 8 spokeswoman Helena Šmídová. The decision to remove them is up to the owners of the property.

Shortly after 10 a.m. May 27, 1942, British-trained resistance fighters Jan Kubiš, a Czech, and Jozef Gabcík, a Slovak, hid near a tight curve in the road in Prague 8.

In their sights: Reinhard Heydrich, acting head of the Nazi-controlled Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Renowned for his brutality, Heydrich was close to Adolf Hitler and was one of the primary architects of the Holocaust. The plan for his assassination, dubbed Operation Anthropoid, had been hatched in the United Kingdom under the supervision of exiled President Edvard Beneš.

As Heydrich’s car slowed to navigate the bend in the road, Gabcík leaped out and attempted to shoot Heydrich, but his submachine gun jammed, says military historian Burian. Kubiš threw a grenade, which exploded near the car’s fender. The assassins made their getaway and Heydrich died a week later from an infection caused by the shrapnel.

Furious, Hitler ordered the killing of thousands of civilians, resistance fighters and their collaborators. The villages of Lidice and Ležáky were razed and nearly all inhabitants killed. Kubiš and Gabcík were betrayed by a comrade and died inside the Church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius on Resslová street, where they were hiding. Some of the men, including Kubiš, died from Gestapo bullets, while others, like Gabcík, committed suicide, Burian says.

Despite the bloody reprisals, the killing of Heydrich was symbolically important for a nation downtrodden after the 1938 Munich Agreement, in which the United Kingdom, France and Italy handed parts of Bohemia and Moravia over to Hitler in an attempt to slake his thirst for war.

“The assassination and the following reprisals … led to one of the most important moments of World War II from the point of view of Czechoslovakia: the renouncement of the Munich Agreement by Britain and France,” Burian says.

In the district where the assassination took place, Kubiš and Gabcík each have a street named in their memory. At the church where they died, a memorial stands. In the town of Leamington Spa in central England, where the men were trained, there’s a memorial fountain.

While in Prague 8, the bureaucrats sit with their thumbs up their brains.
Still, some local residents and historians have for years been calling for a memorial at the site of the assassination.

It’s a work in progress, says Prague 8 spokeswoman Šmídová. “We have been negotiating with military experts and historians” for nearly a year, she says. “We have to agree on the text, location and the appearance of the memorial. You can’t rush these things.”
Hell no, lady, let's not rush into any damn thing. It's been sixteen years since liberation from the damn Russians and sixty-five since the Nazi bastard Heydrich was sent to his just reward. Yet, proof that Absurdistan still exists comes from your very words.
The two illegal plaques have created more problems than they’ve solved, she says.

“The experts already argue about the text of one of them. … Also, one text contains a grammatical mistake,” she says.
My, my, my! And what does your proposed text say, sweetheart? Give me a friggin' break!
What’s more, the AMEC memorial has since disappeared, less than two weeks after it went up.

Barták is unfazed by this setback. “I think it was brought down by opponents of the assassination or by the town hall. … [But] we think that our plaque has met our expectations and completed its mission — it started a discussion,” he says.
“We hope the authorities will finally install an official one.”
Agreed, but let's not hold our breath waiting for damnable nitwits like Helena Šmídová to act. At its current pace, Prague 8's division of Absurdistan may have a decision by May 27, 2042.


Jean-Pierre was unavailable to demonstrate his superior level of ignorance.

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