Conference on Resistance and Opposition Against Communist Regimes Concluded
- Programme of the conference
- Press release International Conference “Resistance and Opposition against the Communist Regime in Czechoslovakia and Central Europe” (Prague April 9, 2009)
PRAGUE, April 17, 2009 – The second and final day of the international conference “Resistance and Opposition against the Communist Regime in Czechoslovakia and Central Europe” featured testimonies of representatives of the anti-Communist resistance and opposition as well as the live transmission of interviews with Josef Mašín and Director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Pavel Žáček. In one of the morning panels, Mirko Šikola spoke about his attempt to cross the state border and a booby trap in the form of a simulated American station. Dobroslav Putaj touched on his experiences leading the anti-Communist organization Free Czechoslovakia, for which he was later sentenced to 25 years in prison. The conference‘s afternoon panel was dedicated to the testimonies of witnesses of the “third resistance,” or resistance in Czechoslovakia during the period of Communist totalitarian power between 1948-1989. These survivors could not reconcile themselves with the post-February 1948 developments in Czechoslovakia, paying a heavy price for their ensuing actions. Hana Truncová, Miloslav Nerad, Vojtěch Klečka and General Tomáš Sedláček also actively participated in the anti-Nazi or “second” resistance during the period of the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939-1945). Each of them stated that their reason for engaging in the second and third resistance was their disapproval of the totalitarian regime and desire for a free Czechoslovakia. They further agreed that they would do so again, in spite of the punishments they incurred as a result of their activities, because it was the “right thing” to do. Their testimonies were often interrupted by applause from the audience, which included many more former resistance fighters as well as young students. The live broadcast of the interview with Josef Mašín and Director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes Pavel Žáček took place in the middle of the panel. Josef Mašín, who spoke from the BBC studio in Oxford, England, replied to the question of why he refuses to come to the Czech Republic that he does not want to come until the situation in the country improves, referring to the current representation of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia in the Czech Parliament. Mašín remained critical of post-November 1989 developments in the Czech Republic throughout the remainder of the interview. According to Mašín, it is a disgrace that former Communist attorney Brožová-Polednová is going to prison as late as twenty years after the revolution, and that politicians including Václav Havel betrayed the Czech people by not removing Communists from public functions. Pavel Žáček, in the second part of the interview, emphasized the necessity of viewing the Mašín brothers case in an all-European context. He said that in Poland, for example, there existed entire groups using weapons to fight against the Communist regime, and no one is taken aback, by contrast with the Czech Republic, where the Mašín brothers‘ operation still arouses a lively discussion even years after the fact. The full hall of Lichtenstein Palace broke out in long-lasting applause at the completion of the interview. The conference concluded with panel moderators’ reflections and closing words by the Institute’s First Deputy Director, Miroslav Lehký, who brought to the audience’s attention the fact that on April 2, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism that called for the establishment of a Platform of European Memory and Conscience.
- Topolánek: Totalitarianism study institute is outstanding step (Prague Daily Monitor, 4/16/2009)
Highlights of the Conference’s First Day
PRAGUE, April 16, 2009 – The panel which attracted the greatest attention on Wednesday, the first day of the international conference “Resistance and Opposition against the Communist Regime in Czechoslovakia and Central Europe,” was that dedicated to the case of the Josef and Ctirad Mašín, who along with Milan Paumer are among the Czech Republic‘s most potent symbols of armed resistance against the Communist regime. Martin Vadas, the director of the 1996 documentary film “Land Without Heroes, Land Without Criminals” opened the panel. Vadas addressed the issue of whether or not the term “civil war” can be applied to the period after the Communist putsch in 1948. He argued that the Communists’ declaring of “class war” and proclamation that “he who isn’t with us is against us” justifies the description of the period in terms of a civil war. Vadas also expressed his perspective that in the Czech Republic today there is not a general condemnation of Communism and that the European “cafe concept” of Communism still holds great influence. Markéta Chalupová from the History Institute of Masaryk University’s Faculty of Arts addressed how the Mašín brothers case was depicted in period Czechoslovak press. She compared the working codes of journalists writing during Communism with those of a truly democratic press, and cited the 1998 ethical code of journalists working in democratic conditions, with its focus on the upholding of truth, regardless of the consequences. Chalupová pointed out that in contrast, the function of the press in communist Czechoslovakia was to exalt the governing political system and spread official ideology. Director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Pavel Žáček, addressed the reconstruction of the resistance group’s activities in security archives materials. Žáček emphasized the necessity of thorough, professional research and evaluation of documentary and archival materials, pointing out the difference between lay or media approaches and those of professional historians, who are trained to study events within wider historical contexts. During the discussion following the presentations, Milan Paumer himself, who was in the audience, had the final word. He stated that the Communists were the ones who announced class war, and that in such a class war, there are no rules; rather, he who is faster and more precise wins. The international conference continues today, with a panel of four former political prisoners and a teleconference with Josef Mašín speaking from Oxford, England.
Conference on Resistance and Opposition Against Communist Regimes Inaugurated
PRAGUE, April 15, 2009 – Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek inaugurated this morning the international conference “Resistance and Opposition against the Communist Regime in Czechoslovakia and Central Europe,” which is being held within the scope of the Czech presidency of the European Union. „I am glad that I stood by the founding of this Institute and I hope that it survives not only my government, but future governments, as well,“ said Topolánek at the beginning of his speech. Topolánek emphasized that he considers the conference held under his auspices as important, and that none of those who did not experience the Communist dictatorship themselves knows how he would have behaved if it had come down to a choice between good and evil. “We have to be careful that we do not exchange the dictatorship of totalitarianism for a dictatorship of majority opinion,” added Topolánek, who further commented in his speech, broadcast by Czech Television, that “hell does not lurk outside, but inside. Pavel Žaček, Director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, welcomed participants after Prime Minister Topolánek’s opening remarks. He emphasized the notable difference between Poland and the Baltic States, on the one hand, and and former Czechoslovakia, on the other, in acknowledging anti-communist resistance. The closing speaker of the inaugural panel was Václav Veber, head of the Institute’s research group concentrating on the “third resistance,” or resistance in Czechoslovakia during the period of Communist totalitarian power between 1948-1989.