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October 23, 2021



Czech Republic: Former political prisoners honor the memory of victims of communism

Prague, 20.5.2012 6:13, (ROMEA)

Czech Television station ČT 24 reports that the Confederation of Political Prisoners (Konfederace politických vězňů) held its traditional ceremony yesterday honoring the memories of the victims of communism. The commemoration was held at a burial site for political prisoners in Prague on the campus of the crematorium in the Motol neighborhood. Family members of those who were executed, murdered, shot dead at the country's borders and tortured attended the ceremony, as did former dissidents, emigrants, and political prisoners of the communist regime (1948-1989) - essentially everyone with something to say about those who fell victim to the 42 years of the totalitarian dictatorship.

During the 1950s, when the communist regime waged an implacable war against its opponents and the number of people executed by the state rose, the communists decided to dispose of the bodies of their opponents through cremation. The first crematorium used for this purpose was in Prague's Strašnice neighborhood, with the crematorium in the Motol quarter coming into use later. As per the regulations then in effect, all of the urns holding the remains were deposited in the prisons. It was only after 1958, on the basis of an order by the Czechoslovak Interior Minister, that the remains were gradually released for burial - but not to the bereaved families. Instead, the remains were interred in mass pits meant to remain the anonymous last resting places for those who had not wanted to reconcile themselves to the destruction of freedom in their country.

During communism, the only known mass grave was in Prague's Ďáblice neighborhood. However, thanks to the work of the Confederation of Political Prisoners, at the end of the 1990s the existence of another mass grave in Prague was discovered near the Motol crematorium.

"It was originally believed that most of the political prisoners, especially those who had died in prison or been executed, had been buried in Ďáblice, as the existence of the Motol mass grave was not very well known. Oto Stehlík, the founder of the Confederation of Political Prisoners' documentation center, deserves great credit for the fact that the mass graves began to be discussed. The center managed to determine that between 1950 and 1965, human remains in the form of ash were brought here from all over the republic," said historian Petr Blažek on the Studio ČT24 program. Blažek said the rediscovered Motol site has served as a place of commemoration since the 1990s.

The buried urns were not inscribed with names, but were labeled only with cover numbers. As late as 5 May 1965, 78 urns were transported from Pankrác prison to the Motol mass grave. About two-thirds of the people whose remains were interred there have since been identified. When these people died, they were supposed to be forgotten forever as mere numbers. Now at least some of them have been restored their names.

The service was attended by the chair of the lower house, Czech MP Miroslava Němcová. Milena Korzumplíková, the chair of the administrative board of the Karel Hartig Foundation, said at the ceremony that "the youngest among us must know that liberty comes at a cost. Today we bow to the memory of those who gave their lives for freedom. They died because they were not willing to bend their spines or bow their heads to evil."

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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