On October ,28 1939, students from the Charles University in Prague held a demonstration to remember the 21st anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. The demonstration was violently suppressed by the occupying Nazi regime more then a dozen students were seriously injured, one of the students Jan Opletal later died of his bullet wounds on November 11,1939.
Four days later on November 15 1939 he was laid out and driven through Prague. Over 3,000 students were at the memorial event at the Institute of Pathology and the adjacent chapel.
The protectorate’s government had surprisingly given permission for the funeral procession. The event however quickly turned into another an anti-Nazi demonstration.
As a result, Reichsprotektor Konstantin von Neurath, the Nazi chief of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, initiated the so-called Sonderaktion Prag on the 17th of November 1939. All Czech universities and colleges were closed , and 1,850 students were arrested .Eight students and one professor who had been deemed the leaders of the demonstration, were executed.
- Josef Matoušek (historian and associate professor.
- Jaroslav Klíma (law student and Chairman of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia.)
- Jan Weinert (student of Bohemistics and Germanics.)
- Josef Adamec (law student and secretary of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia)
- Jan Černý (student of medicine)
- Marek Frauwirth (student of economics; as an employee of the Slovak embassy in Prague)
- Bedřich Koula (law student and secretary of the Association of Czech students in Bohemia)
- Václav Šafránek (student of architecture and record-keeper of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia)
- František Skorkovský (law student and Director of a Committee of the Confédération Internationale des Étudiants, Chairman of the Foreign Department of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia)
Hitler authorised the execution without trial of the 9 protest leaders, and made it a policy to use force even for small gatherings.
If there were any further demonstrations, Hitler promised to “flatten” Prague.
1,200 students were sent to concentration camps.
On the 50th anniversary demonstrations were held in Bratislava and Prague which eventually led to the Velvet revolution and the election of artist Václav Havel as President on 29 December 1989.
November 17 is now also designated as International Students day, but if I see what some students protest or complain about nowadays I wonder if they are aware of the sacrifices made of the students in Prague in 1939.
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