On this day in 1945: The Prague Uprising fought for freedom

The attempt by the Czech resistance to liberate the city from German occupation at the end of WWII began 77 years ago today.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 05.05.2022 10:52:00 (updated on 04.05.2023) Reading time: 1 minute

The start of May 2022 marks 77 years since the Prague Uprising, which was among the last fighting in World War II.

Historians say between 1,694 and 2,898 Czechs were killed and 3,000 were wounded, as well as up to 1,000 Germans, during the May 5–8 uprising in Prague and several thousand more across the country. Soviet forces arrived in Prague on May 9.

Czech Radio on May 5, 1945, sent out the message “Calling all Czechs! Come quickly to our aid! Calling all Czechs!” which started some of the last fighting in Europe in World War II.

More than 30,000 insurgents in Prague heard his call for help. However, they were very poorly armed with light weapons, while Nazi units were equipped with heavy weapons and air force, had about 40,000 men, and a fanatical command that did not tolerate any signs of resistance.

Silent newsreel footage from May 1945 can be seen in the British Pathé clip called Prague Liberated. It includes street fighting, the building of barricades from paving stones, burning of German banners, scenes of the destruction in Old Town Square, and the arrival of Soviet troops, who were welcomed by the civilian population, and the return of Edvard Beneš. Czech women can be seen with flowers in their hair, cheering on the soldiers as they go by.

The National Film Archives has a half-hour film, made largely of amateur footage, called May Revolution in Prague 1945 (Květnová revoluce v Praze 1945), covers the same events with some rather shaky footage.

British Pathé’s archives also have a nine-minute segment called Beneš Returns To Prague – 1945, with clear black-and-white images but some hard to decipher audio. Another version of the same footage can be found on British Movietone’s YouTube page.

In the end of the uprising, the German side set fire to Old Town Hall on Old Town Square, destroying the city archives and doing significant damage to the tower and the Astronomical Clock.

Today plaques mark where fallen Czech fighters across the city. Read more about the plaques here.

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