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National Memorial on the Vítkov Hill U Památníku 1900, Praha 3

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After 1948, the National Memorial on Vítkov hill took part in the Communist cult of power. From its original purpose – that of celebrating the Czechoslovakian statehood – the Memorial has been converted to a stage scene for one of the most striking propaganda actions of its time.

The World War I legionnaires reverence was left out even though their fight helped Czechs and Slovaks in obtaining their independence. In 1953 the Central Committee decided to build the Klement Gotwald Mausoleum inside the Monument. Technical facilities were built in the building’s subterranean spaces: an engine room, an electronic device for lifting up the coffin from the underground, special lighting for the body exposed, a control room for doctors and nurses. All medical procedures were logged in a so-called embalming book. The prescribed temperature (16 ºC) and humidity (80 %) were ensured by a special circulation system.

Klement Gottwald’s body was exhibited in a glazed sarcophagus next to which a guard of honour stood. In order to preserve it, the body was transferred every morning under ground by a hydraulic system and, upon a medical check, lifted up again. The Mausoleum opened its doors on 5 December 1953 and, initially, averaged around 200 000 visitors every year. Its building was administered by a special department of the Ministry of Interior. In 1955, on the 10th anniversary of the end of the World War II, the Red Army Hall, designed by the architect Jan Zázvorka, was completed.


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