Speeches

5. 5. 2015 23:32

Prime Minister Sobotka: We must do everything in our power to ensure that the horrors of the Second World War are never repeated

Projev předsedy vlády Bohuslava Sobotky u příležitosti slavnostního Koncertu ke Dni vítězství, 5. května 2015.
Projev předsedy vlády Bohuslava Sobotky u příležitosti slavnostního Koncertu ke Dni vítězství, 5. května 2015.
On 5 May 2015, together with President Miloš Zeman, members of the Cabinet, representatives of the diplomatic corps and war veterans, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka commemorated the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II with a gala Victory Day Concert.

Speech by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on the occasion of the gala Victory Day Concert, 5 May 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In today’s gala evening, we are commemorating the end of the largest and most destructive conflict in the history of humanity. Seventy years ago on the fifth of May, the Prague Uprising began. A few days later, after the capitulation of Hitler’s forces, some of their units fought their last battle near the Czech town of Příbram.

For us, Czech and Slovaks, the end of the war meant liberation and victory. In the Czech protectorate, the Nazi juggernaut, despotism aimed against the people, meant names like Terezín, Lidice, Ležáky, Pankrác, Kobylisy, Lety, Ploština, and Javoříčko. In Central Europe, the end of World War II meant liberation from an inhuman terror.

Victory meant surviving with a hope for a better life, in peace.

This is also why it is important to reject efforts to redraw history and interpret the year 1945 not as liberation from Nazism, but as just a different kind of occupation.

For the alternative to a victory of the anti-Hitler coalition would have been the physical extermination of our nation. This is the only historical truth. There is no other. During the Protectorate, the Nazis killed hundreds of thousands of our Jewish fellow citizens, and exterminated Czech Roma, and up the last moment they murdered Czech democrats and patriots in the hundreds and thousands. In concentration camps entire families perished, including very small children, who could not in any way have offended the Nazi regime. Only liberation in May 1945 ended this.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We can be proud of the fact that during the 1930s, pre-war democratic Czechoslovakia was one of the first countries to stand up to Nazi expansionism, providing a safe haven for those fleeing for their lives from the Nazis. During clashes in defence of our borders in 1938 and 1939, one hundred and twenty soldiers, police, and members of the Financial Guard of the time fell. As examples, we might mention the attack on the police station on Habartov, on the customs office in Malá Úpa, and the battle against the Horthyist army in Carpathian Ruthenia in March 1939.

Pre-war democratic Czechoslovakia was a field upon which the main conflict was still to come, and when it came, our soldiers once again stood on the right side – in the aerial battles for Britain, during the defence of Tobruk in northern Africa, during the siege of Dunkerque, and during battles at Sokolov, the Dukla Pass, during the liberation of Ostrava.

A number of war veterans are here with us today. I would like to thank them for the courage and heroism with which they contributed to the defeat of Nazism and the restoration of Czechoslovakia. They did not hesitate to lay their lives on the line for our country, and we remember how many of their friends on the front line indeed paid with their lives.

Our thanks and remembrance today must also belong to the members of the national resistance movement, members of partisan squads, and all those who selflessly and courageously helped them. National resistance organizations were preparing for an armed uprising, supplied information to the resistance abroad, attacked the occupying forces and also worked on political programmes for the newly liberated republic. Those who survived the war could then pick up where they had left off.

We also owe our thanks for cooperation and the joint battle on the fronts of World War II to the governments and citizens of Russia, Great Britain, the United States of America, and all other countries that fought together in the coalition against Hitler and in the end were victorious in the fight against Nazism.

For Czechoslovakia, which prior to the war had been among the most modern and industrially advanced countries in the world, World War II meant a number of great and painful losses.

We endured the loss of a large part of our elites, a substantial part of our population, as well as suffering economic decline and the loss of the ability to compete internationally.

Other European states also had to recover from the horrors of war. Buildings and streets can be rebuilt in a few years, but murdered families, the broken health of entire generations, the decline in education and cultural values in general, that is a legacy that haunted the European community for decades. Seventy years ago, efforts to prevent the future horrors of war led to the creation of the United Nations, and then later, of the European Union.

The European Union project was created precisely as the best prevention of a repeat of the horrors that the first half of the twentieth century brought upon Europe.

The European Union made war between its members impossible, because it developed instruments based on clear borders between states, while at the same time preventing the dominance of large states over their smaller neighbours.

Today, important decisions in the European Union are based on agreement. This is why the European Union is an exceptionally successful project – there where for centuries, states warred among each other, no fighting has occurred since the end of World War II. Eleven years on, faced with the security risks of today’s world, it is once again evident how important and strategic a decision our accession to this community was.

Thanks to cooperation, for seventy years we have not experienced a large war on our continent. Today, out of respect to this legacy and with awareness of what we have inherited, we must also act so that our children and their children do not experience it either.

Thank you for your attention and for coming today.

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