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Nazi collaborator monuments in the Czech Republic

There are hundreds of statues and monuments in the United States and around the world to people who abetted or took part in the murder of Jews and other minorities during the Holocaust. As part of an ongoing investigation, the Forward has, for the first time, documented them in this collection of articles. For an initial guide to each country’s memorials click here. For a 2022 update to the investigation, click here.


Left: Andrey Vlasov reviewing soldiers of the Russian Liberation Army, a Nazi collaborationist force (National Digital Archives of Poland via Wikimedia Commons). Right: detail of the Russian Liberation Army monument, Prague (Wikimedia Commons). Image by Forward collage

Prague — In the Czech Republic’s capital is a strange monument consisting of a slender nine-foot pole topped with the tiny statue of a tank covered with a helmet. The tank is a T-34 Soviet model; the helmet is that of Nazi Germany. This monument, erected in 2021, is to the Russian Liberation Army (ROA), a Russian collaborationist formation in the Third Reich.

The ROA was led by Andrey Vlasov, a Soviet general who defected to Germany. Toward the end of the war, with Germany losing, Vlasov began looking to switch sides once more. In May 1945, the 1st Division of the ROA defected from German service and allied itself with Czech resistance fighters in the bloody uprising to liberate Prague from the Nazis. The Prague monument is to that 1st Division of the ROA, which lost around 300 soldiers in the campaign. Ostensibly the monument is not intended to honor Vlasov himself who had not authorized the 1st Division to aid in the Prague uprising. See the U.S. section for a memorial to Vlasov and the ROA and the Russia section for a monument to other Russian collaborators.

Left: Ferdinand Porsche, second from right with hand in pocket, meets with Third Reich officials including Ernst Kaltenbrunner, far left, Vienna, 1941 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101III-Zschaeckel-112-04A/Zschäckel, Friedrich via Wikimedia Commons). Right: plaque on Porsche’s birth house, Vratislavice nad Nisou (Michal Cizek/AFP via Getty Images). Image by Forward collage

Liberec — A plaque commemorating Ferdinand Porsche (1875–1951) on his birth house in the village of Vratislavice nad Nisou, a district of Liberec. Liberec itself has another plaque on Porsche’s old school. Porsche, who designed the eponymous car line and the Volkswagen Beetle, was a member of the Nazi Party, an officer (SS-Obersturmführer) in the SS, and a favorite of Hitler. In addition to giving the Führer weapons like the infamous Tiger tank, Porsche used slave labor, building his wealth off of concentration camp prisoners. He remained unrepentant about it.

Unlike many towns which defend their collaborator monuments, Vratislavice residents have spoken out against whitewashing Porsche’s past. In 2013, the village removed plaques touting it as Porsche’s birthplace while its mayor condemned the designer’s collaboration. Pushback also came from Jewish groups and WWII veterans who had been on the receiving end of Porsche’s weapons, as detailed in stories in the Times of Israel and the Irish Times. Above left, Porsche (second from right) meets with Nazi brass in Vienna. On the left is Ernst Kaltenbrunner, one of the main organizers of the Holocaust who was executed for crimes against humanity in Nuremberg. Below, soldiers in front of a disabled Elefant tank destroyer, 1944; these machines were nicknamed “Ferdinand” for their designer. For more Porsche monuments, see the Austria, Germany and U.S. sections.

German infantry march past an Elefant tank destroyer, near Netuno, Italy, March 1944 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-311-0940-35/Koch via Wikimedia Commons). Image by Forward collage

***

Left: Iron Cross memorial, Kořenov (Google maps). Right: 1939 Iron Cross, Second Class, Nazi military medal (Wikimedia Commons). Image by Forward collage

Kořenov — In the Jizera Mountains, amid a row of stones in the shadow of a watchtower that looks like it’s out of Game of Thrones, stands a massive stone cross overlooking the mountains beyond. The cross is a granite statue of the 1939 Iron Cross, Second Class Nazi military award. According to research, the cross, which originally had a swastika in its center, was erected in October 1944 as a memorial to fallen Third Reich soldiers. The memorial also included a group of stones symbolizing tombstones. It was deemed important enough to be inaugurated by Konrad Henlein, the Reichsstatthalter (governor) of the Sudetenland, where Kořenov was located.

In May 1945, immediately after Germany’s surrender, the swastika was chipped off with gunfire (you can still see faint traces of it, above left); a month later, the cross was thrown down from its pedestal. It remained lying in several pieces until 2011, when a questionable group reassembled and reinstalled it, often working in the middle of the night. The stones near the cross were rearranged into a large arc. Since then, the site has seen meetings of far-right groups.

The most complete history of this strange memorial has been made clear thanks to the archival research of Josef Doškář who unearthed, among other things, the role played by Henlein. See his site (Google translation here) with reports on the memorial’s history, restoration and use by far-right groups. (Google translation here, here and here). In 2021, the monument was vandalized with swastikas (Google translation here).

See coverage in Lidovky.cz (Google translation here); compilation of coverage by Drobné památky monument database (Google translation here); and protest by the Association of Liberated Political Prisoners and Survivors (Google translation here).

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