17th November in the Czech Republic: more than just day off

21. 11. 2011 Autor: Rubrika: English žádné komentáře

You might be aware of the fact there’s no school on Thursday. Some of you may know it’s the International Students‘ Day as well. But have you ever wondered why? Why is it for Czech Republic so special that they made it the national day?

Author: David Stella (UKáčko.cz)

Close relation with Charles‘ University. On 28th October 1939, students of the medical faculty of this very university incited a celebration of formation of Czechoslovakia in order to demostrate peacefully against the german occupation of the czech lands – Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia at that time.

The Nazis suppresed brutally this student procession, which finally gathered on the Wenceslaus‘ square. The result: two deaths. The second one, Jan Opletal, one of the initiators, wasn’t shot dead on the spot, but died soon after. His funeral, assisted by thousands of students, turned into yet another demostration, which resulted in even more radical measures being taken by the Nazis.

German leader A. Hitler decided to close all the czech universities. 1200 czech students and professors were taken to concentration camps. 9 of them were executed with no trial two days after, that is on the 17th November ’39. That’s why was November the 17th chosen as the International Students‘ Day.

The second mening of 17th November

During the late 1989, students got started to prepare the 50th anniversary of 11/17/1939. Again, this celebration was used to express their dissapointment and disagreement – now with the czechoslovakian communist party.

Here they could voice their dissatisfaction in a much bigger mass of people. Nearly 15 000 students and young people in general gathered in the streets of Prague and later on where beaten violently by the police. The same night, actors from theaters, several dissenters and intellectuals agreed on a strike. This started the events that led to the downfall of communism in Czechoslovakia.

Ondřej Škrabal




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