prague uprising

On This Day: May 8
  • 1450: Jack Cade’s Rebellion begins. Kentishmen revolt against King Henry VI, eventually capturing and looting London.
  • 1753: Birth of Mexican priest and revolutionary Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, who was executed in July 1811 for leading an uprising.
  • 1911: The anarchist Mexican Liberal Party captured Tijuana.
  • 1912: George Woodcock was born in Winnipeg. He was a writer of political biography and history, an anarchist thinker, an essayist and literary critic.
  • 1916: Ben Reitman was sentenced to 60 days in jail for advocating birth control.
  • 1916: Foundation of American Federation of Teachers in United States.
  • 1916: Éamonn Ceannt executed for his role in the Irish Easter Uprising.
  • 1919: Vera Zasulich, Menshevik writer and revolutionary, dies in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
  • 1925: A Philip Randolph and Milton P Webster found Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. First black led union to become part of AFL.
  • 1926: During the British General Strike, Police make baton-charges on strikers in Glasgow, Hull, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Preston.
  • 1926: Rail union secretary JH Thomas begins secret talks with the mine owners, beginning process of selling out the General Strike.
  • 1930: Gary Snyder was born in San Francisco. Perhaps best known as a poet, he is also an essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist.
  • 1933: Gandhi begins a 3 week hunger strike over mistreatment of lower castes.
  • 1937: In Barcelona, police find the horribly mutilated bodies of 12 murdered young men. Eight of the bodies are so mutilated that they cannot be identified. The four identified bodies belong to young anarchists, illegally arrested together with eight friends on May 4 outside the Communist militia barracks in Barcelona, when they were passing by on a truck with “CNT” written on it. The names of the identified young men are: Cesar Fernández Neri, Jose Villena, Juan Antonio, and Luis Carneras. Police also found the dead bodies of the Italian anarchist professor Berneri and two of his friends, who were arrested during the May incidents by Communist militias.
  • 1940: While in Toronto, Emma Goldman has a stroke.
  • 1945: Sétif massacre: At a demo by Muslim Algerian population, police attack pro-independence protesters.
  • 1945: German anarcho-syndicalist Fritz Kater was injured by a dud bazooka shell.
  • 1945: End of the Prague Uprising, an insurrection against the Nazi occupation.
  • 1962: Nine million Belgians participate in a 10 minute work stoppage protesting nuclear weapons.
  • 1963: South Vietnamese soldiers open fire on Buddhists defying a ban on the flying of the Buddhist flag. Nine are killed.
  • 1969: City College of New York closes following a 14-day-long student takeover demanding minority studies; riots among students break out when CCNY tries to reopen.
  • 1970: Hard Hat Riot: Construction workers confront anti-war demonstrators, Wall St., New York City.
  • 1971: Nguyen Thi Co immolates herself protesting Vietnam War.
  • 1973: Members of the American Indian Movement who had held South Dakota hamlet of Wounded Knee surrender to federal agents after a 10 week siege.
  • 1991: 1,400 United Steelworkers of America end 10 month strike at Brunswick Mining and Smelting, winning health and safety assurances.

The Last Great Offensive of World War II Europe — The Prague Offensive

On April 30th, 1945, Hitler shot himself as his infamous “One Thousand Year Reich” collapsed around him.  Everywhere German troops were surrendering as it became abundantly clear that the war was over.  On May 7th, German High Command ordered all German armed forces to cease-fire and surrender, and on May 8th the German government and military officially surrendered to Allied forces.  While the surrender of Germany on May 7th-8th signaled the end of the war, and most German forces throughout Europe laid down their arms, the fighting did not come to a complete end on that date.  In fact for the next month there would be sporadic fighting between remnants of the German Army, Allied forces, and various partisan groups.  It is interesting to note that the last great offensive of the war, the Prague Offensive, ended 4 days after the official surrender of Germany.  

When Hitler shot himself on April 30th, the last large pocket of German soldiers, what remained of Army Group Center, was located in what is now the Czech Republic.  Under the command of Field Marshal Ferdinand Schorner, Army Group Center was composed of 1 million men and around 1,900 tanks.  While a million man army may seem like a powerful force, by then Army Group Center was a paper tiger in reality.  The men were exhausted, lacking food and ammunition, the tanks were out of gas.  However Schorner doggedly fought on, continuing to resist a massive Soviet advance while pretty much all the other armies around him had surrendered. On May 1st, the Red Army began its last major offensive to obliterate Army Group Center.  Led by Marshal Ivan Konev, the Soviets attacked with a force of almost 2 million men. The offensive consisted of a double pronged attack, with simultaneous advances from the northeast and southeast. Under the furious Soviet assault, German forces were pushed back to Prague.

On May 5th, the Czechoslovak Army rebelled against the the German occupation force, an event known as the Prague Uprising.  The Germans quickly crushed the rebellion and continued the fight against Soviet forces. On May 7th, Schorner received news of the cease-fire and surrender.  However he refused to surrender to the Soviets, which would result in him and his men spending the rest of their lives chipping rocks in one of Stalin’s gulags.  Instead he ordered his men to conduct a fighting withdrawal to the west where they could surrender to the Americans.  The Americans treated German POWs well, so much of the final days of the war was a mad scramble by German soldiers to surrender to the British and Americans before being captured by the Soviets. So in other words, the German soldiers of Army Group Center were fighting not to win, but were fighting to lose.  

On May 8th, VE Day, Schorner abandoned his command and went into hiding in Vienna.  Without anyone in charge Army Group Center quickly became a chaotic mob. However the fighting continued. Over the next four days, Soviet forces continued their advance, facing staunch resistance in some areas, or panicked fleeing troops in others.  Despite the disorganization many German units continued their fighting retreat to the west, a retreat that would ultimately be doomed.  On May 11th the Soviets completely encircled Army Group Center.  By then most German soldiers threw down their weapons and accepted their fates. Soviet forces suffered around 50,000 dead, wounded, and missing.  Around 860,000 German soldiers surrendered and were captured. Many would never return home. 

Sporadic fighting continued on May 12th.  On that day the last battle of the offensive occurred, known as the Battle of Slivice.  6,000 retreating German soldiers were mere miles away from the Americans when they were blocked by Czech Partisans.  The Soviets attacked (as well as the American 4th Armored Division) and the men were quickly killed or captured.  After the Prague Offensive sporadic fighting continued in Europe.  On the 14th and 15th of May Yugoslav Partisans ambushed remnants of the German Army retreating east at the Battle of Poljana.  The last shots of the war were fired on May 20th, when a bloody battle between Georgian rebels and German soldiers on the Dutch island of Texel was ended by Allied Forces.

On This Day: May 5

Arbegnoch Qen (Patriots Day) in Ethiopia

  • 1789: Estates General convene to discuss taxation - part of steps towards French Revolution.
  • 1818: Karl Marx born in Trier, Germany.
  • 1882: Birth of Sylvia Pankhurst in Old Trafford, UK. She was a revolutionary socialist, and campaigner for women’s suffrage.
  • 1886: Bay View Massacre: 14,000 strike at Milwaukee Iron Co rolling mill for 8-hour day. National Guard is called in and seven strikers are shot and killed.
  • 1886: Police raid the offices of the Arbeiter-Zeitung in Chicago, arresting its editor August Spies, and his brother. Also arrested were editorial assistant Michael Schwab and Adolph Fischer, a typesetter.  
  • 1916: John MacBride executed for his role in the Irish Easter Uprising.
  • 1920: Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested and accused of robbery and murder.
  • 1920: Charles Ange Laisant died.
  • 1925: John Scopes served with an arrest warrant for teaching evolution in violation of the Butler Act. Leads to the “Scopes trial”.
  • 1931: Gandhi is arrested for violating the Salt Laws; non-cooperation movements break out across India.
  • 1937: Italian anarchist Camillo Berneri was killed in Barcelona by members of the Communist Party of Spain.
  • 1945: The Czech Resistance launches the Prague Uprising to liberate the city from Nazis. 30,000 take up arms.
  • 1965: Draft card burnings take place at Berkeley. Several hundred UC Berkeley students march on the Berkeley Draft Board (BDB) and present the staff with a black coffin.
  • 1970: Protestors take to streets in Seattle to over killings at Kent State & against Vietnam War. More than 5,000 protesters occupy the I5 freeway.
  • 1981: Bobby Sands dies after 66 day hunger strike for political rights for rep. prisoners.
  • 1991: A riot breaks out in the Mt. Pleasant section of Washington, D.C. after police shoot a Salvadoran man.
  • 2003: Walter Sisulu dies in  Johannesburg, South Africa. He was an anti-apartheid activist & leading ANC figure who spent over 25 years in prison.
  • 2010: Three people were killed in one of the largest demonstrations in Greece since 1973. Anti-austerity movement in Greece begins.
  • 2014: Billy Frank, Jr. dies in Nisqually Indian Community, Washington. He was a Native American environmental leader and treaty rights activist.

This Day in History - May 5, 1945

The Prague Uprising begins, lasting until May 8th.

The Prague Uprising was the last attempt by the Czech resistance to liberate the city from Nazi occupation in the last days of the war in Europe. 

The uprising was triggered in the morning by a broadcast on Czech radio. In a mixture of Czech and German, the broadcast announced: “It is just six o’ clock”. A group of Czech policemen attempted to seize the radio building on Vinohradská street, without realizing that a detachment of SS soldiers was already stationed there, which resulted in bitter fighting. With the sounds of combat in the background, the radio station continued to broadcast messages of defiance, encouraging citizens to revolt.

At about 1:00 am on May 5, 1945, armed Czech resistance fighters overwhelmed the Waffen-SS defending the radio buildings. The radio announcer broadcast a call to the Czech nation to rise up and asked the people in the streets of Prague to build barricades. Elsewhere, Czech resistance fighters occupied the Gestapo and Sipo Headquarters.

During the uprising in Prague, 1,694 Czechs were killed and another 1,600 seriously wounded. Almost 1,000 German Soldiers were killed. The number of German civilian casualties is unknown. 

The Uprising ended in a ceasefire with the arrival of the Red Army a day after Victory in Europe day.