Czech Republic

Czechoslovakia was formed after the First World War. The country was one of the first to fall prey to Nazi Germany and one of the last to be liberated during the war. 

Liberation Route Europe

Liberation Route Europe in Czech Republic

The population of Czechoslovakia knew several minority groups including a large German speaking minority close to the German border in a region called the Sudetenland. Hitler used the presence of this group as an excuse to take over the Sudetenland in 1938. France and Britain, Allies to Czechoslovakia, agreed to this rather than face war. In March 1939 Germany occupied the rest of the country. Czechoslovakia was one of the last countries to remain occupied. It was liberated by both the Western Powers and the Soviet Union. During the war Czechoslovakia had an active resistance movement and thousands of Czechs fought alongside the Western and Soviet forces.

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Highlighted story: Liberation of Pilsen

By 1945 it was clear that Nazi-Germany would lose the war. In May the Czech population rose up against the German occupying forces in several places, including Pilsen. At the same time the Red Army was approaching the country from the East and the Western Allied forces from the West.

The final phase of the war
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Liberation of Pilsen
Sherman Tank of the U.S. 16th Armoured Division during the liberation of Pilsen, 6 May 1945.

On 5 May 1945 the population of Pilsen rose up against the Nazi occupation. Citizens entered the streets and began to tear down Nazi symbols. German forces reacted by besieging the city in an attempt to suppress the uprising. The civilian population of Pilsen desperately needed American forces to arrive as soon as possible.

Early in the morning of 6 May American tanks from the 16th Armoured division set out for Pilsen, reaching the city around 08.00 hours. The first unit into town was Combat Command B led by Colonel Charles Noble. The American forces encountered sporadic resistance from German soldiers and were shot at from the tower of the cathedral. It soon, however, became apparent that further fighting was futile and the German commander, General von Majewski decided to surrender. Around 14.15 hours General von Majewski signed the capitulation ordering is troops to put up no further resistance. Afterwards he committed suicide before the eyes of his staff and wife.

The 16th Armored Division was followed by the 2nd Infantry Division and the 17th Belgian Fusilier Battalion which included 700 volunteers who had joined the U.S. Army after the liberation of Liege. There are several monuments in the city of Pilsen commemorating the Allied forces that took part in the liberation of the city.

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