Prague Sprung: Notes and Voices from the New World

By David Leviatin | Go to book overview
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Prologue

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. . . . Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionising themselves and things, in creating something entirely new, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle slogans and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language.

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte Karl Marx, 1852

On October 25, 1939, three days before the twenty-first anniversary of Czechoslovakia's independence, residents of Nazi-occupied Prague listened to their radios as a member of the fascist-supported Party of National Unity discouraged them from staging anti-German demonstrations. The speaker "urged Czechs to labor as usual, . . . advising workers against 'clinging to the dead past.'" 1 Two days later, German authorities

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