The first of the student events is related to the beginnings of World War II. In response to the demonstrations on October 28, 1939 and the riots associated with the funeral of student Jan Opletal, the leadership of Nazi Germany decided to close Czech universities for three years. On the night of November 17, Nazi security forces carried out raids in Prague, Brno and Příbram with the aim of capturing the leaders of student organizations and interning other students.
As a result, more than 1,000 students were arrested and taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp by the then regime. Most of those arrested were released in the following years, 35 students did not survive the hardships of internment. With the help of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, the Statement of Allied Students on November 17 was later issued, declaring this day International Student Day.
November 17, 1989
The second event is related to November 17, 1989, when the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Nazi repression and subsequent murders in the concentration camp turned into a demonstration against the communist regime. Albertov became a key point in Prague, where several hundred students gathered and their number grew rapidly, some sources speak of up to 50,000.
Student Martin Klíma performed the song Gaudeamus igitur. The crowd was then supposed to go to Vyšehrad to the grave of Karel Hynek Mácha. But the majority went to Wenceslas Square. State security tried to separate the demonstrators and stop the individual marches, including the one aimed at supporting students in the center of Prague
The national class has become a symbol
Národní třída in the Perštýna area was blocked by a police cordon. A number of students presented flowers to the intervening police officers with shields as evidence of non-violent resistance and protest. The slogans “we have bare hands” were chanted, but this did not prevent the repressive forces that intervened later from a harsh crackdown.
In the late evening, the demonstration was violently dispersed. About 600 protesters were beaten to death by Public Security and the Special Task Force, and many of them were loaded into attached trucks and faced violence at police stations and public security stations respectively.
On November 17, the area near the memorial on Národní třída was flooded with candles. (November 17, 2022)
The events between November 17, 1989 and December 29, 1989 began to be announced as the Velvet Revolution. A series of political changes followed, which led to the de facto fall of the communist regime and the gradual withdrawal of the USSR troops, which remained there until 1991.
The Czech Republic celebrates November 17 as the Day of Struggle for Freedom and Democracy and International Student Day. Compared to other holidays, there may not be shops with a sales area of more than 200 m2 closed. In addition to celebrating the anniversary of the revolution and student protests, the November holiday is also often used for demonstrations.