Palace Savarin Home to Museum
nIt may be housed in one of the strangest buildings in central Prague, but the Museum of Communism is a knockout. With its graceful staircase and spine-chilling exhibits, it is an enduring testament to the suffering not only of Prague’s population, but of the entire country. The communist takeover took place in 1948 and lasted until 1989.
Jewel in a Crown of Cities
Prague,which Goethe called “the most precious jewel in a Crown of Cities” is the heartland of Bohemia. Along with Moravia and Silesia it makes up what is now the Czech Republic. After 12 centuries of existence, a labyrinth of medieval streets, Gothic towers and Renaissance spires, Baroque gardens, sumptuous palaces, gilded roofs, turrets and cupolas stretches as far as the eye can see.
Palace Also Home to Gambling Casino
The graceful staircase in the Museum of Communism is to be found in the Palace Savarin, just off Na Prikope, once a moat that divided the Old Town from the New Town and now one of Prague’s most fashionable shopping streets. The building also houses a gambling casino. It is owned by communists. The address is Na Prikope 10, First Floor (Second to North Americans) and you must turn to the left at the top of the stairs, not to the right.
An American Founded the Museum
American-born Glenn Spicker created the museum and was its first director. He opened the doors 12 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Originally from Hartford, Connecticut, Spicker was in Central Europe when the Velvet Revolution brought down Czechoslovakia’s communist regime. When he arrived in Prague he decided to take advantage of the many business opportunities, opening a jazz club and several bars and restaurants. Then Spicker discovered that Czechs would not talk about their communist past and the idea of a museum to remind young Czechs what their parents had gone through seemed important. “I scrounged through second-hand shops and tiny bazaars” to find propaganda posters, flags, medals, cans of food, old Fa soap, statues, busts and uniforms, as well as socialist textbooks in Russian and Czech.”
Authentic Artifacts in Three Rooms
There are three main rooms. They fall into themes: Communism The Dream; The Reality; and The Nightmare. There is also a projection room where regular film screenings, interviews with former political prisoners, propaganda films and occasional educational activities and lectures take place. During the occupation and those days of terrible adversity, mind control played a huge part in the formation of anti-Americanism. Communist ideology depicted the U.S. as “The empire of evil.”
Joining the European Union
The Czech Republic joined the European Union with 20 percent of the population against it. And, as Spicker said: “Many top positions in the country are still filled by aging comrades.” One writer replied: “I know many of them and I remember the long line-ups for food, the constant blaring of commands from amplifiers placed on every street corner, the look of those called to the interrogation rooms as they were afraid they would never come out.” He continued: “It is imperative that young people be reminded of what life was life for their parents and grandparents.”