Post Bellum is a non-governmental non-profit organisation which documents the memories of witnesses of the important historical phenomenons of the 20th century and which tries to pass these stories on to the broader public. It was founded in 2001.
In 2001, a group of Czech journalists and historians, who had been hitherto meeting at various press conferences or annual commemorative acts, founded the non-profit organization Post Bellum (from Latin “after the war”). They were led by their conviction that witnesses of historic events need to have an opportunity to tell their stories in detail and in their entirety. These memories bear precious testimony not only about modern history, but about the character of the Czech people as well. If they are not preserved for the present-day and future generations, the society will hardly be able to cope with its history of totalitarianism. Our aim is to form a collection of interviews as extensive as possible – a collection of authentic personal stories and testimonies.
Collection of memories
We began visiting the witnesses in our free time in 2000 and since then we have been building a collection of memories, photographs, diaries and various texts which tell of the fates of people from the era of WWII and the communist totalitarianism. Today, the Post Bellum collection counts hundreds of witnesses whose testimonies have been compiled and is accessible in the Memory of Nations database.We are interested in memories of WWII war veterans, holocaust survivors, people from the local resistance movement, we would like to hear from political prisoners of the communist regime, representatives of the dissent, present-day war veterans, but also from those who became part of the repressive authorities of totalitarian regimes – State Security, KGB and others.
How do we work
This collection of memories is being built by a group of reporters of the former Czech section of the BBC, Czech Radio, and graduates of humanities at Czech universities. We usually meet a particular witness at least two times. During the second visit, we show him/her relevant archival documents and we talk in greater detail about some episodes from his or her life. In this project, we also supplement the witnesses’ memories with photographic and textural documentation (trying to describe what the witness talked about in a brief and concise way). In special cases, the witnesses’ narratives are recorded using video equipment as well.
Stories of the 20th century
Very soon after its foundation, Post Bellum found a partner – Czech Radio, which provided the technical equipment and which keeps the copy of the collection in its archives. Since 2006, this collection has served as the basis for a series of radio documentaries Stories of the 20th Century, which are broadcast by radiostation Plus and Radiožurnál. The documentaries can be listened to on radio station Czech Radio Plus every Sunday at 8:10 p.m. Repeats are broadcast on Radiožurnál every Saturday at 9:05 p.m. The documentaries can be followed on-line, or they can be downloaded from the website: http://www.rozhlas.cz/plus/portal/.
Apart from exhibition, publications, and radio documentaries, Post Bellum now wants to make this collection accessible on the internet so that any user can easily and quickly retrieve not only the witnesses’ biographic data, but also information on the topics these people testify about.
Pass on the message
Apart from recording the witnesses’ memories, Post Bellum tries to pass on their stories to the broader public. We prepare exhibitions, publish books, organise social events. We continuously search for new ways of getting people interested in the topic, of stirring up a society-wide debate on democratic values.
If you like our efforts, please support us – for instance by becoming a member of the Memory of Nations Supporters Club.
And if you know of any interesting witness whose life story needs recording, contact us.
Tell us your story! And we will listen.