Petr Brod

* 1951

  • “I think the best testimony to this is the testimony of such contradictory personalities as Václav Havel and Vasil Bilak. Vaclav Havel has stressed many times that Free Europe and, of course, other Western radio stations, which broadcast in Czech and Slovak, were a very important contributor to the social movement that occurred especially in relation to Mikhail Gorbachev's accession to the Soviet Union, but that before, they were important sources of knowledge not only of the outside world but also about the situation at home, in Czechoslovakia, that without them, Charter 77 would not have had such an impact, for example that the fact that these radio stations regularly broadcast that these dissidents were mostly able to survive in the society under the Communist Forecourt, and that their significance for the return of democracy to Czechoslovakia and other countries of the Soviet bloc was indeed very great. The other person I mentioned, Vasil Bil'ak, was once asked at the end of 1989, or during the year 1990, as he, the second most powerful man of the communist regime, learned about what was happening in Prague after November 17, 1989 and he said something like, 'Well, I got up and listened to Free Europe just like everyone else.'”

  • “So what was happening, I could see the big purges in my own family. I knew that there was what we feared before we traveled, that the borders of the state were almost sealed, and that it was very difficult to travel to the West. And when we arrived in Prague, I saw basically such a return to the age of about sixty-three: gray streets, decorated with silly banners saying we stay with the Soviet Union forever and never do otherwise. Previously, it was only with the Soviet Union forever, now there was a note ´never otherwise´. Everywhere, even in the interpretations, the wreckage of the ideology and the caution of friends in contact with me, but not exaggerated, I would not say. I don't think people were afraid to meet me directly. I also did not meet with a wide circle of acquaintances, but mostly with relatives and family friends and with a few classmates who liked to meet up. It all turned out basically in the sense that I didn't have any cover with the secret police. So whenever I arrived and I stayed with my aunt, I had to come to Bartolomějská Street as soon as possible and register with the police department, which monitored the movement of foreigners and wanted to know where I lived in Czechoslovakia as a foreigner."

  • “So my father found himself in a very disadvantageous position from the cadre's point of view of the Communist regime as a Jewish person who had German education, was seen on the wrong side from the Communist side during the war because he was in the West; and so on and on. Just everything negative from the point of view of the Communists, with one exception, paradoxically, that he was not a member of the Party, so he could not be suspected of creeping into the Party as an agent of imperialism or a hostile element. He was simply openly hostile from their point of view, but on the other hand, he wasn't so important that they would deal with him much. They simply demoted him professionally and socially and kept showing him that he was a second-class person and that was quite enough for them. So in my birth certificate there is a note in the father´s section: JUDr Lev Brod, an assistant worker by profession. That was when I was born, he mostly worked in various branches of the CKD concern, mainly in CKD Dukla in the 1950s, where he was also a lathe and crane operator, he could occasionally return to the heat of an office - in Dukla he was a boiler buyer, but he was mostly in the unqualified or additionally qualified jobs; of course he had to learn to operate the machines and had to learn to ride a hall crane suspended from the ceiling, but that hadn't made him a skilled worker yet. He tried to escape from it, and he eventually succeeded after ten years, around the year 1958, when he was taken over by the Prague Information Service as a guide for foreigners enrolled in the State Jewish Museum, taking into account his knowledge and skills. After about two years he was taken over directly by the Jewish Museum. But there was a cadre ceiling again. He couldn't do anything else. He would have liked to work in a library or something, but was prevented by his lack of membership in the Communist Party.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    v Praze, 20.12.2017

    duration: 01:10:09
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    v Praze, 19.02.2020

    duration: 01:17:50
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Am Yisrael Hai - The people of Israel live

Petr Brod, a portrait of 1967
Petr Brod, a portrait of 1967
photo: archiv pamětníka

Petr Brod was born on 25 November 1951 in Prague into a Jewish family with complex ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious roots. During World War II his father escaped deportation to a concentration camp by emigrating to England. In the 1950s, as a non-partisan and Jewish intellectual he was degraded from a lawyer to an assistant worker at CKD Dukla. The witness’s mother came from a so-called mixed Jewish family, who avoided a significant degree of persecution during the occupation. Petr grew up in Karlin, was a passionate reader and very soon became interested in politics. During the onset of normalization, when it was clear to the parents, where Czechoslovakia would be heading, in July 1969, as a 17-year-old he legally moved to the Federal Republic of Germany together with his parents. Officially it happened because of the coupage of families and also because of the parents’ affiliation to the German minority. In Munich, he completed grammar school and university studies in political science, eastern European history and journalism, during which he received two year scholarships at the London School of Economics in London and Harvard University in the USA. After coming back in 1980 he began working as an editor at the BBC in London, and after seven years he became an editorial at Radio Free Europe in Munich. Before Christmas 1989 he came as the first permanent correspondent of Free Europe arrived to the post-revolutionary Prague. After two years, he returned to Munich and later began working for the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, first in Munich, then in Prague. Since 2000 until the closure of the BBC’s Prague office in 2006, he was its head. Today he works as a freelance journalist, is a member of the Czech-German Fund of the Future, the Endowment Fund and the Jewish Community Foundation in Prague. He is also involved in moderating political-historical-literary discussions, writing in various periodicals and relations between Czechs, Germans and Jews at schools and for the public at home and abroad.