We were employees of the Orwellian Ministry of Truth
Vilém Prečan was born on 9 January 1933 in Olomouc to a single mother. He grew up in rural Moravia; in 1945 he and his mother and her second husband moved to Brno. During the war his parents were active in the Communist resistance, and Vilém was an avid Communist in the post-war years. He became the regional youth union leader at grammar school, and in 1951 he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. After graduating he went on to study history and political sciences in Prague. After receiving his degree in 1956 he obtained a job placement in Bratislava. There he met his future wife Helena; he also made the acquaintance of Milan Šimečka. The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the resulting process of de-Stalinisation came as a great shock to him. From 1957 to 1970 he worked at the Institute of History of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, where he devoted himself to the matter of the Slovak National Uprising. In the early 1960s the option of travelling abroad helped him adopt a critical view of official historiography. In spring 1968 he actively participated in the open public debate. After the invasion of Warsaw Pact armies he co-initiated the publication of the so-called Black Book, which mapped the events of the key days of the occupation. He was prosecuted for this during normalisation, and in 1970 he was fired from his job. He then worked as an unskilled labourer at Motol Hospital and as a cloakroom attendant at a bar. In 1976 he and his family decided to emigrate to Germany. While in exile he worked with the likes of Karel Schwarzenberg, Pavel Tigrid, Jiří Pelikán, or Ivan Medek, and he also promoted Charter 77 and samizdat literature. After 1989 he founded and directed the Institute for Contemporary History. He is a member of the science advisory board of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.