Memory of Nations
The Memory of Nations project is the largest publicly accessible database of witness stories in Europe, which we continue to expand and manage in cooperation with the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and Czech Radio.
The Memory of Nations officially launched on October 28th, 2008. By the beginning of 2022, it comprised of nearly 14,000 witness stories, covering the historical periods from World War II (veterans, resistance fighters, Holocaust survivors), Communist-era (political prisoners, dissidents, clergy), until the most recent events in totalitarian countries worldwide (Cuban, Belarussian, Ukrainian opposition and human rights activists).
However, in Post Bellum and Memory of Nations, we believe that the historical mosaic is not only black and white, so we also record “the other side of the barricade”, meaning representatives of totalitarian regimes – agents of the KGB, NKVD, State Securities of different states, political functionaries, and many other groups of witnesses.
On average, we publish two detailed witness testimonies each day. Their stories are supplemented with a complete audio recording, short clips highlighting key moments of the testimony, contemporary photographs, letters, diaries, and other relevant content. All of this material is always published in its original language and translated into English and possibly other languages of interest, depending on the story.
Our documentary work never ends. Today, there are still thousands of testimonies waiting to be recorded and processed, even from the most remote historical eras, whose witnesses are gradually passing away, without leaving their memory to further generations.
You can contribute to the collection and help our cause: Do you know of any interesting witnesses? Have you experienced some of the crucial moments of the 20th century yourself? Talk to us, we will listen. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Memory of Nations branches in Czech Republic
Since 2018, we have established six Memory of Nations branches within the Czech Republic. Each of them focuses their documentary and educational projects on the specifics of their region and connected historical events.
- Eastern Czech Republic (Hradec Králové)
- Middle Moravia (Olomouc and Zlín)
- Pilsner region (Pilsen)
- South Moravia (Brno)
- Southern Czech Republic (České Budějovice)
- Northern Czech Republic (Liberec)
Memory of Nations Institutes
Apart of regional branches throughout the Czech Republic, whose principal aim is the realization of documentary and educational projects, we are working on the creation of Memory of Nations Institutes, a specific type of interactive exhibition space. The first Memory of Nations Institute was recently inaugurated in March 2022 in the city of Pardubice, and upcoming Institutes are to be launched in Brno, Prague and Olomouc.
The Institutes’ multimedia exhibitions are based on the first-hand experience of totalitarian regimes, narrated by the Memory of Nations’ witnesses. Their goal is to bring students and young people closer to concepts such as the Holocaust, World War II, communist show trials, the occupation of 1968, and the normalization process.
In the Memory of Nations, we pay great attention to the exchange of experiences between generations. Institutes are to be no exception. We will create a place for children and youngsters to meet with witnesses, along with workshops, screenings for schools, regular activities for the elderly, as well as facilities for archiving in the Memory of Nations collection and consulting these for personal purposes.
In the Memory of Nations Institutes, each visitor can experience the witnesses’ stories individually and intimately. The visitor will be provided with a tablet and headphones, using them for navigation, to listen to testimonies, or to experience augmented reality as well as smoke projections, light and sound effects. The exposition is designed in such a specific way that it can be changed regularly, and thus offer a different focus, learning outcome and experience during each visit.
Memory of Nations Ukraine
The number of Memory of Nations international branches is also increasing abroad, starting in 2011 with Post Bellum SK in Slovakia. At the beginning of 2020, we founded a branch in Lviv, in cooperation with Territory of Terror and its director Khrystyna Rutar. Our goal is to help the Ukrainian public, specifically the youth, understand historical issues and topics because insufficient awareness may lead to an increase in extremist attitudes or serve as a tool for disinformation campaigns, or even wars. Overall, we created a hub for cooperating historians, documentarists, journalists and teachers similar to the one that gave rise to the Czech Post Bellum in 2001. In cooperation with these excellent specialists, we create media content that delivers crucial historical issues in an appealing way and with a value-based, democratic approach. Until the outbreak of war in February 2022, our colleagues in Ukraine have recorded dozens of stories mainly by dissidents and political prisoners recounting the times of Stalinist repressions.
Stories of the 20th Century
Every Sunday since 2006, Czech Radio has been broadcasting fascinating “stories which have been (or had to be) forgotten,” as the opening line of this popular radio program states, narrated by Mikuláš Kroupa and Adam Drda. The first episode aired on March 1st, 2006 on Radio Bohemia, and since March 1st, the Stories of the 20th Century documentary series is broadcast on Czech Radio Plus.
Since 2017, the documentary series Stories of the 20th Century in its audiovisual form, is also broadcast on Czech national television.
Besides the above mentioned TV broadcasting of the video version of the documentary series of interviews with witnesses, we also created a Stories of the 20th Century Cinema, which approaches the wider public with commented cinema screenings of suppressed narratives of important historical phenomena/events.
Stories of Our Neighbors and educational workshops
Stories of Our Neighbors is a unique educational project for students ranging from the ages of 13-15 years old. Under the supervision of their teachers and with the support of our local coordinator, they are to interview a witness, record their life story, digitize photographs, scour archives, and ultimately create a radio, television, or written news report.
As a final step, they present the results of their efforts to the public and an expert jury. By March 2022, nearly 10,000 students took part in the project from 173 municipalities throughout the Czech Republic; having documented more than 2,000 witness stories.
We also offer experiential workshops for students of primary and secondary schools. Pupils can imagine the circumstances and dilemmas of those who experienced critical moments of the 20th century in person. The workshops use elements of drama and experiential education along with the memories of witnesses stored in the Memory of Nations database.
Memory of Nations Help Center
In Post Bellum and Memory of Nations, we believe that by recording a witness’s testimony, a close relation with the individual who shared his or her story starts. Therefore, throughout past years, multiple support activities arose to help those who needed it the most. All these activities are organized by the staff of the Memory of Nations project as voluntary activities alongside their daily work. They are aided by numerous volunteers to whom we owe the sincerest gratitude for their time and effort.
In March 2020, at the beginning of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Post Bellum established the Memory of Nation’s Help Center designed to help those closest to us: elderly people who had shared their stories as part of the Memory of Nations project.
The center provides help with socially distanced shopping, medication pickups, dog walking and other socially distanced support via the telephone. In addition to this specific help, the Center also offers witnesses of the 20th century the opportunity to remain active under the pandemic circumstances, participating in the project by sharing their memories with young people via the telephone.
Within the very first 80 days since March 2020, we addressed over 5,000 witnesses with letters and emails. We spoke with 2,972 individuals via phone and provided hundreds of them with specific help.
Although in March 2022, the pandemic is already in a much calmer phase, we continue to help our witnesses with daily needs and solving problems as they arise.
Helpdesk +420 601 601 156 (Mo-Fri 9-17 h)
Help for Ukraine with Memory of Nations
Right before the Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Post Bellum was asked by our colleagues in Lviv, to support the Come Back Alive foundation, which helps to provide the defenders of Ukrainian borders with defense supplies. Therefore, Post Bellum launched a crowdfunding campaign, and collected more than 10.5 million EUR from more than 25,000 people.
The Post Bellum and Memory of Nations team of volunteers worked day and night to manage the logistics of getting the most needed equipment to Ukraine – medical supplies, protective vests, helmets, gloves, sleeping bags, tents, two-way radios, batteries, drones, thermal vision equipment and food. Thanks to our Ukrainian partners, we know which resources, where and in what amount are needed.
Memory of Nations’ High School
In September 2021, our four-year Memory of Nations’ High School started teaching its first-year students. The teaching staff is formed of more than twenty public figures and educational specialists.
This recently opened high-school (ages 15-19) is located in Prague and focuses primarily on modern history, social and media education, practical journalism, foreign languages, and other humanities.
The school operates on values such as freedom, honor, truth, and fair play. Not only knowledge and skills, but also values and attitudes shape its students. Their values are not to lie, not to cheat, to help others, to have the courage to speak out against injustice, and to co-create the world in which we live.
The school’s team puts special emphasis on interpersonal relationships, open communication, respect, shared responsibility for learning, school, and the wider school community. We cooperate with the GPN expert council and with partner schools such as Sokolov Grammar School, New York University in Prague or the Higher Vocational School of Journalism.
Although the school focuses on humanities, students are encouraged to orient themselves in a wide range of disciplines, including social sciences, technology, natural sciences, and the arts. The school aims to develop students intellectually, mentally, and physically. The school emphasizes understanding the contemporary world through historical, sociological and political sciences, cultural contexts, and through the ability to speak world languages. Students who attend this school will be able to write an understandable text that has a point, to express their thoughts precisely, and know what they want to say on different topics, in many different ways: orally, in writing, in a podcast, or video. In addition to creating content, they will learn to approach media critically.
Intergenerational communication and understanding are endorsed. Learning from each other and learning together is an important tool for high school students, according to the values of the Memory of Nations and its wide experience in educating in the field of collective memory.
Memory of Nations’ Theater
The Memory of Nations’ Theater is an educational and creative project for youth between the ages of 10–18 years. The participants learn about historical events of the 20th century and get to know the different perspectives, circumstances, and attitudes of people who experienced dramatic moments of (not only) World War II and of the communist era. Based on a specific witness’ story, participants will understand the historical context and become familiar with the essence of totalitarian regimes. The project offers young people the opportunity to respond to recent historical events. Memory of Nations’ Theater meetings take place once a week under the guidance of a lecturer, mostly in theater rooms.
Eye Direct documentary video recording
Besides the audio recordings of witness stories, we also film testimonies in our mobile TV studio. We record with two ultra-HD cameras using the patented Eye Direct system. The technology was developed in the USA, where it was first implemented by documentarian Errol Morris. A unique system of semi-reflective mirrors creates a video recording in which the witness maintains eye contact with the documentarian despite looking straight at the lens of the camera. The result is a thrilling narrative free of any disturbances.
Memory of Nations Sites app
Memory of Nations Sites is a smartphone app launched in 2013. It serves as an interactive guide to historical sites linked to important events of the 20th century. The app accesses your location and shows you a map of all the “sites of memory” which surround you at that very moment. The application allows these places to speak to you – literally. It speaks in the words of the people who experienced it all first hand by playing recordings of testimonies, connected with a specific GPS location where they originally took place. In July 2016, we started a competition called Routes of Memory. Fans of hiking, cycling, and history can travel through eleven routes in nine regions of the Czech Republic which follow the most interesting historical events of the given region.
We Didn’t Give Up
We Didn’t Give Up is an educational website primarily intended for those in the teaching community interested in teaching modern history. It contains authentic recordings of witnesses, photographs, comic strips, short animated films, and radio documentaries.
You can also download worksheets and methodology guides that make use of all the aforesaid materials. Everything is clearly ordered according to historical topics and chapters. One of the sources for the worksheets is the comic book We Are Still at War, which is available for order from the Memory of Nations online shop.