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18 Apr 2010

Prague through the Lens of the Secret Police at Czech Center New York

Prague through the Lens of the Secret Police
Czech Center New York


Exhibition on view: April 7 - May 7, 2010 Opening hours: Mon - Fri 10-5

Subway 6 to the 68th Street or 77th Street



Czech Center New York at Bohemian National Hall
321 E 73rd Street
New York, NY 10021

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Opening introduction by H.E. MARTIN PALOUS,
the Permanent Representative and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Czech Republic to the United Nations.

Prague's Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and subordinate Security Services Archive opened their doors in February 2008, with a government mandate to study and evaluate the period of Nazi occupation and Communist rule and make public documents and archival materials from the security services of the former totalitarian regimes in Czechoslovakia.

One of the most unique projects resulting from the opening of the Czech archives has been the release of the book Prague Through the Lens of the Secret Police and its companion travelling exhibition, both of which unveil photographs taken in the course of secret police surveillance during the 'normalization' era of hard-line socialist entrenchment after the 1968 Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia.

The images therein are not random snapshots, but rather the result of precisely planned operations staged by the Surveillance Directorate of the Communist State Security Service (StB). The goal of 'tailing unit' policemen was not only to shadow persons of interest, but also to obtain documentary materials that the StB could use as incriminating evidence against those who were not comfortable to the regime.

The photographs and related films featured in the exhibition now serve as chilling evidence of the state-prescribed 'struggle against the internal adversary,' which had agent operatives monitoring Czechoslovak citizens, emigrés and foreigners using variously disguised miniature cameras – concealed in briefcases, a playing transistor radio, lighter, inkstand, and even a baby carriage.

The exhibition premiere took place on April 7, 2009 at the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the European Union in Brussels, where it was on view through the end of that month within the scope of the Czech epublic's presidency of the EU Council.

It has since shown in Luxembourg and Stockholm in Europe, and in the United States at Washington, DC's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Harvard University's Center for Government and International Center.

After its showing in New York City, it will tour throughout the world by arrangement with the Czech Centers.


As you well know, the photographs in this exhibition testify to what actually took place in the name of the Czechoslovak state during the communist period. But the broader context is that such violations of human rights occurred across the board throughout CEE during that time. The Institute is now working on various international/pan-European initiatives to bring these facts widely to the public, with the aim of making further progress on the path toward reconciliation. You might be aware that our recent 'Crimes of the Communist Regimes' conference resulted in a declaration on crimes of communism:

Czech Center New York (CCNY)

Since 1995, the Czech Center New York has been building dialogue among the Czech Republic and the American public particularly in the areas of culture, business and tourism. The Czech Center New York is primarily focused on presenting the latest and most innovative works of Czech Artists to the U.S., and is funded by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It's a non-profit, non-political organization. Currently there are 24 Czech Centers in 21 countries globally.