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The Czech Nation: From Nazi and Communist Oppression to Democracy

November 21, 2013

Robert Rehak, Cultural Attache, the Czech Embassy in Washington DC

Vaclav HavelNo story encapsulates the sweep of the 20th century more than that of the Czech Republic. From the founding of Czechoslovakia immediately after World War I to its disappearance from maps only two decades later following Nazi Germany’s invasion and occupation, the Czech people were at the forefront of central Europe’s long struggle first against fascism and then Soviet-style communist tyranny.

In 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Warsaw Pact, Czechoslovakia finally regained its independence. Led by the beloved dissident, poet and playwright, Vaclav Havel, Czechs and Slovaks split peacefully in what became known as the “Velvet Revolution.”

Today the Czech Republic stands with the U.S. as a NATO ally, a contributor to the ISAF effort in Afghanistan, a supporter of Arab-Israeli peace efforts and a leader in promoting human rights. Prague is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, known for its stunning architecture, its cultural legacy in music and the arts, and its beer (home of the real Budweiser)!

Prague, Czech Republic skylineWe are very fortunate to welcome Czech diplomat, Dr. Robert Rehak, to Traverse City to discuss the path of Czech freedom and to reflect on the challenges facing Europe today. Dr. Rehak is Cultural Attaché at the Czech Embassy in Washington DC and a published scholar of biblical history and of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is proficient in four languages (Czech, English, Hebrew, Russian) and competent in Arabic. He holds M.A. and Doctorate degrees from Charles University (Prague) and has lectured at New York University. He was President of the Society of Christians and Jews in the Czech Republic from 2000-2005 and thereafter served as Cultural and Press Attaché at the Czech Embassy in Israel. Before coming to Washington DC last year, he served at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague and was responsible for promoting the interests of Czech citizens and descendents living abroad, including the approximately 1.7 million in the USA — including some right here in our own area!