Uherské Hradiště Prison
A witness of events we should not forget.
The initiative for the dignified use of the prison in Uherské Hradiště was established in 2009, when an auction of the complex was threatened. We are striving to transform the place of suffering and human self-courage, but also bravery, into a place of permanent search for solid foundations of justice and respect for the fundamental rights of every person. A means of fulfilling this vision is to build a live operation of a modern museum-memorial, which will be an essential part of the building area. More
The Justice Complex
The District Court, the District Prosecutor’s office and the probation and mediation service as representatives of the justice administration here and now. A Memorial & Museum dedicated to the tragic and heroic fate of the past, with people denied justice and, in addition, human dignity. Let us use the unique combination of institutions to build a public space devoted to the paragon of justice!
Memory and Piety
The memory of this place has been suppressed for decades and almost erased from public awareness. But the evil that was committed here, did not disappear anywhere. Looking it straight in the eye is the first step to purifying catharsis. The space for piety, a quiet and urgent gathering over the victims and suffering of many is a necessity, especially for us, now living.
Education and Reflection
It is essential for us to recognize and name the principles of how an inhuman system is born out of the temptation of individuals who abuse their own power. We need an unbiased examination of our own past without dodging the dark sides. Let us create a vivid place for such search and reflection, whether in the form of enlightenment, education and incitement to conscious citizenship conscious citizenship, or in the form of art that affects human emotions.
A unique place deserves an outstanding architectural solution. The quality architecture creates the best possible conditions for day-to-day operation and fulfilling the functions of the building. With its spatial layout and aesthetic expression, it has the chance to enhance the activities of the institutions located and the fulfilment of their mission. We want the complex to become a model public space that consciously co-creates the city centre.
The stories of political prisoners from Uherské Hradiště Prison, among other things, point out the failure of the responsibility of many individuals, which enabled the emergence of a repression system. That is why we want the complex to be a responsible building from the very beginning. To be built and operated with high responsibility for its surroundings and the environment using the best available procedures and technologies.
The European Dimension
It is essential for us to recognize and name the principles of how an inhuman system is born out of the temptation of individuals who abuse their own power. We need to examine our own past in an open and non-partisan manner. Let us create a vivid place for such search and reflection, whether in the form of enlightenment, education and incitement to conscious citizenship, or in the form of art that affects human emotions.
The former prison in Uherské Hradiště is a place with a turbulent past. During the protectorate, a number of anti-fascist fighters were imprisoned here, and hundreds of people inconvenient to the communist regime suffered behind the prison walls. Many of them were subjected to hard-to-imagine torture, while some ended up executed in the prison courtyard. More
Completion of the Prison Reconstruction
If everything goes according to the plan of the ÚZSVM, this year a museum-memorial should be opened, and the judicial services should be moved into the facility. Will this complex with a troubled history become a “Justice Area” (reflecting the injustice occurring in the past and seeking to find it in the present)? Will we build a National Memorial to the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes in Uherské Hradiště – an important part of the evil map of the communist regime?
In the course of 2020, preparatory work began – the area was cleared, construction technical research and other documentation work was carried out. The preparation of the institution called the Museum of Totalitarianism has been entrusted to the Moravian Land Museum as a contributing organization of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic. The Memoria Association carefully observes activities aimed at the dignified use of the prison and tries to help things where they can. The Association aims at a quality architectural design for the future complex.
Beginning of a Great Cooperation
The long efforts of a number of participants to remedy the plight finally resulted in a hopeful move in 2016. A Memorandum on the future use of the site has been concluded between the Office for State representation in matters of property (ÚZSVM), the Ministries of Finance, Culture and Justice, the District Court of UH, the City of Uherské Hradiště and the Zlín Region. The facility thus entered the administration of the ÚZSVM in 2017, which is preparing the reconstruction of the facility, which, according to the 2018 Regional Dislocation Commission decision, is to serve both the totalitarian Museum (working title) and the District Court, the Probation and Mediation Service and the District Prosecution Service.
Thanks to the activities of the Memoria Association, a number of volunteers and good cooperation with public administration bodies, a “temporary museum” was opened in the prison area, especially in the period from 2014 to 2019. Thousands of visitors, concerts, exhibitions and other live art events have passed through the area, each year there was an ecumenical settlement service. These activities significantly contributed to raising awareness about the past of the Uherské Hradiště Prison, not only in the local region. In 2017, the co-operation of the city of Uherské Hradiště, the Slovak Museum and the UH Culture Club brought the opening of the Prison Exposition. The increased public interest has also supported efforts at political level.
The initiative for the dignified use of the prison
A broader awareness of what happened behind the walls of the prison during the war, and especially in the 1950s, almost perfectly pushed out of collective memory, grew only slowly. A turning point was the intention of the Ministry of Justice to sell off the object at a public auction. The idea of the possible commercial use of a place where innocent people have suffered has led to the creation of civic initiative for the dignified use of the prison (with the legal form of a civic association – the Memoria Association). The follow-up petition has been signed by more than 15 000 people, including a number of prominent figures. The horrors of the prison here have been brought to national media by a court with A. Grebeníček, one of the infamous guards (and father of a communist party member).
Years of blunder – “where?”
The period following the change of political regime in 1989 is contradictory. On one hand, the efforts of the Confederation of political prisoners, active individuals and public officials to deal with the legacy of a huge area in the middle of a wider city centre burdened by dark history have been honoured to cope, and on the other hand, to deal with a certain disrespect for society as a whole in the face of a complicated task. In the early 1990s, the resumption of prison operations in the form of detention centres seemed to be real, and this and other considerations also concerned a huge financial and organizational challenge. In 1993, however, in the space in front of the area, the KPV succeeded in building at least a small monument to the victims of communism.
Reconstruction plan, mall made of solitary confinement…
The large space was offered as a storage place for a variety of materials. From the coulisses of the Slovácké Theatre and the archival files to the props for the directorate celebrations. A doctor’s office was located on the ground floor of the solitary confinement for one time. Fortunately, the plan to build a dormitory for high school students from the former cells came to fruition. The town centre’s urban study from the year 1980 worked with the idea of building service houses (the block of solitary confinement would be demolished), a health centre and a large-scale canteen.
Use of the premises following the termination of the prison’s operation
Immediately after the end of the prison operation, part of the prison began to be used by the District Department of the SNB (National Security Council, including state security), gradually occupying the entire eastern wing, including the adjacent part of the justice palace. In the first half of the 1960’s, the Secondary School of Applied Arts was moved to its western wing. In part of the prison, the “permanent makeshift” area was acquired by one of the primary schools, where the school’s youth club ceased to operate in 1990.
The Darkest Period
The communist coup in 1948 attributed the prison as one of the notorious places. The opponents of the new regime, whether real or just presumed, were imprisoned, humanly humiliated and inhumanly abused right in this prison. Uherské Hradiště Prison was an important part of the system of totalitarian, Nazi and especially Soviet experience of “informed” repression. The perverted invention of “electric shoes” is the most famous symbol of evil, which has been “worn” by hundreds of innocent people, many of whom have ended up with weakened health and some in the execution site.
Transformation of a standard prison into a place of suffering
The prison’s judicial area served its purpose both in the final years of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and in the first Czechoslovak Republic. Its first major trace in history is incarceration of the 1920 General Strike participants, which lead to violent attacks in the nearby city of Hodonín (as well as in several other towns). During the Nazi occupation, the Gestapo used this complex as a remand centre. Thousands of resistance fighters passed through it, and the reckless and cruel treatment “settled” in the local walls for the first time. After the end of the war, the so-called retribution courts took place there, and there were a number of executions in the prison courtyard.
The time of the emperor
The need to build a new prison, at the time, on the outskirts of the regional town, arose because of the reorganization of political administration and the judiciary in 1855. The construction of the building of the regional court with the adjoining prison was decided by the city committee in 1890, and on July 27 of the same year the construction was approved by Emperor Francis Joseph I. With a total cost of 3 million crowns, the construction was completed in 1897 in a historicizing Neo-Renaissance style.