Ceremony at Kounic Residence Hall to Mark the Anniversary of the End of World War II
The event, marking 74 years since the end of World War II, was attended by representatives of the city and other distinguished guests, as well as relatives of those killed at the site. Photo credit: MMB.
Brno, May 11 (BD) – On Wednesday, May 8th, a memorial ceremony was held at Kounicova Kolej, the university halls of residence which now houses students from the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences but was once the Brno headquarters of the Gestapo, and the site of many executions during the war. The ceremony commemorated those executed, and was attended by representatives from the council, universities, city assembly, and various civic organisations, as well as Czech war veterans and the relatives of some of the victims of Nazism in Brno.
Participants laid flowers and wreaths at the Patriot Monument which now stands outside the building. Commenting on the ceremony, Mayor Marketa Vankova (ODS) said: “Kounic Residence Hall has become a symbol of sadness, injustice, pain and death. It is necessary to constantly recall this dark chapter of our history. It might seem to younger generations that this period of history does not affect them, but that is not so. We should never forget the 60 million victims of World War II, including the 1,350 people who died in this place. It is necessary to constantly fight against violence, and protect and defend basic human freedoms and values.”
The Kounic Residence Hall has a rich history. In 1908, the Czech patriot Count Václav Robert Kounic donated his house for use as student accommodation, and also established a student dormitory foundation. The dormitories were created after the First World War and housed students until 17 November 1939. On that day, it was made into the local Gestapo headquarters. 173 students – accused of illegal resistance activities – were sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
In January 1940, the dormitories were used as the prison of the Brno Gestapo control office. They were surrounded by a wire fence, and the interior was converted into cells, interrogation rooms and a gathering place for transports to concentration camps.
An execution area was built in the yard of the dormitories, where more than 1,300 people were executed during the years of Nazi occupation. Three gallows and a firing range were set up, ironically directly under a mural of St. Wenceslas, the Czech patron saint, with the inscription “…do not make us perish, nor our future…”. Many Red Army soldiers and prisoners from England, the United States and elsewhere also passed through the prison on their way to concentration camps and execution sites.
After the end of World War II, the Kounic Residence Hall witnessed further executions and torture – this time of collaborators, Nazis, and also innocent German citizens. Since 1978, the site has been a national cultural monument, and hosted an historical exhibition and a memorial commemorating the horrors of the Nazi regime. The building has now returned to its original purpose as student accommodation.
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