The devastation of the Old Town Hall became a symbol of the May Uprising in 1945 in Prague. The town hall was established by a decree of King John the Blind in 1338 as the administrative and judicial seat of Prague Old Town, in the pre-existing Gothic house of Volflin od Kamene (Volflin from the Stone). The town hall gradually spread to neighbouring houses. Those on the northern side from the tower were pulled down in the 19th century and replaced by a Neo-Gothic building after plans by Petr Nobile and Pavel Sprenger, finished in 1848.In November 1941 both the town hall and the municipality office was taken over by the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
During the May Uprising the insurgents got hold of the town hall on 5 May 1945. In the morning Czech officials announced that they were taking over the administration of the city, and Czech policemen together with the city guard officers began disarming the German staff. The town hall became one of the focal points of the anti-fascist resistance and thus it was one of the main targets of German combat units. On 5 May, the town hall building was battered and battles for Old Town Square continued for the next two days. Shelling from self-propelled artillery batteries placed on Letná Hill caused a devastating fire in the town hall on the last day of the Uprising. The fire was finally extinguished on 9 May. Altogether 19 insurgents were killed during the battles for the town hall.
The fire destroyed a part of the city archive – an important source for the history of Prague and its monuments. Most of it was located on the 1st floor of the Neo-Gothic town hall complex and another part, a photographic studio, was located on the 2nd floor. In terms of Prague history, the loss of archival documents was a cruel addition to the battles at the end of the war. Václav Vojtišek, historian and archivist, described the loss in 1946: “The Old Town Hall will rise from the wrecks through the Czech labour and Czech enthusiasm and it will live to see new famous battles, but the city archive will bear the terrible wound, which will never heal and generations after generations will cry about.”
North from the present town hall, the bomb-site left by the former Neo-Gothic wing, pulled down in 1948, remains as an eloquent testimony to the losses of the war. Competitions from 1946, 1965, 1967 and 1987 show various attempts to complete the building of the town hall. Although the site has not been replaced with new architecture to the present day, the possibility is still actively discussed, by the town council and the general public.
Josef Sudek presented a symbol of both Prague and the May Uprising in a large number of photographs which gives us detailed knowledge about one of the last material victims of the Second World War.