Old Town Square on 13 May 1945

“Prague has lived through all the successes and triumphs of this state and nation and has suffered all its defeats, all its troubles and all its pains. Prague used to be a synthesis of the state, it used to be a symbol of the nation and its history; and what Prague was for the whole state, the Old Town Hall was for the whole of Prague.” These prophetic words, foreshadowing the destruction of the town hall, were presented by Edvard Beneš as the president of Czechoslovakia at the Old Town Hall on 27 January 1936.Bohumil Hypšman, Sto let Staroměstského rynku a radnice, Pražské nakladatelství Václava Poláčka, Praha, 1946, Díl II, p. 4.

During the May Uprising, Old Town Square was fought over from 5 to 8 May, all four days. The insurgents resisted attacks and gunfire from nearby streets and also from artillery shells falling from Letná.Jiří Padevět, Průvodce protektorátní Prahou. Místa – události – lidé, Academia, Praha, 2013, pp. 260–261. The final retreat of German troops from Prague was negotiated on 8 May in the evening. By that time, General Reimann's combat group attacking Old Town Square was retreating to the west, towards the American lines. Red Army tanks reached Prague shortly after midnight on 9 May.Stanislav Kokoška, Praha v květnu 1945. Historie jednoho povstání, Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, Praha, 2005, p. 216. Not long after the arrival of the Soviet armies, the square became the setting for large celebrations, military parades and remembrance. 

Sudek’s photograph most likely depicts the remembrance parade for those who perished in the Second World War which took place at the Old Town Square on 13 May, 1945. The parade featured various military units, revolutionary guards, and numerous speeches, among others from Zdeněk Nejedlý, the then Minister of Education and National Awareness.

Old Town Square lived to see the symbolic end of the Second World War on 16 May when the Czechoslovak president, Eduard Beneš, returned to liberated Prague after years spent in exile. He gave a speech to people filling the square assessing the end of the Second World War while suggesting basic features for the development in postwar Czechoslovakia. This included a new foreign-policy orientation, the displacement of German and Hungarian inhabitants and fundamental changes in social and economic fields related to a transition towards a planned economy. “It will be about building a new political life and establishing our new home.” Projev presidenta republiky Dr. Edvarda Beneše v Praze 16. května 1945, Nakladatelství Josef Hladký, Hranice, 1946; online http://www.moderni-dejiny.cz/clanek/projev-dr-edvarda-benese-v-praze-16-kvetna-1945/ (accessed 19 June 2017).