In cooperation with the production company Cinepoint and Czech Television Ostrava, we managed, after more than three years of effort, to complete the filming of a documentary by director Petr Záruba on the events of 17 November 1939 with the title Special Operation: Students, which premiered in 2013.
The film collects the authentic recollections of six university students, direct participants in the events of 17 November 1939, with whom Živá paměť had the honour of cooperating over a longer period. The then students at Czech Technical University in Prague, Ladislav Bém and Karel Hýbek, and Charles University, Vojmír Srdečný and Jan Šabršula, familiarise viewers with what it was like to participate in anti-German demonstrations and the funeral of Jan Opletal. Jiří Zapletal is a witness of the situation that reigned over Masaryk University in Brno. All of them jointly bear witness to the difficult life they led during their internment in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, to which they were deported in connection with the Nazis’ operation called “Sonderaktion Prag vom 17. November 1939” — together with more than 1,200 other Czech students — after the closure of Czech universities. One of the film’s main protagonists, Lubor Zink, who managed to escape from the Nazis, gives viewers the perspective from England, where in 1941, as a member of the Czechoslovak foreign units based there, he took part in the establishment of 17 November as International Students’ Day.
The second part of the documentary focuses on how views of the events of 17 November 1939 and International Students’ Day evolved after the Second World War, during the communist era and after 1989.
The German premier of the film took place at the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum on 21 April 2013 on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of the concentration camp’s liberation. The gala premiere in Berlin was attended by the three surviving protagonists, the director and representatives of Živá paměť and Cinepoint who took part in the film’s creation.
The Czech public premiere took place on 28 November 2013 at European House in Prague in cooperation with the European Commission Representation in the Czech Republic and the European Affairs Information Department of the Government of the Czech Republic. The screening was attended by the public as well as witnesses and their families. The documentary film was also broadcast by Czech Television during prime time on the ČT 2 channel on 18 November 2013 and then rebroadcast several days later.
Special Operation: Students was simultaneously released on DVD and will be used within the educational activities.