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Prague secret police lookout gives glimpse back in time FEATURE 05/30/2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Prague secret police lookout gives glimpse back in time



FEATURE

05/30/2010

PRAGUE — High up in a Prague belfry a radio transmitter, faded clippings of the 1967 European Cup and communist propaganda are frozen in time in a tiny spy lookout used by the old regime’s dreaded StB secret police.

With the fall of communism in 1989, the plywood cubicle was sealed up and forgotten — until it reopened last month, this time for the public, offering breathtaking rooftop views and a glimpse back at a sinister time.

The four windows of the sparsely-furnished office look down at some half dozen “imperialist” embassies, as well as medieval landmarks like Prague Castle and Charles Bridge.

“The StB wasn’t called the party’s eyes and ears for nothing,” said Ladislav Bukovszky, head of the Czech Security Services Archive.

“It monitored Czechs and Slovaks as well as foreigners, paying special attention to the employees and visitors to embassies.”

Reached by a hefty climb up 301 stairs, the lookout was built on beams in a bell tower of the old baroque church of St. Nicholas. Ageing bills in now-open secret police archives show StB agents pretended to be fire department officials when they rented the space from the parish.

From the lookout, agents had a perfect view of the British Embassy and of parts of the French, German, Italian, Japanese and US facilities.

“As a rule, the StB tried to monitor everyone who walked into a capitalist embassy,” said Jiri Reichl of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague.

The St. Nicholas lookout was one of about 80 “strongpoints,” as they were called, set up in Prague’s towers, attics or cellars so secret police could snoop on “enemies” of communism.

Like the others it was abandoned early in 1990, months after the regime was toppled. It’s the only one that has been reopened for tourists after a private firm happened upon the site.... MORE    

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100530com7.html


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