Morten Nielsen

* 1947

  • “(Prague) has become a beautiful city. I remember in 1958, it was worn down, grey, very sad. That was our impression. It was very cold, it was in winter. Now, there are vivid colours, nice atmosphere, people look happy. In the trams, in the streets. They are polite, they speak languages, it seems that they have a good life. What can we expect more? There is a very nice story, actually. You know, we had a resistance movement in Denmark, like you had here. But you had a much harsher German occupation, we were a bit luckier. Anyhow, there was a resistance movement and they saved all the Jews in 1943, sending them to Sweden. Although some went to Theresienstadt, but they were not deported to extermination camps. Anyhow, there are two resistance movement members talking after the war, when they meet for the first time. They stand outside a baker´s shop and there is a long line. Sunday afternoon, people want to buy cakes with cream, go home, sit and eat them. And then one of them says – was that really what we were fighting for? And the other said – yes, that is why we were fighting. For that. And I think that is beautiful. In the sense that peaceful people go Sunday afternoon to buy cakes. Without the secret police. Without the Gestapo, without the Stb. Without truncheons, without jails. What do you want more?”

  • “And then in 1989, it was 20 years after Jan Palach. We heard that there was a demonstration in Prague when they again were all arrested and Havel was sentenced to nine months in jail. And we organised a sympathy meeting for him in Louisiana, which is the biggest museum of modern art, just outside Copenhagen. There were people who had been to Prague and had news to bring and then the owner of the Museum, very sympathic man, I can’t remember his name, said – it is all free, you have my museum, there is an auditorium for 300 people. He took some of his postcards, beautiful postcards of all the paintings he had, and he placed the postcards on each seat. We found the address of the Ruzyně prison, where Havel was sitting. It was in April, 1989. So everybody had the postcards, everybody had the address and we just said – put a stamp on, write a greeting and send it. I later heard from Havel that he got a big bag with these postcards from the jail authorities. And he was released few months later.”

  • "The same year, there was a big conference in Prague, organised by the International Helsinki Organisation, which at that time was Karel Schwarzenberg, it was Jiří Prečan, it was a few other people. And we were supposed to get to Prague to meet with the signatories of Charter 77. And we should meet in the Paříž hotel, at 9 o’clock Saturday morning in the breakfast room. At 9 o’clock, Havel came in and was immediately arrested by two waiters. But they were from the Stb, of course. But he reached out to say – hey, the conference was opened. I declare it open. And then they brought him away. We were rather desperate, because what should we do now? We went to the Communist party headquarters. Our leader there was Dahrendorf, who was a philosopher, English-German philosopher.” “We went to the Communist party, nobody wanted to talk to us. And then Dahrendorf got a good idea. Why don’t we go to the Secret Police headquarters? In Bartolomějská street. We all went there, we were 25 people from France, Holland, England as well. And there came an officer out and said – yes, yes, your friends are here, all here.” “They are in here. You won’t meet them. They have a difficult period. And they told me later on they stood at a wall with their face… And then he said – but if you leave Czechoslovakia, the moment you cross the border I get a telephone call and then your friends will be free.”

  • Celé nahrávky
  • 1

    Praha, 30.01.2023

    délka: 01:24:31
Celé nahrávky jsou k dispozici pouze pro přihlášené uživatele.

My interest in Charter 77 made me think differently

Morten Nielsen in 2023
Morten Nielsen in 2023
zdroj: Post Bellum

Doctor Morten Nielsen was born in Copenhagen in 1947, the son of a Danish communist and a German-Jewish refugee from Nazism. Because of his father‘s ties to the Czechoslovak embassy, he visited Prague as a boy in the 1950s, but his views did not become clear until 1968, after the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and its allies. Like many Danish intellectuals, he became involved in direct support for Czechoslovak dissidents during the last years of the communist era through his involvement in the support organisation Dialog med Charta 77. He collaborated with the Danish daily Politiken and its editors Herbert Pundik and Niels Barfoed, became acquainted with a large number of Czechoslovak dissidents and exiles, from František Janouch, through Karel Schwarzenberg and Vilém Prečan, to Jiří Hajek and Jiří Dienstbier, and participated in the activities of the committee of the Stockholm based Charter 77 Foundation. In 1988 he participated in an unsuccessful attempt to organise an international Helsinki conference in Prague with the participation of Czechoslovak dissent and other protest and support actions. He was interviewed in January 2023, when he participated in a public debate on Scandinavian support for the Czechoslovak democratic movement, organised by Post Bellum together with the Václav Havel Library.