Prague Spring 1968-'69 | The Funeral of Jan Palach
On the night of August 21 1968, the armed forces of Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia. On January 16th 1969 a young student, Jan Palach, self-immolated to rouse society out of its lethargy. Silent and broken by sadness, the crowds marched behind Jan Palach’s coffin on Jan 25th.
IN MEMORY OF JAN PALACH ON THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF HIS SACRIFICE At two thirty in the afternoon on 16 January 1969, Jan Palach, a twenty-year-old student of Charles University’s Faculty of Arts, doused himself with petrol and set himself ablaze by the fountain in front of the National Museum in Wenceslas Square. In one respect, this was a protest against the Soviet occupation and the continuing concessions being made by Czechoslovak politicians, but its primary purpose was to shock the nation out of its lethargy. Sustaining severe burns over 85% of his body, Palach was transported to the clinic in nearby Legerova Street, where he died three days later. A mourning procession, which is to become a mass demonstration of sorrow and solidarity with Jan Palach’s legacy, started gathering in Wenceslas Square after 3:00 p.m. on 20 January. At the head, students held aloft a banner with the message ‘We will keep the faith’, a standard with the Czechoslovak state emblem, the state and funeral flags, and a portrait of Jan Palach. The thousands participating in the procession started off in the direction of Můstek, then continued along Na Příkopě and Revoluční Street, passed through the Old Town, and reached the building of the Faculty of Arts, where a remembrance ceremony was held.