Kobylisy Firing Range
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Today’s place of reverence is an architecturally arranged part of the northern section of a former extensive military shooting range. The national monument of the Kobylisy Firing Range can be found within the Prague 8 city district, between prefabricated blocks of flats and Žernosecká and Čumpelíkova streets, in a rectangular area closed off by earthworks.
The firing range was built in 1890 and was originally used for infantry training. After the First World War it was also used as a training ground by municipal corps, the Sokol association and other civilian organizations. In 1939–1945, during the Nazi occupation, the firing range had a horrific purpose, serving as a place of repressive executions. The German administration converted local stables into the last prison for the condemned and the northern part of the firing range became a place of mass execution. At that time, the firing range had a perimeter of 5,000 metres and was 1,100 metres long. It was relatively isolated from the surrounding world by barbed wire and nobody in the distant houses was allowed to open the windows or leave their houses between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The largest number of repressive executions took place on the premises of firing range during the Second Martial Law period after the assassination attempt on Reinhard Heydrich. Within 33 days, from 30 May to 3 July 1942, 539 persons, 463 men and 76 women, only rarely of a nationality other than Czech, were provably executed here. Many were outstanding scientists, artists, politicians and soldiers. Four representatives of the Czech Orthodox Church (Gorazd, Čikl, Sonnewend, Petřek) who had provided asylum to the Czech parachutists in Sts Cyril and Methodius Church after the assassination attempt on Heydrich were executed here on 4 and 5 September 1941. According to incomplete lists, more than 755 persons were executed here in the period between 30 September 1941 and 7 May 1945. In 1943, the site saw the public execution of four Czech gendarmes and resistance fighters; Bojas, Famfulík, Jirásek and Rajmon. Three Kobylisy residents were shot by an execution squad of Waffen-SS soldiers in front of the entrance to the firing range on 7 May 1945 during the Prague Uprising.
After the Second World War the military firing range was repossessed by the Czechoslovak Army and came under the Prague Garrison Command’s administration. For a period of several years it was again used for shooting practice but also for the activities of amateur organizations. The importance of the Kobylisy firing range for the purposes of a modern army decreased significantly in the fifties. The firing range became technically unsuitable and was used only occasionally for shooting practice. Finally, up to around the middle of 1968, it was used by the Army Film studio. Immediately after the liberation in 1945 the place of execution was symbolically marked with a wooden cross and a crown of thorns.
A bronze statue titled “The Unbowed Motherland” by the sculptor Miloš Zeta was placed near the cross in 1978. Commemorative plaques with personal data of the victims are located opposite to the execution place, approximately on the site where parallel wooden sheds once stood, which were used as a temporary warehouse for the coffins with the bodies of the executed before they were moved to a crematorium. Inscriptions on the metal plaques state the names of the victims as well as the hour, day, month and year of their execution. The numbers after the names give the length of the life spans of the individual persons. Today, a stone mosaic by the painter Martin Sladký can be found on the wall in the former stables area. The mosaic is supplemented with verses by the poet Miroslav Florian, carved in a concrete rampart: “Stop for a while … our blood entered this soil but we have arisen again.” The area with earthworks and a decorative gate was designed by Ing. Arch. L. Todl and J. Polák. The whole memorial, including the statue was declared a national cultural monument by a decision of the Czech government on 28 February 1978.
The wooden cross with the crown of thorns was renovated and re-erected in 1990. After 17 years, the cross succumbed to decay and a new metal commemoration cross with a crown of thorns was erected with the consent of the curators at the expense of the city district of Prague 8 in the Kobylisy firing range in mid-November 2007.