BASEES Annual Conference 2022

A problematic media inheritance? Historic German recordings in Czechoslovak radio archives

Fri8  Apr02:40pm(20 mins)
Music Room


Erica Harrison


Czechoslovakia was an early adopter of radio and the 1930s saw the emergence of an archival tradition at the national broadcaster Radiojournal that was disrupted by the German occupation. Between 1938 and 1945 the country’s highly developed radio infrastructure was co-opted into the German broadcasting system, with collections of German recordings (both on magnetic tape and lacquer disc) left on Czechoslovak territory after 1945. Such collections were scattered widely but their origin complicated questions of their storage, ownership, and re-use, with each country’s approach to such recordings profoundly influenced by both their relationship to Nazi Germany and their position either side of the Iron Curtain. While both British and East German programme-makers made extensive use of similar historical material, how usable were Nazi recordings in the Czechoslovak context? Could ‘neutral’ material such as music recordings be used freely, or should its origins be acknowledged? Recent scholarship on former regime archives in Central and Eastern Europe has largely focused on print-based or moving image archives (Blaive 2018; Näripea 2020). This paper, by contrast, analyses radio archives (both sound and print), with a particular interest in how broadcast organisations dealt with their historical, pre-1945, recorded sound collections in the first decades following World War II, and how contemporary perceptions of the past have impacted how radio artefacts are preserved and used.