The wave of suicide attempts by immolation that ran through the Czech lands in
the first months of 1969 was a unique event on a world-wide scale, a result of
the social atmosphere at the time. After Palach, 26 people attempted suicide
between January 20, 1969 and the end of April that year, 7 of whom died.
Jan. 16, 1969 - Jan Palach, a student at Charles University in Prague,
protesting the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces as well as
the abandonment of democracy by Czechoslovak politicians, doused himself
with flammable liquid, set a match to his clothes and set himself aflame on
Wenceslas Square near the statue of St. Wenceslas at 3 p.m.
Jan. 19, 1969 - Jan Palach died as a result of his burns in the Burn Clinic
on Legerova Street in Prague. Student sculptor Olbram Zoubek secretly took a
death mask of Palach and the next day brought the cast fastened to a black disk
to the Museum ramp, where university students held a funeral ceremony for
From Jan. 16 to Palach's funeral on the 25th, a group of young people held a
protest hunger strike at the statue of St. Wenceslas for the fulfillment of
his demands. Among them was also the next "torch", Jan Zajic.
Jan. 20, 1969 - A large group of people gathered under the St. Wenceslas statue
on Wenceslas Square and soon began to move in a silent procession, adorned with
Czechoslovak state flags, black flags and enlarged photographs of Jan Palach.
At the head was a sign carried by students that read "We will stay faithful".
The procession that Prague doesn't remember slowly, quietly moved on toward
Mustek at the bottom of the square, from there to the Powder Gate, along
Revolucni and Dlouha streets through Old Town Square toward the campus of
Charles University, where Palach studied aesthetics. In the hall of the
Philosophical Faculty building, the clocks were stopped so they showed the
exact time of Palach's death (3:15). At 5 p.m. the entire square in front of
the faculty building, as well as the surrounding streets were full. On the
building's balcony there appeared representatives of the faculty, students,
workers and politicians. On this day Josef Hlavaty burned himself alive (he
died on January 25, 1969).
Jan. 22, 1969 - Miroslav Malinka set himself on fire and Blanka Nachazelova
suffocated herself with coal gas.
Jan. 25, 1969 - Jan Palach is buried in Prague at the Olsany cemetaries; the
funeral included a ceremony at the Karolinum organized by Petr Josef Vilimek,
who was the state's witness of Palach's deed; Zdenek Tous said farewell to
Palach for the Prague studentry; the funeral became a large demonstration for
freedom and democracy; the coffin with Palach's remains was displayed in the
Karolinum as an act of last respects. Academic functionaries, artists,
students, and several politicians took their turns at the coffin. The evening
after the funeral, church diginitaries held a funeral mass for the deceased.
The attendance of Palach's funeral as well as the demonstrations connected
with his act were an excuse for terrible repression and for dealing with
personal files through various audits and so-called complex evaluations, which
every citizen of an active age had to go through. (The STB studied the
photographs from the funeral.)
Feb. 25, 1969 - Jan Zajic, an 18-year-old student at a vocational school in
Sumperk sets himself on fire; he left behind a poem about Palach and four
letters, in which he described himself as Torch no. 2. He did it in Prague
in the passageway of a building on Wenceslas Square and died there. He decided
to take this step after seeing that life was returning to its old routine
despite Palach's action.
Apr. 4, 1969 - On a square in the southeastern Bohemian city of Jihlava, a
forty-year-old technical official named Evzen Plocek sets himself on fire. In
August 1968 he'd been a delegate at an illegal high congress of the
Czechoslovak Communist Party, and through his actions he knowlingly took up
the legacy of Jan Palach and Jan Zajic. He died on April 9, 1969.