After our emotional day in Terezín we took a day to visit Pilsen (Plzeň), about 50 miles west of Prague. It is a vibrant city (fourth largest in the country) and was given the distinction of being a European Capital of Culture in 2015. Two things that Pilsen is known for are their beer and their place in the history of the end of WWII.
As one of the cities liberated in May 1945, it is the last actual and symbolic place where the Allied forces’ journey through the European continent ended; it is a city symbolically linking France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Czech Republic.
Every year history buffs reenact the liberation of the city and the defeat of the Third Reich. This is done with a complete array of US jeeps, tanks and other military gear and men and women dressing in US Army uniforms of the 1940’s. The citizens there are as serious about the accuracy of their encampments, uniforms and armaments as any US Civil War reenactment club.
Unfortunately we were there well before this past weekend’s festivities. We did, however, visit the Patton Memorial. This museum is filled with memorabilia from and information about the liberation of May 1945. I was hoping to find out something that would help me in locating the soldier I have written about previously, Lloyd Miller, who helped my mother’s family feel human again as they tried to get back to Amsterdam from Theresienstadt after the war’s end.
My husband and I met with the owners of the museum, Ivan Rollinger and Milan Jíša, through the help of Jaroslav Kulhánek, who I met via Facebook while doing research. Jaroslav lives in a nearby town and was trying to find out the fate of a certain US soldier whom his grandparents had billeted in May of 1945. The Czech historians and I exchanged some information and upon my return home I was able to track down the widow of Jaroslav’s soldier. He has since written her a letter and is awaiting a response.
I have a couple new clues to work with now, and I’m continuing to search for Sgt. Miller. In the meantime, let’s all raise a glass of Pilsner and say “cheers” or “Na zdraví” to all the veterans of the allied liberating forces.