Former Czech President Vaclav Havel and helmer Milos Forman are working on a screenplay about the Munich Agreement in 1938 and Adolf Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland, a point in history seen by some as having parallels with Russia’s recent invasion of Georgia.
Havel and Forman, both leading Czech dissidents during the communist era, are adapting the book “Le Fantome de Munich” (The Ghost of Munich) by French author Georges-Marc Benamou, according to Havel aide Sabina Tancevova.
The story explores how Czechoslovakia was betrayed when Western leaders were afraid to stand up to Hitler at a summit on Sept. 29, 1938. They agreed to let him annex the Sudetenland — the northern and western border regions of the sovereign Czech state. It was a coup that emboldened the Nazis into invading the rest of the country months later and setting up the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Havel knows the subject matter all too well — and not just by virtue of being a Czech-born World War II survivor. He has recently been urging the European Union to consider Russia an aggressor over its invasion and occupation of Georgia. He has said that “the situation in Georgia has a very strong connection with Munich 1938.”
Havel, who remains outspoken on global human rights issues since stepping down from the Czech presidency in 2003, has said he is aware of the “missteps” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili took in earning Russian ire. But he maintains that the conflict is “more or less the result of the provocation from the Russian side.”
The Czech edition of Benamou’s book has been released in time for the 70th anniversary of the summit, with a note from Havel on the cover. It reads: “The Munich Agreement was an event which affected or influenced the atmosphere in our country and its history for long decades. It is, therefore, very important for it to be a permanent topic for our reflection.”
Forman, who lost both parents to the Nazi death camps, has taken an interest in Czech projects in recent years, having mounted the jazz opera “A Walk Worthwhile” at Prague’s National Theater in 2007 with twin sons Petr and Matej.
Prior to that, Forman’s last work in his home country was the 1984 Oscar winner “Amadeus,” shot in Prague while the director was still officially an exile living in the U.S.
Havel has also returned to the stage — his first new play in 20 years, the parody of political pomposity “Leaving,” is continuing its successful run at Prague’s Archa Theater.