King's College London
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The printed page

Europe's free press in World War 2

Facsimile copy of the cover of V Boj, a Czech newspaper from 1940, with a cartoon style illustrations showing a river with islands and hats and posts sticking out of themFacsimile copy of the cover of V Boj, a Czech newspaper from 1940The book featured here, which was printed during the Second World War, details the underground and free press operations of occupied Europe.

As well as the difficulties in tracking and obtaining copies of the various publications included in the volume, the book has also had to pass the British censors, who are obviously on a heightened state of alert.

The introduction illustrates the perils experienced by those who facilitate the production of the printed word:

There are men and women working in Europe to-day, putting together the strangest array of newspapers the world has ever seen … these men and women have no multiple printing presses, giant distribution systems, no money even … but they produce the European equivalent of a wartime paper, by stealth of night, with clockwork regularity. The only certainty in the lives of these intrepid men and women is death.

The book covers free press publications in nine occupied countries of Europe and the opening reproduced here shows the cover of a 1940 edition of the Czech newspaper, V Boj (‘Into arms’).

The former editor, Josef Skalda, a popular figure whose name came to represent ‘liberation, freedom and a return to the old way of life’ for Czechs was captured, tortured and murdered by the Nazis in 1942.

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