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The Quick Wit Of Milan Schulz

Czech Republic--Former Czechoslovak Service journalist Milan Schulz, undated.
Czech Republic--Former Czechoslovak Service journalist Milan Schulz, undated.

The broadcasts of Milan Schulz to communist Czechoslovakia were prized for their sharp commentary and ironic wit.

The name Milan Schulz is known to every Czech and Slovak who listened to the “forbidden station” from Munich in communist Czechoslovakia. A broadcaster for RFE/RL’s Czechoslovak Service, Schulz was famous for his commentary on Czechoslovak politics, delivered in a slow, distinctive voice with irony and humor.

Schulz was born in Prague on April 6, 1930. His father was Jewish, his mother a gentile. His parents divorced at the beginning of World War II believing that this would help their son, but Schulz, who was reportedly unaware that his father was Jewish, was expelled from high school on religious grounds.

His father, Bedrich Schulz, died in January 1945 in a concentration camp in Kaufering (currently in Germany).

Schulz managed to complete his secondary education in 1949, continuing on to study at the Philosophical Faculty at Prague’s Charles University with a focus on Czech and Russian languages.

Schulz had always wanted to write, having inherited a love for words from his father, who composed cabaret sketches. After finishing university, he worked for Literarni Noviny, (Literary Newspaper), a weekly magazine focusing on literature and culture that was regarded as an intellectual platform for progressive thinkers.

He also worked as a freelancer for the avant garde theater Semafor, where he was responsible for producing the printed programs for plays. Schulz contributed opinion columns and commentaries to many other newspapers and magazines, including Mlada Fronta, Kvety, Host do Domu, and Plamen.

In the 1960s, quick to understand the power of television, Schulz began reporting on foreign television festivals for Czechoslovak TV. While covering a television festival in Rome in 1969, he made the decision to leave Czechoslovakia permanently.

Schulz emigrated to Germany, settled down in Munich, and started working for the Czechoslovak service in 1970. In his signature radio documentary show, Events and Opinions, he provided sharp commentary and analysis on political affairs. Since the service's broadcasts were strictly prohibited and audiences listened clandestinely, Schulz lacked any reliable statistics on listenership. He would only learn much later, in 1995 when RFE/RL relocated to Prague, that his popularity among Czech audiences was immense.

He signed on with the renamed Czech language service as a freelancer, traveling back and forth between Prague and Munich.

Schulz is survived by a son, Martin, from his first marriage. Together in 1991, they hosted Snezi (It's Snowing), a talk show on Czech TV devoted to cultural and philosophical issues.

Schulz published his memoirs, titled "Hledani Zatraceneho Casu" ("Seeking Cursed Time"), in 2012.

- Jana Hokuvova