“I want to warn of the unfavourable situation arising constantly on various anniversaries near Jan Palach’s grave in the Olšany cemetery. The grave serves as a meeting place for anti-socialist and hostile persons, including provocative visits of foreigners with tourist visas. That was the case of this year’s fifth anniversary of the international assistance of allied powers against the contra-revolution. Various demonstrations against the current regime have been held there. Nearly every day, we are faced with the unlawful behaviour of both foreigners and our citizens.”
From the proposal of Maj. Karel Kupec concerning the removal of Jan Palach’s grave, 6 September 1973
A few months after his death, Jan Palach was being erased from the collective memory. On 19 January 1969, Libuše Palachová received a condolence telegram from Ludvík Svoboda, Alexandr Dubček, Josef Smrkovský and Oldřich Černík, but a year later, her son’s name was no longer remembered by public figures in Czechoslovakia. None of the several attempts to erect a monument in his honour were successful; the initiators of such projects only attracted the attention of the secret police.
During the operation codenamed “Grave”, the StB went as far as to remove Jan Palach’s grave from the Olšany cemetery because it had been visited by too many people bringing flowers, lighting candles and leaving messages. However, people streamed to the grave even after the removal of the bronze gravestone designed by sculptor Olbram Zoubek; it was removed in July 1970 and melted down a few months later. The grave also attracted foreign tourists and diplomats.
In October 1973, after enormous pressure from the StB, Libuše Palachová and Jiří Palach finally approved the exhumation and subsequent cremation of their son’s body. It was dug up under the StB’s supervision on the morning of 22 October 1973 and then cremated in the Strašnice crematorium. On the site of Jan Palach’s former grave, a new gravestone was placed with the name Marie Jedličková. Libuše Palachová was given the urn with the ashes of her son, but she was not allowed to bury it in the Všetaty cemetery until late March 1974.
Following the collapse of the Communist regime, Jan Palach’s grave in the Olšany cemetery could be restored. The ceremonial transport of the urn with his ashes from Všetaty to Prague took place on 25 October 1990.