“In this cynical century in which we are often scared by others and others are scared by us, in a century in which we are often startled at our own small-mindedness, he made us ask a question that can make great people of us: What did I do for others, what is my heart like, what is my aim, and what is the highest priority in my life?”
Speech of Pastor Jakub S. Trojan at Jan Palach’s grave, 25 January 1969
Jan Palach’s funeral took place on Sunday, 25 January 1969. The Union of University Students of Bohemia and Moravia was allowed to organize it, also thanks to the fact that the remembrance march from Wenceslas Square to the Faculty of Arts organized by the Union was without complications. The march took place on 20 January 1969, and several tens of thousands of people took part in it. Originally, the Union wanted to bury their colleague in the Slavín tomb (a Prague tomb where many important people are buried). However, this was not permitted by the official authorities. The Olšany Cemetery (Olšanské hřbitovy) was finally chosen as Jan Palach’s final resting place.
The casket with Palach’s remains had already been exhibited from 24 January 1969 in the Karolinum (the seat of Charles University in Prague). Tens of thousands of people came to say goodbye to the deceased student. In the evening of the same day, a remembrance march took place in Všetaty with most local people taking part in it. In the morning of 25 January 1969, the remembrance ceremony continued; shortly after noon, the mourning ceremony started in the Karolinum courtyard. The Rector of Charles University, Oldřich Starý, the Faculty of Arts dean, Jaroslav Kladiva, and students Zdeněk Touš and Michael Dymáček gave speeches, in which they emphasised Palach’s moral strength and the importance of his sacrifice for the present and future.
In addition, the Czechoslovak Education Minister, Vilibald Bezdíček, delivered a speech, being the only Czech government representative at the funeral together with the Sports Minister, Emanuel Bosák. However, both of them were virtually unknown to the public, because they had been first appointed on 8 January 1969. No important state or party representative took part in the funeral.
After the ceremony, the casket was placed in the hearse, and the funeral procession went through the Ovocný Trh Square, down Celetná Street to the Old Town Square and stopped in front of the Faculty of Arts on the square that was already spontaneously renamed Jan Palach Square on 20 January 1969. Only Palach’s family, invited guests, and reporters took part in the last funeral ceremony at the Olšany Cemetery. At the grave, the evangelical pastor, Jakub S. Trojan, gave a sermon in which he emphasized the importance of Jan Palach’s sacrifice.