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11/26/2010

Jan Wiener, who fought in Britain's air force after fleeing Nazis, dies at 90

November 26, 2010 | 11:42 am

Wiener Jan Wiener, a Czech Jew who fought in the British air force during World War II after fleeing Nazis in Germany and Czechoslovakia, has died. He was 90.

Wiener died Wednesday at Prague's military hospital, said Jiri Pehe, director at Prague's branch of New York University. The cause of death was not given.

His family fled Hitler's Germany for Prague, but Wiener found himself on the run again after Czechoslovakia was occupied by Nazi troops.

He managed to escape to Britain through Yugoslavia and Italy, where he was captured, to join the Royal Air Force's No. 311 Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron.

Wiener's father committed suicide to avoid ending up in the hands of the Nazis. His mother died in the Theresienstadt Nazi concentration camp north of Prague.

After the Communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948, Wiener spent five years in communist prisons, a fate shared by many of his colleagues because they were considered the enemies of the communist state.

Wiener was born May 26, 1920, in Hamburg, Germany, to a Czech-German Jewish family. He settled in the United States in the mid-1960s and became professor of history at the American University in Washington.

After the collapse of communism, he returned to his homeland on a regular basis and became a guest lecturer at Prague's branch of New York University.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Jan Wiener in 2009. Credit: Associated Press

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