In May 1945, the Red Army liberated Czechia from its German occupiers. Although towards the end of the war there was a tender hope of restoring the Czechoslovakia of times past, these hopes gradually faded. The Soviet Union expanded its claim to power, while the West saw that as a threat. With the Communist takeover led by Klement Gottwald, Czechoslovakia became aligned with Stalin's Soviet Union in 1948. A climate of mistrust settled in.
For the first time, in 1946, the British prime minister Winston Churchill spoke of an ‘iron curtain’ that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic. A decree was issued by the Ministry of National Security in Prague for the implementation of a border strip and a ‘forbidden zone’. A ‘curtain’ consisting of closely spaced strands of barbed wire was installed, and two further barriers were added later, with mines laid in the space between them. In the period of 1952 to 1965 the wires were electrified with a high voltage. In addition, tank barriers along the Iron Curtain were installed for protection against the threat of tanks rolling in. In Austria they were called ‘tank hedgehogs’, but in many other countries they were known as ‘Czech hedgehogs’. The Iron Curtain was cut for the first time in July 1989, by the Hungarian and Austrian foreign ministers.