The memorial in the shape of a cross marks the place where Palach lit himself and died. Further down the square, after the statue, you can see another corner for the memorial of the students of the revolution, who burnt themselves in demonstrations of the Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia, after Palach's death.
So the Czech student Jan Palach came to a decision to do something radical that would draw the attention of the world to the trampling of Czech people's rights by the Soviet regime. He decided to sacrifice his life and set himself on fire in 1969, a year after the Prague Spring.
Palach's self-burning began with protests and demonstrations by masses of students, and his own funeral turned into a mass demonstration of resistance against the Soviet occupation. The young student became a symbol of the struggle for Czech independence, followed by two other students who set themselves on fire later this year. But nothing helped. The Soviets continued to rule with an iron grip over the Czech Republic, and all the countries of Eastern Europe.
Today, years after the Czech Republic was able to become a democratic country once again, Palach is considered a national hero. The Czech see in him as symbol for opposing and self-sacrificing for his country. Once a year there is a national ceremony in his memory in Wenceslas Square, where Palach died, next to his memorial.
Not far from here you will see Jan Palach Square, where Jan is remembered as one of the great founders of the nation.
However the Soviet leadership saw the attempts of the Czechoslovakian rule a threat for its rule over Eastern European countries. And so, the Prague Spring that started in January 1968 and continued until August, ended with the Soviet army invading Czechoslovakia in August, what ended the demonstrations for good.
In demonstrations against the Soviet invasion, a Czech student named Jan Palach lit himself on fire and died. After his suicide several other students made attempts of lighting themselves on fire as well, as a measure of extreme protest against the invasion that stopped Prague's short spring.