In the last edition of Czech Books we featured an interview with Zuzana Justman, who with her older brother and mother survived the wartime Terezín ghetto. Her brother Jiří Robert Pick later wrote a remarkable novel set in the ghetto, under the title “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals”. The book draws richly from his own memories; with an unexpected lightness and humour it tells the story of a teenage boy and the people around him – his friends and the older men sharing a ward with him in the ghetto infirmary. Thanks to Zuzana Justman
The police is investigating a case of vandalism at the memorial in Lety,
the site of a former concentration camp for Romanies during WWII.
Unknown perpetrators fixed plaques with hate messages on the memorial erected to the hundreds of Romanies who died there. One of the messages read that the memorial is in commemoration of “the last Romanies who ever worked on Czech territory”.
The web site Romea.cz which reported the vandalism claims it is the work of the nationalist grouping My proti vsem, which has been vocal in criticizing the amount of money that has been spent by the government to buy out a pig farm standing close to the site, so that the memorial would be in dignified surroundings.
“Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” is a remarkable book by many standards. It is a comic novel set in the wartime Jewish ghetto in Terezín, written by the Czech satirist Jiří Robert Pick some twenty years after he survived the ghetto. The book is a classic, sparkling with life and humour, in defiance of the dehumanizing environment in which it was written. Thanks to J. R. Pick’s sister, the award-winning documentary film-maker Zuzana Justman, the book has just been published in English translation. In a two-part special, Zuzana talks
Hundreds of politicians and members of the public attended the annual
commemorative ceremony in Terezín, the site of a former Nazi concentration
camp and the Gestapo prison during WWII.
Speaking at the gathering, marking the camp's liberation, chairman of the lower house Radek Vondráček said we cannot allow history to repeat itself and we cannot permit its misinterpretation.
Between 1940 and 1945, more than 150,000 people, mostly Jews, passed through the Terezín ghetto on their way to Nazi extermination camps; 117,000 of them did not live to see the end of the war.
Martin Šmok moved to the US in the 1990s to work with the USC Shoah Foundation, which has recorded video interviews with more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors. Long back in Prague, he remains a senior international program consultant with the project and is also active in the field of education. When we spoke, the conversation took in Czech attitudes to the Holocaust, “constructs of the enemy” in Czech society and more. But I first asked Šmok how he had been shaped by working with the testimonies of Holocaust survivors for over two decades.
Since her early childhood in the 1920s, Lisa Miková had dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. When as a student she started submitting her designs to one of the best Prague salons, there was every reason to think that her dream would come true. But Lisa was Jewish, and the German occupation brought her studies to an abrupt end. In 1942, at the age of twenty, she was sent with her parents to the Terezín Ghetto. There she fell in love with a young engineer called František, and in the tough conditions of the ghetto they married. Miraculously they
Jaroslava Doležalová has become an honorary citizen of her home town Žďár nad Sázavou. She hid a little Jewish girl during WW II and probably saved her life, risking her own and her husband's in the process. Hardly anybody knew about it for a very long time and it has only been brought to public attention now, more than seven decades later. So, Mrs. Doležalová in the 93rd year of her life receives well-deserved, even if long-delayed, accolades and praise. But her story also reveals something less praiseworthy about the Czech attitude toward
A new Czech Television documentary, Barbican: Forgotten Mission, tells the previously unknown story of how around 100 Jewish children were air-bridged to the UK from Prague in early 1939. The organisers were a Christian group focused on converting Jews and their actions predated the well-known kindertransports run by Sir Nicholas Winton, though he was involved. The film’s director Jiří František Potužník says the story began with an archive photo of a small boy and a pilot.
At the end of 2015 the Australian novelist and essayist Liam Pieper was Prague’s first writer-in-residence through the UNESCO City of Literature programme. His two months in Prague bore fruit. Last year Liam’s powerful and disturbing novel, The Toymaker, was published by Penguin Australia to critical acclaim. It has since been translated into several languages, including Czech. Set in Auschwitz, wartime Prague and Krakow, and contemporary Melbourne, The Toymaker grapples with the legacy of the Holocaust and reminds us of the dangers of keeping silent