In 1941, Nazi Germany turned the centuries-old Czech garrison town of Terezín into a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp. Over the next few years, some 155,000 people were held there in desperate conditions awaiting transport to the death camps further east. And yet, there was a well-documented flourishing of cultural life in the ghetto. Many artists also risked their lives to depict the harsh reality of daily life. But this is a story of the traces left behind by more ordinary people who endured those extraordinary times.
A new plaque was unveiled in Shanghai on Sunday commemorating China's
assistance to Czech Jews, who were fleeing Europe to escape the Holocaust.
The event was attended by Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, who is part of the government delegation accompanying President Miloš Zeman on his official visit to China.
Mr Petříček also visited the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, commemorating the Jewish refugees who lived in the city during World War II, which is located in former synagogue.
The official programme of president Zeman's visit starts on Sunday evening with a reception hosted by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. The two heads of state are scheduled to meet for talks on Monday.
The Prague composer of Jewish descent, Hans Krása, wrote Brundibár using Adolf Hoffmeister’s libreto as early as 1938. Sadly however, the opera only became famous once it premiered in Terezín on September 23rd 1943. Krása himself studied the opera with small jewish children after being deported to Terezín. Here it was performed more than 50 times.
The late Sir Nicholas Winton saved the lives of 669 children, most of them Jewish, when he organised for them to leave Czechoslovakia for his native UK on the eve of WWII. His daughter Barbara Winton has told his remarkable story in the book If It's Not Impossible...: The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton and in July discussed what drove him and much more at the Melting Pot forum at Colours of Ostrava music festival, which is where I caught up with her.
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.