Thanks to Steven Spielberg, the story of Oskar Schindler and the twelve hundred Jews he saved during World War II is well known. But not many people know that the factory where he employed them still stands. It is in the village of Brněnec, north of the Czech Republic’s second city of Brno, and for many years it has stood derelict. There has been a lot of talk of saving the building and turning it into a museum and memorial, and the latest initiative comes from members of the Low-Beer family, who owned the factory until 1938 when they had to flee
The short-lived secret organisation Světlana formed in 1948 grew to become the largest anti-Communist group in Czechoslovakia, boasting several hundred members at its peak, operating in more than a dozen cells, mainly in Moravia. That’s one version of events. Many long believed that Světlana was not only infiltrated by the State Security force, or StB, but was in fact a creation of it – part of operations to ensnare “counter-revolutionaries”, those sympathetic to what is now known as the Third Resistance movement. Other questions remain as to whether
The Czech Jewish community in Prague is celebrating the start of Chanukah
which this year starts on December 2nd and ends on December 10th.
On Dec 6th representatives of the Jewish community, cultural figures and diplomats will attend the traditional lighting of the Menorah on Jan Palach square, just outside the historic Jewish Quarter of Prague.
The Menorah lighting ceremony was established in 2006 by one of Prague’s Jewish congregations. This year the Menorah is to be decorated with a Czech flag marking the centenary of the birth of Czechoslovakia.
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.
Central Europe abounded in thriving Jewish communities for many centuries. They were frequently a target of official discrimination and had to try very hard to carve out their place in societies that were often hostile to their culture and religion. But there are many examples of peaceful coexistence of the Jewish diaspora in the predominantly Catholic Czechia. One of them can be found in the heart of the Highlands region.