The early 20th century naïve painter and sketch artist Robert Guttmann, in whose honour the exhibition gallery of the Jewish Museum in Prague is named, was famous in his day. Mainly due to his striking appearance, eccentric manner and extensive travels – often on foot – in promotion of the nascent Zionist movement. A fixture in Prague cafés and bars, where he sold his art for pocket change, “the Professor”, as he was known, was among the most photographed and caricatured personalities in Czechoslovakia. Yet few know his story today.
The Moravian town of Nové Město is renaming a street on its main square in honour of a Jewish family whose tragic fate featured in the international bestseller Hana’s Suitcase. The tribute comes ahead of the anniversary of the death of the only family member to have survived the Holocaust – who was denied a Czech state honour due to an unrelated political spat.
The undignified use of pieces of ancient Jewish tombstones as cobblestones in Prague’s pavements should soon come to an end. Under a memorandum to be signed between City Hall and the Jewish Community in Prague, any such stones discovered during repairs or other excavation work will be handed over to the latter.
Though little-known today, Marie Schmolka was for several years one of Prague’s key organisers helping Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis, while she also helped arrange transports of children to the UK that saved hundreds of lives. On Monday Schmolka is receiving, in memoriam, honorary citizenship of Prague 1, as officials finally honour the heroic work she carried out in her native city.
Anti-Jewish sentiment was often fuelled by vicious and clichéd imagery. Just how varied and inventive these forms of depiction could be was a theme recently explored at an international conference in Prague. It showed that while more latent than in neighbouring states such as Germany, anti-Semitic imagery was present in Czech history, often in especially curious depictions.
The National Library of Israel has started digitising a long-lost batch of archival materials, belonging to Franz Kafka’s friend Max Brod. They include, among other things, Kafka’s personal diary and a notebook in which he practiced Hebrew. Israel received the missing documents from a Swiss bank in August after years of international searches and legal disputes over the author’s legacy.
An exhibition marking the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution has just got underway at Prague’s Municipal House. Called Nezlomní, or The Steadfast, it showcases the work, but also personal diaries and correspondence, of 30 artists, active between the years 1919 and 1989, including Jindřich Štyrský, Toyen and Karel Nepraš. It also highlights their joint inspiration by the writings of Franz Kafka.
Social Democrats party chairman Jan Hamáček told journalists on Monday
that his party could withdraw from the coalition government if its senior
partner ANO votes to elect far-right journalist Michal Semin to the council
of state news agency ČTK.
Semin, who has blamed American elites for the 9/11 terror attacks, heads the ultra-conservative movement Akce DOST. Last week, the Federation of Jewish Communities protested against his candidacy, citing his alleged anti-Semitic statements
His candidacy for the ČTK council was proposed by the far-right opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy party. It was also backed by ANO deputies in a first-round vote earlier in June.
Hamáček said that Semin was an “unacceptable” candidate. If ANO voted to support him in the second round on 20 June, there would be no point for the Social Democrats to continue in the coalition government, he said.
Later on Monday, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who founded ANO, said his party had not supported Semin’s candidacy and would not back him in future. He said he did not understand why Hamáček said otherwise, calling it “a nonsense”.
A plaque was recently unveiled in Prague honouring one of the modest heroes who were instrumental in organising the evacuations of hundreds of Jewish women and children out of Czechoslovakia before the onset of World War II, where they would otherwise have been wiped out in German concentration camps. The name of the heroine is Doreen Warriner and her story is one of extraordinary resourcefulness and moral virtue.