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NEWSLETTER 2007/2

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There was a host of events at the Jewish Museum in Prague during the second quarter of 2007. New exhibitions opened at the Robert Guttmann Gallery and the Education and Culture Centre, several concerts were held and the Museum took part in a number of important events.
 
 
“SINCE THEN I BELIEVE IN FATE…” TRANSPORTS OF PROTECTORATE JEWS TO POLAND, 1941–1942
From 2 May to 22 July, the Robert Guttmann Gallery hosted the exhibition “Since then I believe in fate…“, which focused on the transports of Protectorate Jews to the territory of occupied Poland in 1941–1942. This followed on from the first exhibition of 2005 which dealt with the deportations of Czech Jews to the Baltic States in the first half of 1942.
The systematic deportation of Jews from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia began in October 1941. Period documents, however, contain very little direct information on the physical liquidation of the Jewish populations in the occupied territories. The relevant orders were concealed through the use of euphemistic terms and codes and most were issued verbally; this applies, for example, to “Operation Reinhard” on Polish territory and to the activities of the Einsatzgruppen (death squads) in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union.
The transports from the Protectorate were destined for the Polish ghettoes of Łódź, Izbica, Piaski, Rejowiec and Zamość and the extermination centres in occupied Poland, such as Chelmno, Belźec, Sobibór, Majdanek, Treblinka and Auschwitz. About 38,000 people were deported on thirty transports from the Protectorate between October 1941 and 22 October 1942, which is the period covered in this exhibition. Only 349 of these lived to see the end of the war. From 26 October 1942 the transports were dispatched only to Auschwitz.
There were a number of transports without a single survivor. In many cases, all we know about the fate of the Czech Jews is from the testimonies of inmates of other nationalities, as well as from the testimonies of former SS members. This exhibition showed the events through the eyes of some of the few prisoners who survived and who have been able to provide testimony. In its entirety, it told the stories of people who became the victims of tragic and cruel events and who witnessed humiliations and the loss of human dignity. The filmed interviews of survivors were complemented by archive documents and period photographs.
The Jewish Museum plans to present the third part of the exhibition “Since then I believe in fate…“ in the Robert Guttmann Gallery in 2010; this will focus on the transports of Protectorate Jews to Belarus in 1941–1942.
 
 
THE SECOND LIFE OF
CZECH TORAH SCROLLS

On 24 April the exhibition The Second Life of Czech Torah Scrolls. Czech Torah Scrolls and Binders from the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London and the Jewish Museum in Prague opened in the London-based Memorial Scrolls Trust, with Leo Pavlát and Magda Veselská from the Jewish Museum in attendance. This exhibition focused on the fate of the almost 1,800 Torah scrolls from Bohemia and Moravia that were shipped to the Nazi-controlled Central Jewish Museum during the Second World War. About 1,600 of these were sold off by the Communist regime to London in the 1960s. The majority of these Torah scrolls have now been loaned by the Memorial Scrolls Trust to Jewish congregations across the world, where they are living a “second life”. This exhibition was prepared by the Jewish Museum in Prague and was on view at the Robert Guttmann Gallery in 2006.
 
 
SO IT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN
From 15 May to 29 June the Jewish Museum’s Education and Culture Centre hosted an exhibition of neo-impressionist paintings by Tibor Spitz, a Jewish artist of Slovak origin currently living in the United States. The paint-ings on view depicted “the lingering horror, the scars on the soul” – the artist’s impressions and experiences of the Shoah, which only members of his immediate family survived by hiding in an underground shelter in the forest.
 
 
LITERATURE NIGHT IN THE SPANISH SYNAGOGUE
On Thursday 19 April, 2007, from 6 to 11 p.m., the Czech Centres (an association of Czech cultural and information centres in 19 countries), in co-operation with the Museum of Czech Literature, held a public reading of world literature. This is the second year of a project that aims to familiarize people with the literature of countries where the Czech Centres are based. Literature from Argentina, the Czech Republic, Japan, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Rumania, Scandinavia and Spain was featured at nine little known venues in Prague that are often closed to the public, such as Jindřišská Tower, the crypt of the church of the Holiest Savior and Alfa passage in Wenceslas Square. There were also readings in the Spanish Synagogue. The actors Jan Potměšil, Marta Vančurová and Tomáš Karger read excerpts from Liquidation by the Hungarian writer Imre Kertész (b. 1929), who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 2002.
 
 
WEINBERGER TOUR
The Czech cellist František Brikcius and pianist Tomáš Víšek commenced the Weinberger Tour at the Spanish Synagogue on 23 April, marking the 40th anniversary of the death of the composer Jaromír Weinberger (1896–1967). After appearing at various venues across the Czech Republic, they will be ending the tour with a concert on 29 October at Pálffy Palace in Prague.
 
 
LIGHT OF UNDERSTANDING
On 9 May the Jewish congregation Bejt Praha put together the concert Light of Understanding at two temples of two different faiths – the Spanish Synagogue and the church of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Prague’s Old Town. This concert, which was held for the first time last year, symbolically commemorated the end of the Second World War and the end of the senseless killing and persecution of people on account of their faith, religion or political views. Among the distinguished musicians appearing in the Spanish Synagogue were violinist Pavel Šporcl, singer Dan Bárta, Mikrochor choir, Slovak singer Suí Vesan, violinist Alexander Shonert, U.S. pianist David Syme and Peter Gyori of Bejt Praha, together with children from the Jewish Community in Prague.
 
 
TEFILLIN IN ART
On 10 June the Spanish Synagogue hosted the culmination of the Tefillin in Art project, which was prepared by the Jewish organizations Bejt Praha and Bejt Elend with the support of the Jewish Museum in Prague. The aim of this event was to inspire and support Jewish artists “aged between four and 120 years” to express their relationship to Judaism through art. Among those who appeared at the Spanish Synagogue were the Judaist Achab Haidler, the multi-ethnic Klezmer group Fekete Szeretlek, Peter Gyori with children from the Jewish Community in Prague, Julinka Ondráčková and Attur Effrati. Jewish prayers set to music were recited by Colman Reaboi, the cantor of Bejt Praha. An auction of artworks made for this event was also held at the Spanish Synagogue. The proceeds went to the Charles Jordan Retirement Home for survivors of the Shoah in Prague.
 
 
TASK FORCE FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION, REMEMBRANCE, AND RESEARCH
On 12 June the Jewish Museum was visited by participants of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research. The Jewish Museum, in association with the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, prepared a concert for this group in the Spanish Synagogue with performances of Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A Minor, Opus 13 and String Octet in E Flat Major, Opus 20 performed by the Kocián and M. Nostitz Quartets.
 
 
CRACOW KLEZMER BAND
On 13 June the Jewish Museum, in association with the Respect Festival and the Polish Institute in Prague, prepared a concert by the Cracow Klezmer Band at the Spanish Synagogue. This four-member band made its debut in 2000 with an album released by Tzadik, which is run by the New York-based avant-garde musician John Zorn. Its unique style is linked to the genius loci of Jewish Cracow, a city in which every stone is a silent witness to Jewish history. The Holocaust turned the Jewish Quarter of Cracow into desolate ruins, but the local culture came back to life in the 1990s. To a packed audience in the Spanish Synagogue, the Cracow Klezmer Band performed with vitality, spiritual depth and humour, symbolically connecting the fate of the Jews of Cracow and Prague.
 
 
PRAGUE MUSEUM NIGHT
On Saturday June 16, the Jewish Museum in Prague took part in the 4th Prague Museum Night festival. After the end of the Sabbath, from 10.30 p.m. to 1 a.m., it opened the doors to its permanent exhibitions on the history of the Jews in Bohemia and Moravia in the Maisel and Spanish Synagogues. In the course of two and a half hours, the two synagogues were visited by 3,000 visitors, who were given guided tours and the opportunity to consult the Museum’s specialist staff.
 
 
 
 
AWARD FOR THE JEWISH MUSEUM IN PRAGUE
On 17 May the 5th Gloria Musaealis Awards Ceremony was held in the Pantheon of the National Museum by the Board of the Czech Committee of ICOM (International Council of Museums), together with the Czech Ministry of Culture and the Association of Czech Museums and Galleries. Awards were given in the following categories: Museum Exhibition of the Year 2006, Museum Publication of the Year 2006 and Museum Achievement of the Year 2006. The Jewish Museum in Prague received the Czech Committee of ICOM Prize for the Year of Jewish Culture – 100 Years of the Jewish Museum in Prague project.
 
 
NEW THEATRE SHOW FOR SCHOOLS AT THE EDUCATION AND CULTURE CENTRE IN BRNO
A new theatre show Jewess or Juggling with Life has been put together under the auspices of the Brno office of the Jewish Museum’s Education and Culture Centre. Adéla Kratochvílová and Dáša Trávníková, who together comprise Divadlo Kufr (Suitcase Theatre) said the following about the show: “...we would like to introduce young people in a sensitive way to the specific fates of Holocaust victims. We wish to familiarize them with the story of a girl who was the same age as they are now and who would have lived a similar life to them if she hadn’t been a Jew in 1941...” Using elements of motion theatre, juggling, Jewish music, historical sets and distinctive choreography, this untraditional treatment of the Holocaust manages to sensitively affect the way young people perceive this topic. It will also be included in the Brno office’s educational programmes for schools in the next school year.
 
 
NEW PUBLICATIONS
The Jewish Minority during the Second Republic

The collection of papers The Jewish Minority during the Second Republic follows on from the previous two collections: The Jewish Minority in Czechoslovakia in the 1920s and The Jewish Minority in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. This deals with various aspects of the life of Jews during the brief but turbulent period known as the Second Czechoslovak Republic (October 1938 – 15 March 1939). The authors of the pa- pers are among the leading specialists on the given topics: for example, Blanka Soukupová, co-editor of the collection, focuses on the attitudes of assimilated Czech Jews towards the increasingly frequent manifestations of anti-Semitism, Michal Frankl deals with the problem of Jewish refugees, Jaroslav Šebek describes the manifestations of anti-Semitism in the Catholic milieu, Peter Salner and Valerián Bystrický analyse the situation in Slovakia, and Yeshayahu Jelinek looks at the situation of Sub-Carpathian Ruthenian Jews. The collection concludes with an exploration of the life of the Jewish minority in a small town which ended up outside the territory of Czechoslovakia following the annexation of the borderland. The collection was put together by Miloš Pojar, Blanka Soukupová and Marie Zahradníková. It is pub-lished in the Czech language.
 
 
Judaica Bohemiae XLII
The Jewish Museum in Prague has just published Judaica Bohemiae XLII, its annual journal in English on the history of the Jewish community in Bohemia and Moravia. It was put together by Alexandr Putík and includes papers by Jewish Museum staff. D. Polakovič focuses on medieval Hebrew inscriptions on tombstones and in synagogues in Cheb, A. Putík explores the Prague sojourn of Rabbi Jacob Emden in 1722, Iveta Cermanová deals with the life and intellectual world of the Hebrew censor Karl Fischer (1757–1844) and Magda Veselská examines the selling off of items from the collections of the Jewish Museum after the Second World War with particular focus on the sale of Torah scrolls in 1963–1964.
The journal also includes two reviews of exhibitions held by the Jewish Museum last year in the Robert Guttmann Gallery and their accompanying catalogues – Mazal Tov – Hodně štěstí – Good Luck and The Man who Never Gave Up. The Story of Josef Polák (1886–1945).
 
Both publications, along with the Education and Culture Centre’s previous collections of papers and past issues of the Judaica Bohemiae journal (from 1965 onwards) can be purchased directly from the Jewish Museum in Prague or from its on-line store at www.jewishmuseum.cz/shop/ashop.htm.
 
 
NEW CONDITIONS FOR BOOK RESTITUTION
On 7 June the Jewish Museum’s Board of Trustees accepted new conditions for the restitution of books. For more information, see the website www.jewishmuseum.cz.
 
 
PROMINENT VISITS
May
Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tsipi Livni
 
June
Former Soviet dissident and later Israeli government minister and important public official Natan Sharansky
Laura Lauder from the family of the Jewish patron and new Chairman of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, together with the famous singer of Jewish music Debbie Friedman. The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation provides continual support for the Jewish schools in Prague and for the Jewish Museum in Prague.
 

 

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