Soukupová Blanka

Despite the large number of texts dedicated
to the Jewish minority in the Czech
lands, only relatively few monographs
or other publications mapping the Jewish
minority in a particular location
with an important Jewish population
have appeared since 1989. This slight
applies to the Czechs to a large degree
because some sort of parallel to the Jews
and Moravia series of the Kroměřížsko
Museum in Kroměříž is missing here.
The reviewed collection of contributions
to the Regional Museum in Kolín
at least partially attempts to repay this
debt. Its topic of interest became the history
of the Jewish minority in Kolín and
its environs as a certain type of Jewish
community in the Czech heartland. In
chronological order and with the help
of various sources and literatures (only
documents of material culture remained
a qualified team of archivists
and historians (critical towards older
literature) blocked out the development of
Jewish settlement from their celebrated
beginnings in the Middle Ages (Vojtěch
Vaněk), when the Kolín Jews created the
second most important Jewish community
in the Czech land, through the wellknown
exodus in 1541 (Stanislav Petr),
and to its post-war demise (definite in
1979). Also, the post-war development of
the Jews in Kolín (Jaroslav Pejša), as if it
copied the fates of other Jewish communities:
Of several hundred deported Jews,
only a few dozens (the final count was 487
victims of the Shoah) returned to the city.
The community encountered the problem
of abandoned synagogues and cemeteries;
Jewish corporations were only formally
restored; Jewish monuments (in this case,
a cemetery) found themselves imperiled;
surviving Jews tried to honor the memory
of their murdered and fallen co-religionists
with the construction of a monument
(unveiled in April 1950). After the February
Revolution of 1948, the community
gradually fell under the control of state
organs. In the late 1960s there was a revival
of interest in Jewish history and culture
in this small town, which faded at the
beginning of normalization.
Between these two turning-points,
to the authors, there was a memorable
period before the Hilsneriada
(the condemnation of Leopold Hilsner
for the apparent Jewish ritual murder
of a Czech girl), when, as Michal Frankl
repeatedly wrote, there was, in 1893,
a revival of a Middle Ages superstition
about ritual murder. From scientific literature
it is known that the affair was one
of a series of many attempts within the
European and Czech framework that had
economic and political-party importance.
In a certain tie-up with Frankl, on the
basis of scientific literature and numerous
sources of the most various provenance,
René Petráš then presented the
development of the nearby Kutná Hora
Jewish minority in the years from 1899
to 1920, the modernization of their lifestyle
and connection to Czech national
life, the economic contribution of the
Jews to the city and the structure, history,
tasks and personalities of the Jewish
religious community there. At the
same time he recalled that, in September
1899, it was in Kutná Hora that the trial of
Leopold Hilsner took place. The years of
the liberal First Republic are considered
a time of the building of loyalty to the
new state and democratization, and also
of the financial misery of the Jewish community.
Like Frankl, Petráš, too, tried to
implant the regional events into a broader
social context. The last analyzed period
was the occupation. But the freshness
of Pavel Novák’s point of view lies in his
concentration on the village Jews in the
region of Kutná Hora. Novák researched
their professional development from the
end of the 19th century and its change
during the Second World War. The text
thus probes – but unfortunately not
always with strong reference to sources
– into the problem of Aryanization on the
regional level and thus circulates the wellknown
work of the economics historians
Jančík and Kubů by calling attention to
other sources.
Besides certain transparent periods,
however, the proceedings also focused
on important Kolín natives of Jewish origin
and Jews connected to Kolín. Naďa
Kovaříková dealt with the brothers Heinrich
and Leopold Teichner. In the 1960s
Heinrich became the proprietor of the first
Kolín photographic studio. Pavel Jakupec
highlighted the outstanding Schönfeld
family of Semily. Miroslava Jouzová
wrote about Pavel Fischer, an exceptional
personality in Kolín associations. He
came from a family who were trailblazers
of factory production in Kolín. He was
the father of the famous Germanist Otakar
and a secondary school teacher Josef
Fischer, known as the initiator of the resistance
organization called the Petiční výbor
Věrni zůstaneme (We will remain faithful)
during the occupation. A study of Miroslav
Tyč presented Kolín as a city of relatives
of Franz Kafka and a city reflected
in his books. Klára Zubíková and Ladislav
Jouza sketched an interesting picture of
the entrepreneurial Mandelík family during
the prewar period and in the first
years of the Republic. She also focused on
their house, designed by the architect Jan
Kotěra, who also designed gravestones
in the Kolín Jewish cemetery. Very compelling
is the description of the fate of
Kolín native Jiří Poláček, one of the typical
resistance fighters of Jewish origin. Its
author, Ladislav Jouza, followed in detail
Poláček’s family, his childhood and youth,
the dramatic road to exile, his career as
a flyer in the service of RAF and finally his
painful return to a ruined home.
This book review is the first of two
recent reminders of the Jewish minority
of Kolín (besides the book of Zuzana
Peterová about the Kolín rabbi Richard
Feder [Prague 2004]). We unhesitatingly
call this book a worthwhile regional historiography
which had respect for sources
of a memoir nature. It would be good if
the minority history of other Czech cities
were studied.
Blanka Soukupová

Vydání: 10, 2008, 2