Austria-Czech SIG #Austria-Czech Holocaust memorial unveiling #austria-czech


Roberta Sheps
 

Members may be interested in the trip that three of us >from the Colchester
(UK) and District Jewish Community made to Strakonice, Southern Bohemia, to
attend the unveiling of a memorial to the town's lost Jews.

The memorial, measuring 4 metres in width and 2 in height, is in the form of
a menorah, the outer six branches made of sheet steel and the centre "candle
holder" consisting of a very large stone >from the local river, to symbolise
the stone we place on headstones. It is the final part of a Holocaust
education project carried out by 15 high school students under the
enthusiastic (more like obsessive) direction of their teacher, Pavel
Sekyrka.

The project, part of a national project called "Neighbours Who Disappeared",
consisted of research into the lives of the town's Jews, starting with the
Prague Jewish Museum and the Terezin Transportation Lists, and going on to
find surviving Jews and meeting (or writing) and interviewing them. The
results were put into a book, Lost and Found, which at the moment exists
only in Czech. However I am looking at ways to have it translated into
English.

Our connection with the town is our custody of a Torah scroll which almost
certainly came >from Strakonice. We took it back "home" for a brief visit
and it sat on the stage throughout the event.

Our synagogue invited three of the students and their teacher to talk about
the project at our Holocaust Memorial Day service last January. I can't
tell you how impressed everyone was by their enthusiasm, diligence and
organisation. The dedication service was equally impressive. The group had
raised 310,000 to have the monument designed and built. I can't send an
attachment, but if anyone would like to see the monument I'd be happy to
send a photo directly. Present at the service were a large number of local
people, the Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic, a Czech member of the
European Parliament who is leader of the European Parliamentary delegation
to Israel, a representative of the Czech Government Department of Human
Rights and a number of other dignitaries. And two survivors, one living
locally and one >from Israel, were guests of honour. The event was widely
covered by the Czech media and appeared on the Czech evening news.

It's encouraging, in this time of the resurgence of parties of the far right
and of Holocaust denial, to know that people in the Czech Republic are
interested in doing something to restore the memory of the lives that were
lost in the Holocaust. I find it sobering, every time I visit, to realise
how devastating history has been for the people of middle Europe. The war
ended 65 years ago, but the long period of Communist repression must have
made it very difficult for people to look at the war years.

It was a fabulous, invigorating, encouraging experience. Oh, and the town
brewery makes the best beer. (I hope this will not be taken as a commercial
plug. It's just an enthusiastic reaction and the beer isn't available
outside the country.)

I have some information about the Jewish community that I'd be happy to
share.

Roberta Sheps
Colchester, UK

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