On-line exhibitions

  • "I no longer have to be afraid of my neighbours": the life of Ivana Beranová (Fantlová) and her family

    "I'm glad I've had this opportunity to recall my parents in this way. By remembering them, I think I've prolonged their lives, and the lives of their parents. They will not be forgotten. I'm happy that you're preserving the memory of them." Ivana Beranová's words introduce this archival materials presentation, which comprises excerpts from a biographical interview she provided to the Jewish Museum in Prague, along with unique photographs and documents from her family archive. Personal accounts from both Ivana and her mother, Marta Fantlová (whose testimony was recorded 16 years earlier) appear in the texts that accompany the photographs and documents. Her mother's words are cited in quotation marks.

    By focusing on Ivana Beranová's life, the online presentation "I no longer have to be afraid of my neighbours" intends to highlight the impact of major historical events of the 20th century on Jewish families living under the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes. Based on interviews with two generations of a single family, the presentation seeks to outline how Shoah survivors and their children (the second generation) have dealt with their traumas. It also draws attention to life in the Jewish community as a locus of common experience, sharing and close relations, as well as something that is more or less compelled to identify itself against the wider society. Despite the horrific attempt to liquidate the Jews and its traumatic impact on survivors and the next generations, the story of Ivana Beranová's family points to the continuity of Jewish life in the Czech Republic, to the sense of belonging in the Jewish community and to the preservation of Jewish traditions.

    The online presentation also highlights the work of the Jewish Museum's Shoah History Department and its Oral History Collection, in this case reflecting the importance of testimonies from several generations of a single family. The Jewish Museum's oral history collection has been carefully put together since 1990 and is one of the largest and most diverse of its kind in the Czech Republic. At present, it includes more than 1,300 testimonies. The collection also contains valuable material from family archives that has been provided by the interviewees. Through oral history, we aim to document the lives of Jews in this country throughout the 20th century. Our focus is not only on recollections of the Shoah period, but also on the post-war experience of the first and second generations of Jewish survivors. We therefore welcome other testimonies and related material.

  • Going into Battle with Prayer. The Story of Rabbi Hanuš Rezek

    During World War II Jews from Czechoslovakia significantly participated in the fight against Nazi Germany. They were entering the Czechoslovak foreign troops both in the East and the West. The estimates vary, but their representation in the United Kingdom in 1943 accounted for approximately 32% of the soldiers, in the Soviet Union in 1942 around 35% and in the Middle East they were supposed to form as much as 50% of all soldiers. A considerable proportion of Jews in the Czechoslovak Foreign Army was due to their significant number among the refugees. They were mostly leaving Czechoslovakia via Poland to France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Jewish soldiers fought in the famous battles of World War II - at Tobruk, Sokolov, Dukla and Dunkirk. Their active participation in the foreign resistance was a sign of allegiance to the Czechoslovak state proving their full civic responsibility.

    With the online exhibition "Going into Battle with Prayer" we want, on the background of selected documents and photographs, to honor JUDr. Hanuš Rezek (Rebenwurzel), the military field rabbi in the Czechoslovak Foreign Army who served in the Middle East and later in the UK. His psychological and moral support was being recalled even after many decades following the Second World War by numerous former soldiers in their testimonies. In addition to daily tasks associated with religious practice, Rezek was in an intense contact with individual soldiers and used to have long talks with them in which he tried to encourage and motivate them in their struggle for the liberation of Czechoslovakia. After the Second World War Rezek returned to Prague, where he tried hard to restore the Jewish community and religious life. He was also at the birth of the organization The Circle of Jewish Participants in the Czechoslovak Resistance, and sought, among other things, to refute the false claim that the Jews had not participated actively in the fight against the Nazi Germany. Hanuš Rezek died tragically in a plane crash in December of 1948.

    We would like to thank Mr. Yehoshua Rezek, son of Hanuš Rezek, for providing digital materials to the Shoah History Department of the Jewish Museum in Prague.

    The exhibition was curated by Magdalena Sedlická.

  • I regard the parents as the heroes

    Zuzana Marešová is one of “Winton's children” who managed to escape Nazi persecution in 1939, thanks to the unprecedented efforts of Nicholas Winton and his colleagues. Her story has a happy end – unlike many of the other children, her parents also made it to England.

    In honour of Nicholas Winton, who died on 1 July 2015 at the age of 106, we are publishing excerpts from an interview that Zuzana gave to the Jewish Museum in Prague, together with unique photos and documents from her family archive. Sir Nicholas would certainly have wished that we continue to ponder the status of refugees in Czech history and in the present-day world.
  • The unKnown

    The Photo Archive of the Jewish Museum in Prague contains hundreds of photographs about which very little was known just a few years ago. These include more than 700 portrait photographs of about 400 people (some of whom appear in several photos); to date, most of these have been described briefly with the caption “Photo Workshop, 1942–1944”.
    In addition, some of the archive records have been found to include the surname, first name or initial (e.g., W. Lang) of the portrait subject. The subjects were often referred to as “unknown man”, “unknown woman” or “unknown child”, hence the project title The unKnown. The use of the capital letter “K” is connected to the initial hypothesis and expectation that it will be possible to find the identity of many of the people in the photographs, so that the prefix “un-” can be deleted later.
    Researchers were often requesting some of these photographs as illustrative material for their work on Auschwitz and other concentration camps. But what if that little girl with the glasses, bow in hair and Jewish star sewn onto her clothes was never in a concentration camp and survived the war in Prague?
    Initial research led us to make the following hypotheses: the people portrayed in the photographs were employees of the wartime Prague Jewish community or their relatives, they mostly came from mixed marriages, and the photographs were taken mainly in Prague between 1942 and 1945, perhaps by one of the five photographers who were active at the local Jewish community in this period. These assumptions – apart from the question of authorship – have been confirmed for more than 150 of the subjects who have been identified so far (i.e., more than a third).
    The main reason for taking these photographs was the need to keep records of wartime community staff on so-called “staff photographs”. They were also used for various identity cards and perhaps, in part, as a way of documenting a difficult period.
    The search for the identity of people in these photographs involves various means. It is often based on findings from different archive materials, internet searches, online genealogy sites, social networks and telephone directories, as well as information gained from meeting with eyewitnesses.
    Family archives, in particular, provide a hidden wealth of details that can be of significant help when charting the period in question. Some of the results of research undertaken in such archives are available in this online exhibition.

    Jewish Museum in Prague would like to thank the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, the Prague Jewish Community Foundation and the Prague Jewish Museum Foundation for supporting this project in 2012 and 2013.

    project conceived and co-ordinated by: Martin Jelínek
    email: martin.jelinek@jewishmuseum.cz , tel: +420 222 749 270
    translation: Stephen Hattersley
  • Terezín collection on-line!

    During WWII, the ghetto Terezín (Theresienstadt) was one of the major sites of suffering and death for the Jews of the Bohemian Lands and several European countries. Out of approximately 150 000 prisoners, over 30 000 died there between 1941 and 1945 due to starvation, poor hygiene conditions, overcrowding and disease. Another 90 000 were deported to the ghettos and extermination camps in the East, and only roughly four thousand of them returned.

    Many of the original documents of the Jewish “self-administration” were destroyed, on the orders of the Nazis, at the end of the war. However, already during the existence of the ghetto, several individual prisoners or groups set out to save documents; and some of those who survived continued after the war. With the Terezín archival material fragmented and spread in several archives around the world, the Terezín collection in the Jewish Museum in Prague became one of the major resources for any scholar researching the history of the ghetto and the fate of Jews from Bohemia and Moravia.

    Between 2009 and 2012, with the kind support of the Claims Conference, the collection has been completely digitised and re-catalogued. This exhibition covers some of the major events and problems in the history of the ghetto and illustrates the types of documents that can be found in the online collection. The exhibition was curated by Magdalena Sedlická, Wolfgang Schellenbacher, and Michal Frankl.
  • “You are now my only hope.” The Goldberg Family letters between occupied “Protectorate” and England

    The collection of letters from their family to brothers Oskar, Moses (Max) and Norbert (Bubik, Bertie) who, after the occupation of Bohemian Lands (western part of Czechoslovakia), made their way through Poland to the United Kingdom, provides a unique glimpse of the communication of a family divided by the Holocaust. While the brothers managed to escape and establish themselves abroad, their mother and sisters with children stayed behind in the occupied “Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia“. Their father lived with his parents in the town of Oświęcim (Auschwitz). They were all deported and murdered later.

    The letters express the emotions of the divided family, discuss business matters as well private plans. But it’s mainly the emigration and the desperate pleas for visa and travel documents which illustrate the difficulty facing Jews trying to escape from Nazi occupied Europe. The family already had experience of being refugees. During the First World War, the parents fled from Oświęcim from the approaching Russian army, in fear of pogroms, to Ostrava in Czechoslovakia. During the WWII, however, there was no escape for most of Jews in East-Central Europe.

    This exhibition was created as a part of the cooperation between a group of enthusiastic volunteers from the Kingston, Surbiton and District Synagogue (“The Kingston Ostrava Group”), in South West London and the Jewish Museum in Prague. The Jewish Museum would like to express warm thanks for the kind support of Mr. Norbert Goldberg.