Due to a state of emergency declared by the government of the Czech Republic, all venues and exhibitions, the library and the archives of the Jewish Museum in Prague are closed as of 13 March 2020. This measure remains in effect until further notice. Thank you for your understanding.
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Photo from the online exhibition "I no longer have to be afraid of my neighbours": the life of Ivana Beranová (Fantlová) and her family
Robert Guttmann - The Prague Wanderer
exhibition at the Robert Guttmann Gallery
When the Jewish Museum in Prague reopens after the coronavirus, visitors to the museum's Robert Guttmann Gallery will be once again able to see an exhibition of works by the popular early 20th century Prague naive painter Robert Guttmann at the eponymous gallery. The exhibition features Guttmann’s paintings and drawings from the collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague, as well as period photographs and documents which the museum has managed to collect over the years.
In the inter-war period Guttmann was better known in Prague for his distinct appearance than for his pictures – a thin figure with a large head, handlebar moustache and rich mane of dark black hair, wearing a blue velvet jacket and an enormous green cravat. Guttmann sketched pictures in bars and cafés and even on the train, selling them without much ado for a few crowns to anyone who was interested. Hardly anyone at the time, however, thought that his work had any genuine artistic value. It attracted attention only for its eccentric and unusual qualities. The pictures provide an insight into a secluded, sensitive soul which was drawn to nature, to the integrity of childhood and to a profound faith. Guttmann’s eccentricity and defiance may have been a way of protecting his fragile, sensitive world from outside encroachment. As an artist, he refused to be a mere reproducer of reality and defended his right to his own creative self-expression.
The Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 put an end to the genial world Guttmann had known. On 16 October 1941 Guttmann was put on the first transport from Prague to the Lodz/Litzmannstadt ghetto. Ghetto life must have been incomprehensible to Guttmann, a person who had criss-crossed half of Europe on foot. Robert Guttmann died of hunger and exhaustion in the ghetto on 14 March 1942.
Robert Guttmann Gallery, U Staré školy 3, Prague 1
Celebration of Robert Guttmann's 60th birthday, graphite pencil and watercolour on paper, Prague, 1940
A selection of cultural events and lectures
Year of Jewish remembrance in Jevíčko
Throughout this year, Jevíčko, a small-town in the Pardubice region will be commemorating its former Jewish population. By the mid-19th century Jews accounted for more than a third of local residents, with an established community, rabbinate and school. The project Year of Jewish Remembrance in the renovated synagogue was launched by the director of the Jewish Museum in Prague, Leo Pavlát whose mother Antonie, born Bleierová, came from Jaroměřice near Jevíčko. The event took place on 23rd January to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, where most of the Bleier family’s lives were to end. The gala evening continued with a discussion in which Leo Pavlát spoke about the importance of Jewish culture and its contribution to national culture, his own literary activities, and his experience as a diplomat in Israel. During the year there will be many more events taking place within the project which is, along with the Jewish Museum in Prague, also supported by the Jewish Community in Brno and the Archive of Visual History at Charles University. Among other things, the town hall plans to reinstall a list of the Ten Commandments on the synagogue wall, unveil a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, and publish a book about the Jewish community in Jevíčko.
January gala concert
On January 27th 2020, in association with the Jewish Community in Prague, a traditional gala concert was held at the Maisel Synagogue to mark the International Day of Holocaust Remembrance and Prevention of Crimes Against Humanity. Opening addresses were given by František Bányai, Chairman of the Jewish Community in Prague and Leo Pavlát, Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague. The concert featured compositions by Ervín Schulhoff and Antonín Dvořák, performed by the Zemlinsky Quartet with guests Dominika Weiss Hošková (cello) and Jiří Pinkas (viola). The gala concert was sponsored by the Foundation for Holocaust Victims.
Travelling exhibition 'I Have Not Seen a Butterfly' in the Senate
To coincide with the International Day of Holocaust Remembrance, a JMP travelling exhibition titled ‘I Didn’t See a Butterfly: Drawings by Children from the Terezín Ghetto’ was displayed in the Czech Republic’s Parliamentary Senate. On Monday 27th January 2020, at the conclusion of the commemorative event organized by the Foundation for Holocaust Victims, the head of the Department for Education and Culture, Zuzana Pavlovská, introduced the exhibition to guests. With visual aids, she brought the audience closer to the world of the children imprisoned in the Terezín ghetto during the Second World War. A particular mention was made to talented young writers such as Petr Ginz and Hanuš Hachenburg, and the well-known story of Hana Brady, whose legacy has been preserved thanks to the drawings she created in Terezín under the tutelage of Austrian artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. The exhibition is dedicated to the almost 11,000 children and the above mentioned Viennese painter – who created an unique collection of drawings between 1942-1944, amounting to 4,500 works – and pays tribute to all the artists who died in the Terezín Ghetto, as well as those who survived, for example the Czech academic painter Helga Hošková-Weissová.
Photo (c) Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic
‘Warsaw: A Divided City / Memory Connects Us’
To mark the International Day of Holocaust Remembrance on 29th January 2020, a documentary film, ‘Warsaw: A Divided City’, was presented by its creator, Erik Bednarski, a Canadian director and historian with Polish roots in the small cinema of the Municipal Library in Prague. The documentary, depicting Warsaw’s fate in World War Two, was hosted by the Polish Institute in Prague, in cooperation with the Jewish Museum in Prague. The film uses freshly discovered archival footage, shot in 1941 by a young Pole who risked his life in doing so. The screening was followed by a discussion with Mr Bednarski and JMP historian Jana Šplíchalová.
Photo (c) Polish Institute in Prague
Travelling exhibition 'Jewish Traditions and Customs' in Prachatice
In February 2020, the JMP’s Department of Education and Culture loaned a travelling exhibition titled ‘Jewish Traditions and Customs’, to the Prachatice Public Benefit Organization, KreBul. On 17th and 18th February 2020, Zuzana Pavlovská, head of the Department of Education and Culture and lecturer Martina Kutková, organized five workshops in conjunction with the exhibition. More than 100 students and members of the public researched Jewish traditions and customs, specifically Areas of Daily Life, Weddings, Shabbat, Household, and Passover. The participants had the chance to study Judaica related to each topic. The workshops were carried out within the framework of the ‘Memory of Humanity’ project, which is financially supported by the South Bohemian Region and the Foundation for Holocaust Victims.
Parallel worlds of Karol Efraim Sidon
In February 2020, the Maisel Synagogue hosted Karol Efraim Sidon, the Czech Republic’s Chief Rabbi. Mr Sidon talked about his career as a writer and playwright. A recent recipient in autumn 2019 of the State Prize for Literature, the host led the audience through his literary career from the outset through to the creation of the extensive tetralogy ‘Where the Foxes Say Goodnight’. An informed open interview was led by journalist Daniel Konrád from the news portal Aktualne.cz.
‘I Know What Happened’: third year of memorial programme
In February 2020, the Prague Department of Education and Culture presented the third year of the extraordinary ‘I Know What Happened’ program, dedicated to the memory of all those who died during the Second World War. Pupils and students of the five participating schools learnt about life in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and, based on their own research, about the life of children in the Terezín Ghetto. During the workshop, girls attended a drawing lesson conducted by Viennese painter Friedl Dicker-Brandeis in her studio, designing costumes and a poster for the children's opera Brundibár. Boys became editors of their own magazine and, like the boys from Home No. 1 in the Terezín ghetto, published an issue of the magazine, focusing on their favourite and most engaging topics. By studying the magazines and drawings of the Terezín children, the pupils and students got to know their life stories. The program was concluded by a visit to the Shoah Memorial from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in the Pinkas Synagogue. The aim of the program was to encourage participants to learn more about the Second World War, an event which must not be forgotten. In support of this aim the participants of the ‘Life in the Ghetto’ workshop have been encouraged to present their works of art. The Department of Education and Culture will be collecting these works up to the end of May 2020, and will present them at the end of the 2019/2020 school year in the Auditorium of the Department for Education and Culture. It will be followed by a discussion with a witness.
Theatre performance of ‘Joseph’s Story’
The ground floor of the building on Kpt. Jaroše street in the centre of Brno – usually the venue for cultural and educational programs – is undergoing an extensive renovation this year. As a result, the JMP’s Department of Education and Culture in the city has sought temporary residency at the Jewish cemetery in Židenice. On 12th February the lecture hall in the former gravedigger’s house, with its permanent exhibition of Judaica, synagogue textiles and ancient tombstones, hosted the theatre company Můj Domov from Dolní Kounice. Two performances with hand-made puppets were given, a morning version for schools and an evening event for the general public. The audience witnessed the Old Testament story of Jacob's twelve sons: sibling rivalry and jealousy, the selling of Joseph to Egypt, Potiphar, Pharaoh, the interpretation of dreams and, above all, forgiveness.
Discourse at the Maisel Synagogue: Jews, Socialism, Communism
The last public event before the temporary closure of the JMP took place at the Maisel Synagogue on the evening of 11th March. Journalist Jan Fingerland, journalist Jefim Fištejn from Radio Svoboda, journalist and documentary maker Martin Groman, and economist Jan Tauber discussed what led many Jews to engage in various left-wing movements in Europe and America in the 19th and 20th centuries, and how to view this phenomenon from a 21st century perspective.
Other news from the museum
EHRI publishes its online edition of early Holocaust testimony
In contrast to widespread perceptions, the events of the Holocaust were not forgotten after the end of the World War II. The new European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) online edition of early Holocaust testimony shows how Jewish survivors and activists created an extraordinary archive documenting the persecution while its memory was still raw and unprocessed. Even before establishing new homes and while still searching for their families and suffering from illness and deprivation, survivors documented their deportation, the killing of their families and communities, and listed the names of perpetrators.
An estimated 18,000 testimonies have been recorded across Europe, in Palestine/Israel, the United States and elsewhere. Some were collected in large-scale documentation projects, others were initiatives of individuals who paid tribute to the Jewish communities that were decimated during the Holocaust. Some were based on an elaborate methodology, whereas others were compiled with limited knowledge and only short preparation.
For EHRI, early documentation is an important subject which aligns with EHRI’s critical approach to Holocaust sources and their provenance, as well as its focus on “victims’” documents.
While containing only 89 carefully selected and edited documents, the EHRI Edition of Early Holocaust Testimony draws attention to the underused testimonies originating from several countries. It brings together testimonies from five archives (the Wiener Holocaust Library in London, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Hungarian Jewish Archives in Budapest and the Jewish Museum in Prague). Next to the English translation, the edition also includes all documents in their original languages. As a digital publication, it is a work in progress, which will be extended in the future.
Photo (c) Wiener Library, London
Jews, History and Culture’: seminars for teachers
On Monday, 9th March 2020, the Prague Department of Education and Culture organized this year's first seminar for teachers. The topic of the seminar was Anti-Semitism and the Shoah. A total of 25 educators from all over the Czech Republic attended a workshop titled ‘Stereotypes’ which focused on the phenomenon of contemporary anti-Semitism and modern teaching trends, attended two lectures, titled ‘History of Anti-Semitism’ given by the Director of the JMP Leo Pavlát, and ‘Mobile Gas Vans and Nazi Technology of the Final Solution’ by historian Vojtěch Kyncl. The teachers also listened to a performance of the Malach Centre for Visual History from one of the coordinators, Jakub Mlynář, and took a guided tour of the Pinkas Synagogue, a memorial to the victims of the Shoah from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The seminar was concluded by a discussion with a witness, Mrs. Evelina Merová.
Due to the ongoing reconstruction of our Brno branch premises, on 9th March the Museum of Romani Culture hosted the Moravian seminar from the Jews, History and Culture series, focusing on the topic of the Holocaust. The program comprised an interactive workshop ‘We Will Not Forget 2020’, based mainly on the memories of witnesses, two lectures, the screening of two documentaries and a discussion with Mrs. Alexandra Strnadová, a member of Brno Jewish Community (ŽOB). The seminar was attended by 14 teachers and 5 museum educators from Brno museums. We would like to thank our colleagues from the Museum of Romani Culture for their help in organising the seminar and for a fine lecture given by historian Anna Míšková.
Exhibition guides for visitors with special needs
As part of the ‘Support for Mentally and Physically Disabled Visitors to the Jewish Museum in Prague’ project, handled by the Prague Department of Education and Culture, various aids, such as the Visual Exhibition Guide, Museum Accessibility Guide (Sensory Map), have been created.
After consulting with experts from the National Institute for Autism (NAUTIS), a body providing assistance to people with autism spectrum disorders and their families, some of the facilities for autistic people have been further adjusted according to their needs. The entire program has been tested on trial tours with experts from NAUTIS and their clients, with museum staff receiving special training. All above mentioned facilities are now in the final stages of preparation.
With its ‘Support for Mentally and Physically Disabled Visitors to the Jewish Museum in Prague’ program, and its specially prepared facilities, the Jewish Museum in Prague has joined several world-famous museums already supporting these schemes, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the British Museum in London.
As a result of their positive experience with the ‘Support for Mentally and Physically Disabled Visitors of the Jewish Museum in Prague’, the National Institute for Autism NAUTIS has nominated our museum for the APLAUS Award. The Jewish Museum in Prague has recently received an Honorable Mention for this nomination.
Jews in the Czech Lands, volume 7
This is a Czech-language almanac containing contributions from the 7th annual seminar on the history of Jews in Bohemia, organized in October 2018 by the Jewish Museum in Prague in cooperation with the State Regional Archive in Třeboň . Like the previous seminars - held in Liberec in 2006, Nýrsko in 2008, Tachov in 2010, Trutnov in 2012, Teplice in 2014 and Kadaň in 2016 - the Třeboň seminar focused primarily on contemporary issues with an emphasis on the history of Jews living in border regions. Of specific interest was the organization and legal status of Jewish religious communities from the mid-19th century until the Second World War. Many archivists have continued to evaluate this aspect of Jewish history, preserved in both Czech and foreign archives. In this instance the study was enhanced by materials regarding the history of the Jews in the Czech lands made available from the Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. Also of note is the result of research into the fate of Czechoslovak Jews who fell victim to political repression in the USSR, obtained, inter alia, from Russian and Ukrainian archives. As in previous years, the latest almanac contains articles on the Holocaust period, primarily data collected regarding the fate of Jews from border areas. There are also regional themes and records of the documentation of Jewish cemeteries and an article dedicated to Jewish sigillography (study of seals).
Matanyahu Englman, State Comptroller and Ombudsman for the State of Israel, and Sara Shaul, Director of the International Department of the State Comptroller and Ombudsman of the State of Israel, accompanied by other officials, visited the Museum on 26th February. The visit included tours of the Maisel Synagogue, the Pinkas Synagogue, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Old-New Synagogue.