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Robert Guttmann – The Prague Wanderer

Exhibition Reopening at Robert Guttmann Gallery
We are pleased to invite you to reinstallation of the 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. The exhibition is reopened from 21 October 2021.

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. According to testimony from fellow prisoners, Robert Guttmann was shot dead on 14 March 1942 after deliberately jumping onto the barbed-wire fence surrounding the ghetto.

A selection of cultural events and lectures

European Day of Jewish Culture 2021 

The 22nd European Day of Jewish Culture took place on the first Sunday of September this year. The aim of this event is to bring Jewish and non-Jewish people closer together and also to protect the Jewish cultural heritage as an integral part of European history. The Jewish Museum’s Brno branch celebrated this day with a cultural programme that included the opening of an exhibition of work by Valentine Svihalek, an American-Belgian abstract painter of Jewish descent, as well as guided tours of the functionalist-style Agudas Achim Synagogue and examples of Jewish traditions and customs.

Photo Libor Teplý
Painting by Valentine Svihalek

“Jews, History and Culture” follow-up seminar

On 27 August 2021, the Jewish Museum’s Department of Education and Culture organized a follow-up seminar entitled “The Spanish and Jerusalem Synagogues: The Story of the Jewish Community in Modern Times”. This seminar is part of a regular series of seminars for teachers taking part in the “Jews, History and Culture” programme. The introductory paper by Z. Pavlovská (Jewish Museum in Prague) offered insights into 18th- and 19th-century Jewish society and recalled its basic milestones and most prominent figures. The period of modernization also saw the clearance of the Jewish ghetto and, in connection with this, the construction of the Jerusalem/Jubilee Synagogue.

The history of this beautiful monument and the circumstances surrounding its construction were explained by Z. Pavlovská as part of a guided tour of the synagogue. In the afternoon section, Z. Tarant (Faculty of Arts, University of West Bohemia) explored the surprising connection between so-called Western esotericism and antisemitism. The lecture also outlined the interconnection of conspiracy internet platforms and their influence on the spread of antisemitism in the Czech Republic. The seminar ended with a guided tour of the Spanish Synagogue with J. Šplíchalová (Jewish Museum of Prague), who talked about the content of the recently opened exhibition, as well as the interconnection of its individual parts.

Exhibition at the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture: Babi Yar against the Background of 20th-Century History

On the occasion of this year’s 80th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre, the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture hosted an exhibition in cooperation with the Embassy of Ukraine to the Czech Republic. The exhibition tells the story of the Babi Yar ravine in Kyiv during the last century. Originally forming a picturesque landscape, in 1941 it became one of the largest execution sites in the history of the Second World War. In just two days, more than 100,000 people were murdered there, two-thirds of whom were Jews. The exhibition was on view until the end of September. The related commemorative events included a lecture and a subsequent discussion with Tetiana Pastušenková, a historian from the Institute of History at the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, who presented the history of Babi Yar against the background of 20th-century history.
Photo Lucie Křížová

Brno Museum Night

On Saturday 7 August, the Brno branch of the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture became involved for the third time in the Brno Museum Night (this year held in August instead of May). Its hall on Kpt. Jaroše Street was visited by almost two hundred night-time visitors who viewed the touring panel exhibition “Masaryk and the Holy Land”, which is on loan from the Embassy of the State of Israel. This exhibition recalls the journey of the first Czechoslovak president in 1927 to what was then Mandatory Palestine. In addition to President Masaryk’s memorable visit, the exhibition also draws attention to ground-breaking historical milestones in mutual relations, namely the founding of the State of Israel, in which Jan Masaryk and Czechoslovak diplomacy played a key role.
Photo Department for Education and Culture in Brno

The Story of the Czech Torah Scrolls: A Discussion with Jeffrey Ohrenstein

On Thursday 30 September, the Maisel Synagogue in Prague hosted a discussion with Jeffrey Ohrenstein, the Chair of the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London. The topic of conversation with Rabbi David Max was the fascinating story of 1,564 Torah scrolls from Bohemia and Moravia that were sent from Prague to London in 1964 – since when they have been overseen by the Memorial Scrolls Trust, which has made many of them available to Jewish congregations across the world. The discussion took place in connection with the permanent loan of one of the Torah scrolls to the progressive Jewish community Etz Chayim in Prague. The latter is now only the second Czech Jewish community after that of Olomouc to receive a Czech scroll from the Memorial Scrolls Trust.
Photo Lucie Křížová

Touring exhibition “Severed Lives / The Arks of the Maier Family”

“It seems completely unnatural to me that life does not last longer, just some fifty or seventy years. Maybe I’m living all my lives. Maybe one day I’ll create something. I’ll perform and write, or I’ll live. To life beautifully, or I’ll paint. Paintings of the sky and earth, water, a forest, a meadow. I’m lying in bed, breathing. Maybe someone will read this after my death. Then good luck. Why do I think so much about death? Maybe because I’m afraid I won’t be able to do anything. That’s ridiculous! No! I’ll do something. I’ll give birth to children. I’ll write a book, I’ll paint a picture. Dying doesn’t matter. I’ll fight for a good world. That I promise. And I’ll keep my promise.” This is what 17-year-old Ruth Maier wrote in her diary in 1937, whose milestones in life intersected with Moravia, Austria, Norway, and Auschwitz as a result of the political upheavals of the 20th century. Ruth Maier’s diaries, which she kept from the age of thirteen until her arrest, are now part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
Photo Ulrike Garscha
On 6 September, an event was held marking the last day of the double touring exhibition “Severed Lives /  The Arks of the Maier Family” at the Löw Beer Villa in Brno. This show focuses on the story of Ruth Maier, her diaries, and the fate of three generations of her family members. The guest of honour at the event was the Norwegian poet Jan Erik Vold, the author of the first book edition of Ruth Maier’s diaries. The Czech translation of the book was published in January of this year.

After Brno, the touring exhibition moved to Žarošice near Kyjov in South Moravia, which is where the Maier family came from. It will then be presented at various venues across the Czech Republic. The legacy of Ruth Maier was also commemorated on 10 September in her native Vienna, where the park opposite her last home address in Vienna (Obere Donaustrasse 43) was named after her.
Photo Department for Education and Culture in Brno

Summer day city camps

During the summer holidays, the Jewish Museum’s Department for Education and Culture held two day city camps for adventurous kids.In the week of July, the children followed in the footsteps of mythical heroes from early Czech history. They got to know the secluded spots in Prague that are connected with the oldest history of the city. In addition, they went on trips outside the capital, following trails through deep forests and wide meadows like Praotec Čech, the forefather of the Czech nation. Part of each day was also given over to creative activities, puzzle solving and discovering new things.
Photo Lucie Křížová
In the August camp session, the children were able to discover various secrets hidden away in museums. They also had an opportunity to become, at least for a while, artists, curators, lecturers and even conservators. Thanks to helpful colleagues at the Jewish Museum (notably Jan Šíblo), the children were able to look around the paper conservation studio and to try out some of the conservation techniques themselves. They also visited other museums for inspiration and created their own artworks. At the end of the session, they installed their own exhibition with a carefully prepared opening show for their parents.
Photo Lucie Křížová

Other news from the museum

The Jewish Museum in Prague celebrated 115 years since its founding

On Sunday, August 29, we commemorated 115 years since the founding of the The Jewish Museum Association. It was founded in 1906 by dr. Salomon Hugo Lieben (1881–1942) and dr. August Stein (1854–1937, later chairman of the Prague Jewish Community. The purpose of the museum was documentation of the history, traditions and customs of the Jewish population in the Bohemian Lands and preservation of the valuable art objects from the Prague synagogues, which disappeared during the redevelopment of the former Jewish ghetto. Today, there are 40,000 unique collection items and 130,000 rare books in the depositories of the Jewish Museum in Prague, making it one of the most important Jewish museums in the world.

The Jewish Museum in Prague is also an important scientific institution. The research in the fields of Judaism, Jewish history, Jewish art, and persecution during the Shoah is persued by the specialists from the museum. There is an archive and an extensive specialized Judaic library as well as studios for the conservation of textiles, paper and metals. The museum documents the Jewish monuments in the Czech Republic, organizes exhibitions and publishes occasional prints, catalogs, thematic and historical publications, among them since 1965 a professional yearbook and later the magazine Judaica Bohemiae.

It enables full-time study in its library and multimedia center, the Educational and Cultural Center in Prague with a branch in Brno offers concerts and other cultural programs as well as thematic lecture series of domestic and foreign experts. The educational activities of the museum for Czech schools are also important.

The museum's last major project was the extensive reconstruction of the Spanish Synagogue and the preparation of a new, modern exhibition named "Jews in the Czech Lands in the 19th and 20th Centuries", which opened at the end of last year. The Jewish Museum in Prague received a special award in this year's National Competition of Museums Gloria musaealis for this project. The Jewish Museum is one of our most important and also the most visited museum institutions, and during its 150-year history it has received numerous recognitions.

Friedl Dicker-Brandeis among the commemorated women of the Bauhaus school

The project Vergessene Bauhaus-Frauen: Lebensschicksale in der 1930er und 1940er Jahren [Forgotten Bauhaus Women: Fates of Life in the 1930s and 1940s] maps two decades of creative activity by a small fraction of the total number of about 460 female artists who studied at the Bauhaus between 1919 and 1933. The exhibition is on view from 1 October 2021 to 4 January 2022. It is accompanied by an extensive catalogue, which includes a paper (titled Friedl Dicker-Brandeis: Kunst als freies Denken / Art as Free Thought) by the curator of the Jewish Museum’s Visual Arts Collection, Michaela Sidenberg.

It is a joint collaboration by the Bauhaus Museum Weimar (part of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, which brings together numerous memory institutions in the erstwhile cultural centre of Germany) and the nearby University of Erfurt. This project pays tribute to the women who were forgotten because of their Jewish origin or simply because their work did not conform to Nazi aesthetic doctrine.

Among them is Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (b. 1898, Vienna – d. 1944, Auschwitz-Birkenau), who became famous not only for her interior, textile and stage designs and for her non-commissioned work, but also and primarily for her pedagogical work with children. Her teaching method was based on the preparatory course (Vorkurs) that was held at the Bauhaus by one of the most prominent teachers during the early phase of the school’s existence, namely Johann Itten (b. 1888, Wachseldorn – d. 1967, Zurich), under whose guidance Friedl studied in 1919–1923.

In her later work with the children of German and Austrian refugees in Prague in the 1930s and especially in her pedagogical activities in the Terezín ghetto, where she gave drawing classes to children from spring 1943 to early autumn 1944, Friedl managed to transform Itten’s teaching method into a specific tool of creative education from which one can draw inspiration to this day. Her pedagogical legacy is recalled in the exhibition of original children’s drawings that have been selected by, and are on loan from, the Jewish Museum in Prague.

Vergessene Bauhaus-Frauen: Lebensschicksale in der 1930er und 1940er Jahren
1. 10. 2021 — 4. 1. 2022
Bauhaus-Museum Weimar

Marie Mühlstein (19321944)
Analysen alter Meister after Johannes Vermeer van Delft’s “The Wine Glass”, Ghetto Theresienstadt (194344) paper collage, 292 x 248 mm, JMP, acc. no. 130.923

Return of the Rabbinic Bible

In the summer, the rare Hebrew printed book Mikra’ot Gedolot – often called the “Rabbinic Bible” – returned to the Jewish Museum in Prague. Published as a four-volume folio edition in 1516–18 by the prominent Christian printer Daniel Bomberg in Venice, it contains the entire Hebrew Bible – the Torah, the Nevi’im (Prophets), and the Ketuvim (Writings) – as well as leading commentaries by Rashi, Kimhi, Nachmanides and others. The returned edition, which is bound in two books, belonged to the library of the Prague Jewish Religious Community before the Second World War. It was one of that library’s rarest printed books, as noted by the community’s chief librarian Tobias Jakobovits himself in an article he wrote for the 1935 Bulletin of the Prague Jewish Religious Community. Bomberg’s edition of the Hebrew Bible was the most cherished item among the library’s treasures. The community library, which dates back to the 1850s, was confiscated and taken away by the Nazis during the war.

After the war, the library was overseen by the revived Jewish Museum in Prague, which discovered that the library had sustained significant losses, especially among the oldest and rarest printed books. The Jewish Museum’s library department is endeavouring to trace and recover these lost items with a view to restoring as much of the original collection as possible. Its ongoing successes are always featured in the Jewish Museum’s newsletter and on its website. Provenance identification of the Rabbinic Bible was achieved on the basis of the Prague Jewish Religious Community Library book stamp, and also thanks to a record in the library’s pre-war catalogue of Hebraica. The four-volume book turned up at Sotheby’s Auction House, which brokered negotiations with the consignor, the Valmadonna Trust Library. These negotiations led to a recognition of the original ownership of the volumes and to an agreement that they would be returned to the Jewish Museum in Prague.

The Museum wishes to express its gratitude to the trustees of the Valmadonna Stiftung for their willingness to agree the return without consideration and without further enquiry of the Daniel Bomberg printing of ARBA’AH VE-ESRIM 1516-17, acknowledging it as having been the property of the Jewish Community of Prague pre-WWII and subsequently acquired in good faith by Valmadonna only many years later. The Museum further acknowledges the contribution made by the Valmadonna Stiftung, and in particular by its Custodian the late Jack Lunzer to the broader public recognition of its significance within the Daniel Bomberg canon of Renaissance Hebrew printed works. We would also like to thank the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, namely Lucia Hindlsová and Arnošt Kareš, as well as Robert Řehák, for their assistance in delivering the book to Prague, which took place through the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in New York. This rare book invaluably enriches the Museum’s collections.
The opening words of the Songs of Songs in an ornamental frame, coloured woodcarving

The Yerusha Project at the Jewish Museum in Prague

On 31 August 2021, the Yerusha Project, supported by the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, came to an end at the Jewish Museum in Prague. This project aims to create a European database of archival holdings and collections relating to Jewish history and culture. The research for the Yerusha project was linked to the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) project, supported by the European Union. The EHRI project seeks to improve access to information about archival holdings and collections related to the Holocaust, for example through various projects, workshops or fellowship programmes for research in different European countries. In both projects, databases will be created from the data collected and will be made available on the organisations’ web portals. These databases are intended to make it easier for researchers to identify and access relevant archival material. More information about the projects can be found at www.ehri-project.eu and at www.yerusha.eu.

This was the third successfully completed Yerusha project under the auspices of the Jewish Museum in Prague. The focus of the project this time was on regional archives, mainly in Central Bohemia, but also partly in other areas of Bohemia and selected archives in South Moravia, which were not covered in previous projects. As the previous projects had successfully covered archives in Moravia (the first Yerusha project in 2014-2016 covered the topic of Jews in the Sudetenland and Jewish political communities in Moravia) and in Slovakia, the Yerusha 3 project filled in the missing gaps. In terms of time scale, the project focused on archival material from the period between 1848 and 1939. The EHRI project collected descriptions for sources related to the so-called "final solution of the Jewish question" – from the application of the first anti-Jewish regulations and the period of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the ghettoization of the population, and the deportations through to post-war sources documenting the return home of survivors.

The project is built upon archival collection descriptions. In total, 335 descriptions of fonds containing Judaica or created by the activities of Jewish organizations, associations and communities were collected in cooperation with 29 archives (including the National Archives in Prague). Given the concentration of most of the archival material in Prague, the project has yielded many surprising discoveries of fonds about which researchers may not have previously had information. Archival descriptions were created by archivists and historians and will be placed in the aforementioned online database. The database was created in English and is therefore also accessible to foreign researchers. Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, due to which the project was delayed, its successful completion provides researchers with a new source of information and a handy tool to survey archival holdings containing Judaica that might otherwise have been overlooked.

The return of a lost book – Hanhagat Adam

Lost from the Jewish Museum’s library (call no. 2696) during the Second World War, the book Hanhagat Adam (printed in Neuhof Bey, Warsaw, 1784) turned up in an online auction in November 2020. The Jewish Museum asserted a claim with respect to the book and, on 30 July 2021, it was returned. The author of the book is the 17th century Rabbi Yehuda Leib Lifshitz, chairman of the rabbinical court in Údlice, northern Bohemia. It is a small-format book that belongs to the genre of Kabbalistic ethical literature. Its title can be translated as “Human Behaviour”. The work draws on the Zohar and the Lurian Kabbalah, and its sources include the Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi J. Horowitz. It is intended for those who want to “do the will of their Creator from morning till night”. It consists of 41 short chapters, the themes of which include prayer, food, and liturgy. The book was catalogued and included in the Jewish Museum’s library collection, where it can be found by its original call number.

115 years since the dedication of the Jerusalem (Jubilee) Synagogue

The Jerusalem Synagogue (also known as the Jubilee Synagogue in honour of the 50th anniversary of the accession of Franz Joseph I to the Austrian throne) is one of the youngest synagogues in Prague. It was built in 1905–06 as a replacement for the the Zigeuner, Great-Court and New synagogues, which had been demolished during the clearance of Prague’s Jewish ghetto. The Jerusalem Synagogue was built to a design by the Viennese architect Wilhelm Stiassny, combining Art Nouveau and Moorish styles. The construction project was overseen by the builder Alois Richter. The dedication of the synagogue took place on 16 September 1906, on the holiday of Simchat Torah. Reform services were held in the synagogue until the beginning of the Second World War II. The last Jewish wedding took place there in April 1941.

The synagogue was closed down in September 1941 at the behest of the Deputy Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich, and was then used as a warehouse for confiscated Jewish property. The synagogue resumed its activities immediately after the war. It is the only one of the eight synagogues designed by Stiassny in which regular services are still held to this day. A Torah ark curtain in the Jewish Museum’s textile collection serves as a permanent reminder of the synagogue’s dedication on 16 September 1906. Embroidered in metal thread of gold colour, the inscription on this textile reads: “A gift in memory of the dedication of this synagogue, given by the esteemed Leah, the widow of the noble KH Aaron Rosenbaum, and daughter of the noble KH Hayyim Taussig and his wife Yentl, of blessed memory, in the year 666 according to the minor era (1906).”
Interior of the Jubilee (Jerusalem) Synagogue with the curtain that was donated by Leah, the widow of Aaron Rosenbaum, on the occasion of its dedication in 1906

VIP Visits

The new Israeli Ambassador Anna Azari visited the Jewish Museum in Prague on Wednesday, 25 August. After meeting the museum's director Leo Pavlát, she visited the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Pinkas Synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue, accompanied by the head of the Department for Education and Culture, Zuzana Pavlovská.
Photo Josef Mirovský
On 27 August 2021, there was a tour of inspection in Prague by the chairs of ICOM’s International Committees and members of ICOM’s Executive Board and Secretariat. They were welcomed by the Jewish Museum director, Leo Pavlát, and briefly visited the Jewish cemetery. The tour of inspection took place as part of the ICOM Prague International Symposium 2021, which was held on 25–28 August. The main themes of the symposium were the process of changing Icom’s definition of a museum and the issue of sustainability. The symposium was part of preparations for the 26th ICOM General Conference, which will take place next year in Prague. The Jewish Museum in Prague is currently working on preparations for this conference with ICOM Czech Republic.
Photo ICOM Czech Republic
The Ambassador of India J. E. Hemant Kotalwar and his wife visited the Jewish Museum in Prague on Thursday, 2 September. Accompanied by the head of the Department for Education and Culture, Zuzana Pavlovská, they visited the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Pinkas Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue.
Photo Dana Cabanová
The victims of the Shoah was commemorated in the Old Jewish Cemetery on Sunday, 5 September. The prayer of Ernest Bloch ("From Jewish Life" No. 1) was performed there by the world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who was in Prague at the invitation of the Strings of Autumn festival.
Photo Austin Mann

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Editor: Tomáš Tetiva
Photographs: JMP unless otherwise stated