Bubny train station saw darkest moments of Prague's history
The run-down Praha-Bubny train station is now a fairly insignificant stop on commuter train routes going to and from destinations west of Prague. But in the early 1940’s, this was the setting for one of the darkest and cruelest chapters in Czech history. Now there are plans to create a memorial to victims of the Holocaust right in this station.
Helga Hošková-Weissová was 12 years old when her family was called up for one of the first transports out of Prague, heading to Terezín. Bubny was her last stopping point in her home city.
“I remember it quite clearly. It was December of ’41. It was a freezing winter. It was in the morning and it was snowing. We walked from today’s Veletrzni palace with our luggage all the way here, and I think we went straight to the platform. They put us into the cars in groups of 50.
Helga, who is now an artist, drew pictures of what she saw and kept a diary describing her war-time experiences, which was published in book form last year. She still has very clear memories of her departure from Bubny.
Helga was lucky to have stayed together with her mother throughout the war. After a few years in Terezín, they were deported to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, then Freiburg and later Mauthausen. The 16-year old Helga returned to Prague with her mother in 1945.
This month, an NGO called Památník Šoa, organized a small exhibition at the Bubny train station, which they eventually want to turn into a place of remembrance for the Czech victims of the holocaust. Through striking audio-visual presentations, photographs, and documents the exhibit entitled Kaddish allowed visitors to get a glimpse of the experience of those thousands of Jews and others for whom Bubny was the last stop before a terrifying journey to their death.
Pavel Štingl from the organization says despite this well-known chapter in the city’s history, Prague does not have a place where these events and their consequences are being discussed, which is why they want to create a new center at the Bubny train station:
The Kaddish exhibit in June was on the one hand a presentation of what the future Shoa Memorial could look like, but also it was an opportunity for the organizers to begin a discussion about what should be created there and how to attract a wider audience. Artists, holocaust survivors and visitors took part in afternoon discussions about what a modern holocaust memorial should be like.
For Pavel Štingl, who is a documentary filmmaker, the topic of the holocaust is not a new, it is both part of his family history and his work as well. But he still finds it almost incredible how the Shoa Memorial project has come together so far.
As he looked for a space that could be appropriate for housing a center for discussion and remembrance, he fell on unexpected good luck.
The somewhat ramshackle area in the Holešovice neighborhood where the Praha-Bubny station is located is slated to be turned into a large-scale modern development, with offices, residential housing, and shopping centers. Pavel and his colleagues were surprised to find out that their plans for the Shoa memorial did not interfere with the developer’s plans, at least so far. A commercial project of that scale has to legally contain a cultural element, and a holocaust memorial center at Bubny would fulfill the developer’s obligations.
“I want it to be a sort of ‘contact center’, I think that’s a better definition than a memorial. I want people to want to come here, not only as part of mandatory school trips. I want there to be discussion about topics that are relevant, that would make the people who will live here in the new buildings want to cross the street, go under the tracks and visit this meeting place.”