Czechs mark Holocaust Remembrance Day

Yom HaShoah, 2007, photo:

Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day victims - a day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished during the Second World War - was marked in many parts of the Czech Republic - in synagogues, at public gatherings and in private, by families whose lives were directly affected by the Holocaust. Anyone passing through Prague’s Náměstí Míru on Wednesday could stop to take part in a public reading of the names of Holocaust victims. The event was organised by the Terezín Initiative Institute, the Czech Union of Jewish Youth and the Foundation for Holocaust Victims. I caught up with one of the organizers, Michal Frankl, and asked him to say a few words about this event:

Michal Frankl
“What we are doing here at Náměstí Míru in Prague is, and that’s how this event differs from the other Yom HaShoah events, is that we claim a part of the public place, a square that doesn’t have anything to do with the Holocaust.

“And why we are doing it? We are doing it in order to show that the Holocaust is not just something that should be commemoretad in synagogues or concentration camps but it is something that relates to the public and it is part of Czech history. It is also part of Prague’s history and of this neighbourhood, Královské Vinohrady, which used to have a large Jewish population.”

Obviously you are doing doing it to commemorate the victims but do you have other reasons to organize this event?

“The other reason is that we want to show that the case of racial persecution and the attempt to segregate Jews from non-Jews during WWII is still relevant, that it may be related to some other cases of racism that we can witness these days. In the booklets that we distribute we try to show the number of anti-Jewish measures that try to separate Jews from non-Jews.

“That’s why the symbol of this years’ Yom HaShoah is a calendar in order to illustrate the quick pace in which these measures and laws were issued. Besides this we want to show that many Jews resisted this attempt of segregation. Many Jews tried to defend themselves, to keep their own space and dignity.”

Who can take part in the reading of the victims’ names?

“Everybody is invited to take part; to come and read a few names. People can sit down and talk with us. There is also a small bookshelf with books from the Terezín Memorial and other books about the Holocaust. People are invited to stay for a while and learn something about the Holocaust.”

Why do you mark Holocaust Remebrance Day on this particular day?

“April 30 doesn’t have any particular meaning. Yom HaShoah is on the 27th of Nissan, according to the Hebrew calendar, which relates to the beginning of the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. It’s a Holocaust Remembrance Day that relates to the fates of Jews and it is mainly commemorated in Israel.”