Jewish industrialist Emil Kolben commemorated in Prague

Emil Kolben, photo: free domain

Tribute has been paid to the great Czech industrialist Emil Kolben, with the unveiling of a plaque at his former Prague home on Wednesday morning. Kolben, who died in the Holocaust, co-founded one of the country’s most important electrical engineering companies – and today a street and metro station in the capital bear his name.

Emil Kolben,  photo: free domain
The mayors of Prague 9 and 10 districts unveiled the plaque on Emil Kolben’s former family home in Vinohrady. The industrialist had close ties to both districts – Vysočany in Prague 9 was the location of Kolben’s first engineering firm that later developed into ČKD, one of the largest industrial companies in then Czechoslovakia.

Vinohrady, in Prague 10, meanwhile, was where he and his family moved in the early 20th century; they lived there until they were deported to the Terezín concentration camp in 1943. Bohumil Zoufalík is the district’s mayor.

“It makes me very happy to commemorate Emil Kolben in this way. It highlights the history of Prague 10, and Kolben and his former villa shows how many successful people lived here in the past.”

Emil Kolben, a native of Strančice outside the capital, and a graduate of Prague’s German Technical University, spent years in the US where he became the chief engineer at Thomas Edison’s laboratories in New Jersey.

Photo: free domain
After his return to Prague, he founded his first company in 1896 which gradually developed into the engineering giant ČKD. However, in 1943 the Nazis deported the 81-year-old magnate to the Terezín ghetto, where he died three weeks later. In total, 26 members of his family were killed in the Holocaust.

One of Kolben’s grandsons lived in the Art Nouveau villa until his death last year. The local town hall then purchased the building, and is now planning to open its doors to the public. Mayor Zoufalík again.

“I think it should be a community centre, a gallery, or something like that. It should somehow commemorate Kolben and his era. But that’s just my idea. The decision will have to be made by future councillors who emerge from the elections in the autumn.”

Emil Kolben is also remembered in the Vysočany district where a metro station and a street now bear his name. Local authorities there are also planning to erect a monument dedicated to the Jewish industrialist later this year.