Walter Serner

Today in Mailbox: Listeners'/readers' response to our programmes, answers to last month's quiz question. Listeners/readers quoted: Kanchan Chatterjee, Jayanta Chakrabarty, Shahzad Shabbir, Deblina Biswas, Colin Law, Hans Verner Lollike.

Photo: Stuart Miles /
Hello and welcome to Mailbox, Radio Prague’s monthly programme for your views, questions and comments – for which we are always thankful. Kanchan Chatterjee from India sent us a message via our website:

“I listen to your program via the World Radio Network's podcast, usually six days a week, or every day but Sunday, and still enjoy the programs. In fact, I've got an acquaintance on an Internet discussion forum who's an expat living in Prague 6, and I think I annoy him sometimes with how much I know about the Czech Republic that I've learned from listening to Radio Prague.”

Jayanta Chakrabarty from India made a comment on our recent music programme:

“It was indeed a real pleasure listening to the Sunday Music Show of 10th May 2015 on the internet service. Being an ardent fan of Czech music, this programme of popular, rock and hard rock genre is one of the best to have come out of Radio Prague. What made things more interesting was the able compering by Jan Velinger and his six and a half year old son, Alex. Bless the child, he has a great future ahead!... Thanks to Radio Prague for this wonderful show.”

Shahzad Shabbir from Pakistan responded to the latest edition of Mailbox regarding our monthly quiz:

“As you write many are copying the answer from Wikipedia or another internet source. This is right but I think when we search from Wikipedia or another internet source about the Mailbox quiz question we get a lot of information about it. Through your Mailbox competition fans of Radio Prague all over the world get a lot of information and participate. If you exclude the answer, they are discouraged. We request you please include all the answers which are correct. In Pakistan we try our best and motivate the people to participate and become part of the winning team. This is our mission.”

We always try and make our questions easily researchable on the internet and in no way do we mean to discourage our audience from taking part in the quiz. If someone doesn’t feel up to writing an essay-like answer – the kind we quote on the programme – the correct name of the mystery person is quite enough. What we cannot do is quote your answer on our programme if it is a direct copy-and-paste business, often complete with the hyperlinks.

Walter Serner
And that brings us to your answers to last month’s question. The man we looked for is not Paul Kornfeld as quite a few of you guessed. Let’s listen to some of the correct answers:

Deblina Biswas from India sent us this:

“The name of the mystery man for this quiz is Walter Eduard Seligmann or Walter Serner. He was born on 15th of January 1889 into a Jewish family from the Bohemian Spa town of Karlovy Vary which was known as Karlsbad during that time. His father Berthold Seligmann was the owner of the newspaper named ‘Karlsbader Zeitung‘ .Young Walter used to contribute as an art critic to this newspaper.

“Most interestingly, Walter Serner (the mystery man for April 2015) had organised a large exhibition of Oskar Kokoschka's work (being the mystery man for February 2015), at Karlovy Vary's Cafe Park Schönbrunn during 1911.

Colin Law from New Zealand writes:

“When Walter went on to study law at Vienna University he changed his name to Serner and became a Roman Catholic. Walter’s legal studies took him to the University of Greifswald where he completed his doctorate… In Berlin in 1912 Serner wrote for the avant-garde magazine ‘Die Aktion’. After visiting Paris he went on to Berlin where in 1914 he obtained a fake certificate to practice medicine, which helped him to escape to Switzerland where he was one of the founders of the Dada movement. The awful horrors of World War 1 caused groups of artists and poets to turn from reason and logic to nonsense as a sign of their disgust and they chose the name Dada to represent their movement. Serner edited Dada magazines including ‘Sirius’ and ‘Zeltweg’.

“After World War 1 Serner travelled throughout Europe, living in Geneva, Barcelona, Bern, Vienna, Karlovy Vary and Prague while editing and publishing for the Dada movement. In 1933 Serner’s works were banned by the Nazi government after Hitler took power. In 1938 in Prague where he worked as a teacher Serner married Dorothea Herz from Berlin. Then war broke out. Czechoslovakia was invaded and they were unable to escape. On 10 August 1942 they were sent to Terezín concentration camp. On 20 August they were transported to Riga, Latvia, where it is assumed they both perished.”

Jayanta Chakrabarty from India wrote:

“With the outbreak of the First World War [Serner] escaped to Switzerland in 1914... During this period he became a proponent of Dada, an art movement of the European avant-garde of the early 20th century. This anti-war cultural movement in visual art, poetic literature, theatre and graphic design was associated with the radical left and anti-bourgeois. Walter Serner actively participated in the Dada movement till 1920 to protest against the barbarism of the War through rejection of the prevailing standard of art. His manifesto ‘Letzte Lockerung’ (The Last Loosening) remains the most important text of Dadaism till date.

“His activities included public gatherings, demonstration and publication of literary journals covering topics like art, politics and culture. His books written in the German language enjoyed a cult-following in German speaking countries. His works of literature include 'A Strange Story’ and ‘Die Tigerin’ which was adapted into the English feature film ‘The Tigress’ by renowned director Karin Howard in 1992. His play ‘Posada’ though premiered in Berlin in 1927. He had his other shows banned by the Nazis and so were his books. While working as a private teacher in Prague, the Second World War broke out and he could not escape from German-occupied Czechoslovakia. He along with his wife Dorothea were interned and subsequently perished in Riga in 1942. Thus the life of an outstanding observer and critic of society was snuffed out at the age of 53.”

And Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark writes:

“This month’s mystery person was killed just because he was a Jew, as were millions of others, because they were Jews, gypsies, independent speaking people, not because they had done something wrong or evil. Who has given us the right to kill?

“The Nazis had him on the black list. He returned to Prague, where he married his girlfriend. In 1942 both were sent to Theresienstadt and then by a train to Riga in Latvia, where they most likely were among the 998 people killed in the woods of Bikernieki.”

Thank you for all your answers and this month the Radio Prague prize goes to Chitturi Vamsi from India. Congratulations!

If you’d like to participate in our quiz, you have the four coming weeks to send us the answer to the following question:

We are looking for the name of the artist and Holocaust survivor who was born in 1923 in the city of Brno and died in 2009 in Felton, California. While imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp she was made to draw portraits of Romani inmates for the records of the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele.

Please make sure your answer reaches us by June 10th at the usual address [email protected]

Mailbox will be back in four weeks’ time and in the meantime we’ll be looking forward to your reception reports, questions and comments, both in the mail and on our Facebook page. Until then, happy listening and take care.