New app tracks Holocaust as it happened in Prague streets
On the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, on January 27, the Czech Academy of Sciences has launched a new mobile application, created together with the Multicultural Centre Prague and the Terezín Initiative Institute. Called MemoGIS Prague, it enables users to study the history of the Holocaust through an interactive map.
I discussed the project with Michal Frankl from the Department of Modern Social and Cultural History at the Academy’s Masaryk Institute and Archives:
“First of all we very often imagine the Holocaust as something that happened somewhere else, very far from us, very far from the spaces that are familiar to us. The image of the Holocaust is something that’s more associated with concentration and extermination camps.
“One thing that we want to show is that the process towards the exclusion, deportation and murder started in places where we live and that the inhabitants of Prague and other places were bystanders, observers of the process which ended up in extermination camps.”
Among the dozens of incidents marked in the map is the case of Arnošt Polák, who was arrested for failing to mark his Identification card with the letter J. For that he faced a fine of 5,000 crowns or five days in prison. I guess that was one of the very common incidents that happened in Prague in those days...
“While we were working on the project we combed through the files of the Prague police and we came across approximately 17,000 such incidents.
“This can include cases when people were arrested for some kind of special trespassing, or acting against anti-Jewish decrees, such as that they were outside without the Star of David attached to their clothes, that they entered a park, they were in a shop outside of the very limited hours for Jews, or for instance they wanted to travel on public transport in ways that were not allowed to them.
“First of all, these a very moving stories, and second, it allows us to study the role of public space in persecution of a minority. This is a very important part of the story of the Holocaust but I believe it also can bring us to thinking anew why we need shared space in a city.”
For those who want to use the app, how does it work? Is it easy to navigate?
“I hope so. The app functions in a web browser on a computer or a mobile phone and can be found www.ehri.cz. The map opens with a view of Prague, with a current map as well as a historical map. It contains thousands of points, including 30, 000 entries for Jews who lived in Prague before their deportation, almost 10,000 houses where they were registered.
“It also includes hundreds of points of interest, such as parks that were prohibited to Jews or synagogues that were transformed to storages of confiscated property. And of course exclamation marks in red circles for the incidents where someone was arrested or denounced for trespassing the anti-Jewish decrees.”
So far the data is only available in Czech, are you planning to launch an English version as well?
“We are working on the English translation and we hope that it will be available in a very short time, within a few weeks.”