No Night So Dark

There is drama, humour, romance and tragedy as we are drawn into the world of the Wels family over 150 years. This is a true story. Those who are alive today speak for themselves. Those who are not speak through actors, but always in their own words. The family was meant to be forgotten, but their story was preserved in a box at the back of a cupboard, including two remarkable books that bring a lost world to life. Their story is a part of the history of us all.

Rudolf,  Martin,  Ida and Tomáš Wels,  photo: archive of Wels family

The story of the Wels family was all but forgotten. When eighteen-year-old Tomáš escaped from occupied Prague in April 1939, he was cut off from his past. His children grew up in Britain knowing almost nothing about their father’s life before his escape. That was until they started to look through a box that lay forgotten at the back of a cupboard.

This podcast is part of the process of reconnecting with the family’s past. It documents a crime, but above all it is a celebration of the many achievements of the Wels family. It is partly documentary but also features scenes that bring to life the rich material that has come down to us from several generations of the family, going right back to the first half of the 19th century. We get a broad picture of a hugely likeable and creative family, held together by the belief that “truth will prevail”.

The author of the podcast, David Vaughan, has spent several years researching into the family and has tried to piece together their story faithfully and in their own words. The story has many layers, and we find threads that connect the generations across the gulf of time and the tragedy of the Holocaust.

Cast:

Colin Wels,  photo: David Vaughan

As themselves: Colin Wels, Marta Holeková, Gerry Turner, Michael Rund, Lisa Miková, Marietta Šmolková and David Vaughan.

In other roles: Gordon Truefitt as Šimon Wels, Markéta Richterová as Ida Wels, Alex Went as Rudolf Wels, Oliver Paul Dubsky as Martin Wels, Dominik Jůn as Tomáš Wels, Ruth Fraňková as Josefína Löwy, Stephen Weeks as Count Sternberg, Mr Perrins and Emil Vogl, Robert Anderson as the English voice of Michael Rund, John Tregellas as Adolf Loos, Guido Lagus and Josef Poláček, Patricia Goodson as Martha Sharp, and Grant Podelco as Vincent Sheean and J. James Ingle. The poem at the end of Episode 7 is read by Ruth Fraňková.

The podcast was recorded in Prague in November and December 2020 and mixed in the studios of Radio Prague International by Jiří Matějček.

Episodes:

Part 1: The Black Elephant

Part 2: Colin produces a book

Part 3: Josefína loses one husband and gains another

Part 4: Rudolf survives a Catholic education

Part 5: Proud like a beacon

Part 6: Others are acting in our place

Part 7: A chain around the Earth

Who is who?

Alex Went as Rudolf Wels,  Oliver Paul Dubsky as Martin Wels,  sound engineer Jiří Matějček,  photo: David Vaughan

Josefína Löwy (1807-1893): In 1838, she walks 200 miles, in defiance of Habsburg anti-Semitic laws, to gain a permit to marry Bernard Wedeles.

Šimon Wels (1853-1922): Son of Josefína and Bernard. Author of the memoir Life At The Bernards, completed in 1919. The memoir features prominently in the podcast.

Rudolf Wels (1882-1944): Šimon Wels’s oldest son. Studies under Adolf Loos, one of the great architects of the first years of the 20th century. Rudolf becomes a prominent architect in Czechoslovakia between the wars.

Ida Wels (1894-1944): Married to Rudolf Wels. Born into a wealthy German-speaking Jewish family. During the wartime occupation she plays and important role in holding the family together.

Tomáš Wels (1920-1988): The older son of Rudolf and Ida. Smuggles himself out of occupied Prague in 1939. He spends the rest of his life in Britain.

Markéta Richterová as Ida Wels with sound engineer Jiří Matějček,  photo: David Vaughan

Martin Wels (1925-1944): The younger son of Rudolf and Ida Wels. Together with his older brother Tomáš he writes and illustrates the book Sancta Familia in 1938, made up of everyday scenes in the family’s life. Several of these scenes are recreated in the podcast.

Colin Wels (born 1947): Son of Tomáš Wels and his English wife Joy. Grew up in Britain, knowing nothing about his family’s history. Since the mid-1980s he has been piecing together the family’s past.

Gerry Turner (born 1947): An old friend of Colin Wels in England. By coincidence, he is a translator from Czech, and together with his Czech wife Alice was instrumental in helping Colin reconnect with his family’s past.

Michael Rund (born 1970): Director of the Sokolov Museum. Author of a monograph about Rudolf Wels and his work. Several of Rudolf Wels’s most interesting buildings are in Sokolov.

Marta Holeková (born 1947): Marta’s grandfather was the Protestant pastor Josef Štifter, with whom the Welses left their most treasured possessions when they were sent to the Terezín ghetto.

David Vaughan (born 1966): Author and narrator of the podcast. Writer, broadcaster and journalist. Has been researching into the Wels family’s history for several years.

Lisa Miková (born 1922) and Marietta Šmolková (born 1921): Both were in the Terezín ghetto with Rudolf, Ida and Martin, and survived.

If you would like to know more about the Wels family, you can join a virtual tour of the exhibition, also called No Night So Dark, that was held in the Winternitz Villa in Prague in autumn 2020:

You can also view an online discussion with members of the Wels family that was hosted by the Czech Centre in London on 25 th January 2021:

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