Prague takes first step towards Holocaust memorial

Photo: CTK

The Bubny Railway Station in Prague, which saw tens of thousands of Czech Jews leave for the ghettoes and Nazi death camps, is set to become a new Holocaust Memorial. A ceremony at the future Memorial of Silence on Monday was attended by Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman, representatives of the Israeli, US and German embassies as well as Holocaust survivors. I spoke to Tomáš Bouška, coordinator of the Shoah memorial and first asked him about the special “sculpture” being unveiled:

Photo: CTK
“We call the statue, as the author Aleš Veselý wished, the gate of infinity. It is a 20-metres long statue made of rails. It is a paraphrase to Jacob’s ladder, so there are 36 steps. We have unveiled the statue because it is standing on the site from which the Prague Jewish transports departed.

“Secondly, we wanted to commemorate the victims of the so-called Terezín family camp, who were exterminated in Auschwitz on March 8, 1944. Almost 4,000 people died during one night. So this is to commemorate the biggest mass murder in Czechoslovak history.”

What will the memorial look like when it is finished? Will it be a traditional museum with an exhibition space, or what can we actually expect?

“Quite on the contrary. We hope that the future memorial of Silence in Bubny will actually represent one of the most modern and hopefully most popular memorials that Prague has to offer.

Photo: CTK
“What do we mean by modern memorial? Of course the story of the place is the basic message. This is the place from which almost 50,000 people boarded the transports.

“However we understand this memorial as an opportunity to tackle other issues, not only the Holocaust. We would like to speak about more current issues, about the patterns of genocide around the world.

“This is why we are currently discussing the possibility to bring to Prague an exhibition from Srebrenica, which is being commemorated in 2015.

“We believe that this memorial can serve as a platform, as an education centre and as a space for discussion on our past, with the tragic horrors this train station and the country faced in the 1940s.”

Do you know when the memorial will open to the public?

Aleš Veselý,  photo: CTK
“If things go well we hope to open The Memorial of Silence by the fall of 2016, on the anniversary of the first Prague transport.

“This all very much depends on the support of the institutions, private donors, and many other partners who are currently helping to develop the project. But if things go very well we hope to manage this by autumn 2016.”