As If It All Happened Yesterday

Jako by se to všechno stalo včera (2021, CS-DE)Original title: Jako by se to všechno stalo včera / Als wäre das alles gestern geschehen
Pages: 168
Year of publication: 2021
Published by: Česko-německý fond budoucnosti / Der Deutsch-Tschechischen Zukunftsfond
ISBN: CZ: 978-80-908291-1-4, DE: 978-3-96311-635-3
Buy the book: KosmasMitteldeutscher Verlag

On the basis of a memoirs, legacy, and messages written by survivers ot the Nazi persecution, a book with a remarkable essay about Holocaust by Radka Denemarková and portraits by Karel Cudlín has been published by the Czech-German Fund for the Future on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Second World War.

Although more than three-quarters of a century have passed since the end of World War II, its witnesses still live, who can prove with their personal testimony the horrors of the time. The Czech-German Fund for the Future addressed nearly a thousand Nazi persecution survivors with a call to confide their personal memories and life credo. Their answers then resulted in an exceptional book entitled Jako by se to všechno stalo včera / Als wäre das alles gestern geschehen (As If It All Happened Yesterday), which consists of their photographic portraits and quotations, to which Radka Denemarková added a remarkable essay on the Holocaust based on their statements, whose possibility survives even in post-war society. The counterpoint to her warning is made up of photographs of 22 witnesses taken by Karel Cudlín – despite the suffering they have experienced, they generally reflect an indomitable life force.

The traumas of the survivors are the traumas of us all

The creation of this book was initiated by the Czech-German Fund for the Future, which since 1998 has been supporting projects deepening insights into the common culture and history of our two countries. “The traumas of the survivors are the traumas of all of us, but in order to touch us even after so many years, it is necessary to make the voices of specific individuals who can still talk about them,” say its directors Petra Ernstberger and Tomáš Jelínek. Survivors’ memories of their relatives and friends are unique, they and the dead have their names, and it is necessary to remember it. Among those portrayed are those who have already passed through the concentration camps in Auschwitz and Terezín, survived the extermination of Lidice, or those whose parents were shot before their own eyes, executed for participating in the resistance or tortured in concentration camps. And yet, as with their photographic faces, it was as if resignation did not sound from their memories.

We still live in a civilized cultural society that made the Holocaust possible

At the same time, however, the sketched memories of the witnesses reiterate that the origins of the war and the Holocaust were closely linked to the very essence of our modern European society and modern power mechanisms in general. Radka Denemarková reminds us of this fact with extraordinary urgency: “We still live in a civilized cultural society that made the Holocaust possible. And it didn’t stop it. When the Holocaust occurred, people refused to believe the facts before their eyes.” She goes on to explain: “Even today, our perception has not changed; again, we will not be ready to hear the warning signs, even if we have them before our eyes. We are bloated and blinded by the perspective of an economically secure, consumer world, we do not see the moral aspect disappearing, we do not perceive the injustices and genocides of the world, we are silent to push people to the margins of society so that we do not become infected with their misfortunes. Mass murder was unimaginable, but today we must imagine the unimaginable much earlier, otherwise we will not prevent injustices.”

From the reviews

The author’s approach to the subject is somewhat different than one might expect, she certainly does not limit herself to historical facts, which are often repeated only as facts about something that happened years ago, which can evoke emotions, but there are limits beyond which they cannot go. Radka Denemarková is a great writer, but more important is her insight. Both of these qualities meet in symbiosis, she can find words that express deep thoughts. And it should be noted that these are primarily her thoughts, although she can extract important elements of other thinkers’ work and synthesize them in an original way.Jiří Lojín, Vaš

All Reviews