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 book will be presented on the occasion of a gala concert for the victims of Nazism at the State Opera.
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.”
The publication Jako by se to všechno stalo včera / Als wäre das alles gestern geschehen is bilingual (Czech and German) and can be purchased in the Kosmas network (Czech Republic) and Mitteldeutschen Verlag (Germany).
Public presentation of the book
A public presentation of the book with the participation of authors and witnesses will take place on October 27 at 1:30 pm at the State Opera (salon of S.K. Neumann).