Newsletter 4/2016

The story of Jindřich Jetel, one of the executed man in the Ghetto Terezín

A wedding photo of Věra and Jindřich Jetel. Private archive of Ludmila Chládková.

A wedding photo of Věra and Jindřich Jetel. Private archive of Ludmila Chládková.


Events That Shook the Ghetto

During the three and a half years of its existence (from November 24, 1941 until May 1945) the Terezín Ghetto passed through specific developments and changes. The following article is aimed at tracing its very beginnings.

From the first days it was the Nazi Command that wielded ultimate power and held the key position in the Ghetto. It also issued all the instructions and especially numerous bans. On December 6 the SS Commander Seidl issued an order for the separation of male and female inmates. Women with children under 12 years of age were transferred from their original site in the Sudeten Barracks to the Dresden Barracks; the Magdeburg Barracks was reserved for the Jewish Self-administration. From then on, any contacts between men and women were prohibited, while children and adolescents were allowed to visit their parents only once a week.

Other bans resulted from the fact that until the middle of 1942 Terezín´s original civilian population also lived in the town. They were forbidden by the Command to speak with the Jews, help them or come into any contact with them. But soon enough cases of violation of such orders were discovered – some local citizens were found to have helped the inmates by sending out their letters and arranging meetings with prisoners´ family members. As early as on December 2, 1941, inmates´ postal contact with the outside world was prohibited under the threat of death penalty. However, on December 7 the Ghetto Commander received specific information on the smuggling of correspondence, complete with the names of the persons involved. That was why many inmates were locked up in the Command cellars, the so-called bunkers; this was followed by investigations and negotiations with the Terezín Command’s superiors in Prague on the mode of punishment.

A copy of the first letter of Jindřich Jetel to his wife that was sent from Terezín, part 1. Private archive of Ludmila Chládková.


The thousands of prisoners received information on everything that was going on in the Ghetto, and primarily on what was prohibited, in the shape of printed orders of the day (Tagesbefehl = TB). The Jewish Self-administration began issuing them on December 15, 1941, while addressing the problem of illegal mail relatively very often: TB No. 8 and 9 from December 23 and 24, 1941 respectively briefed the Ghetto inmates on the new arrests due to the smuggling of letters, while the official quarters warned that all mail would be stopped. Soon afterwards, TB No. 12 reported on the ban of mail ordered by the Commander. For its part, TB No. 23 from January 10, 1942 announced: As ordered by the Security Service Commander, nine inhabitants of the Jewish Ghetto had been sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence has been carried out today…
A copy of the first letter of Jindřich Jetel to his wife that was sent from Terezín, part 1. Private archive of Ludmila Chládková.

A copy of the first letter of Jindřich Jetel to his wife that was sent from Terezín, part 1. Private archive of Ludmila Chládková.


This cruel statement was preceded by days and sleepless nights when the Jewish Self-administration had to arrange the construction of gallows behind the Aussig Barracks, find a hangman and have a mass grave dug out before the execution. In addition to the victims themselves, the Jewish Council of Elders, gendarmes as well as SS-men, including the Camp Command, were present at the execution. The convicts received the sentence “for the defamation of Germany“ bravely, some of them shouting “this won’t win you the war“. Kaddish, a prayer for the dead, was secretly officiated in the flat of a Jewish Elder after the execution.

Another seven men were executed for the same reason and in the same manner on February 26, 1942. In the following years there were no other executions in the Ghetto, while violations and trespassings against the prison rules were punished in less drastic ways.

Fate of Jindřich Jetel

One of the nine men executed in the Ghetto on January 10, 1942 was Jindřich Jetel. Between 1992 and 1994 his wife Věra gave us several written documents on the whole case. In them she aptly described their marriage “as a wee bit of happiness and so much tragedy“.

Jindřich, born in Prague in 1920, was a Jewish half-breed, registered with the Jewish Religious Community. Coming from a clerical worker family, he was an electrical engineer by profession. Věra Kurzová, born in Vršovice in 1916, who was of Aryan descent, also joined the Jewish Religious Community before the war. She worked as a private clerk. Both knew each other since their studies and despite opposition of their families they eventually married in Prague on June 5, 1941.

Commenting on the events in Terezín, Věra Jetelová said that after Jindřich´s departure in transport Ak I on November 24, 1941 she received from him several letter assuring her that everything would be all right. In a letter from November 25 he described accommodation in Terezín, work in stuffing mattresses with straw as well as his satisfaction with having a washroom with running water. But he also wrote he had missed his wife and her constant chattering. On November 27 Jindřich wrote to ask for a larger soup dish. Just as other women Věra Jetelová set out to Terezín in December. She came there together with Mrs. Stránská (her husband was also later executed). They saw their husbands, gave them parcels and talked to them across the fence at the barracks. They could not know they were being watched and would be detained. Two gendarmes took them to a guardroom at the Sudeten Barracks. When ordered to hand over clandestine letters from several other inmates from the Ghetto the two women were asked to deliver to their families in Prague, the gendarme began throwing the letters into a large stove. All the signs were that the incident with the letters would not be officially resolved. Then the gendarme, by that time in the presence of a German soldier, wrote a protocol. The women were released and cautioned never to try to visit Terezín again. Before their departure they caught sight of a group of detained men, including their husbands. Then Věra experienced many days filled with apprehensions about the fate of the men in Terezín. All the contacts ceased, a food parcel sent to Jindřich before Christmas was returned to her completely mouldy. Her Prague acquaintances, women whose husbands were also imprisoned in the Ghetto and who had learnt about the execution of the nine selected inmates on January 10, 1942, tried to keep Věra in the dark about this. She learnt the cruel truth much later. She received an official confirmation of the execution of her husband from the Jewish Religious Community in Prague only one and a half year later.

A current location of the memorial with the names of the executed men in the Ghetto Terezín – the Jewish cemetery in Terezín, 2012, photo: Radim Nytl, Památník Terezín.

A current location of the memorial with the names of the executed men in the Ghetto Terezín – the Jewish cemetery in Terezín, 2012, photo: Radim Nytl, Památník Terezín.


At the end, Věra Jetelová wrote: When I met Jindřich, we had no idea what a threat was hanging over us and the whole world. For her, Terezín then turned out to be forever a place of the worst injustice that could not be forgotten.

Chl

Opening the Reconstructed Premises of the Columbarium of the Former Terezín Ghetto

Newly open to public areas of the columbarium of the Ghetto Terezín, October 2016, photo: Radim Nytl, Památník Terezín.

Newly open to public areas of the columbarium of the Ghetto Terezín, October 2016, photo: Radim Nytl, Památník Terezín.


On the occasion of the remembrance events marking the 75th anniversary of the start of deportations of the Jewish inhabitants from the Protectorate, additional premises of the former Columbarium in Terezín, where cinerary urns containing the mortal remains of dead inmates had been kept during the time of the Ghetto, were ceremonially opened on October 17. At this event, speeches were delivered by Dr. Jan Munk, Director of the Terezín Memorial, Mrs. Hana Rožcová, Deputy Mayor of Terezín, and Mrs. Dagmar Lieblová, Chairwoman of the Terezín Initiative. The latter, a former Ghetto inmate, recollected the years spent in the Ghetto and stressed the role of Holocaust survivors, namely in passing on the testimony of this chapter in history to the young generations. The rally was also attended by former Terezín Ghetto prisoners with their family members, officials of the US Embassy in Prague and Mr. Gary Koren, Ambassador of the State of Israel, who, after the opening ceremony, visited the newly reconstructed premises in a guided tour accompanied by comments by Dr. Vojtěch Blodig, Deputy Director of the Terezín Memorial for Research and Education.

Dagmar Lieblová during the opening ceremony of the renovated areas of the columbarium, October 2016, photo: Radim Nytl, Památník Terezín.

Dagmar Lieblová during the opening ceremony of the renovated areas of the columbarium, October 2016, photo: Radim Nytl, Památník Terezín.


Following on from there, the participants moved to the Ghetto Museum cinema to hear a chamber music concert. Its opening part featured the performance of a Dutch children’s ensemble called Revesz trio, whose repertoire includes folk melodies Shalom Aleichem and Hevenu Shalom, work of the Swiss-American composer Ernest Bloch From Jewish Life, and the composition Wiegala, written by former Terezín inmate Ilse Weber. The second part of the concert included performance by Czech violinist Jaroslav Svěcený, accompanied by pianist Václav Mácha, of a transcription by Jascha Heifetz of George Gerschwin´s melodies from the opera Porgy and Bess, followed by Svěcený´s own composition inspired by Terezín T-Dream for Violin, two melodies by John Williams from the feature film The Schindler List, and two parts of the Sonata for Violin, composed by the Shoa victim Erwin Schulhoff. The whole commemorative event ended with a meeting in the attic premises of the Magdeburg Barracks.

St

 

Seminar for Teachers in the Ravensbrück Memorial on October 6 – 9, 2016

Former hostels of the wardresses in the Memorial Ravensbrück, October 2016, photo: Martin Hemelík.

Former hostels of the wardresses in the Memorial Ravensbrück, October 2016, photo: Martin Hemelík.


For ten years now, the Terezín Memorial has been cooperating with the Ravensbrück Memorial in holding third-level seminars, taking place once in two years in the former Ravensbrück concentration camp. This four-day event, held under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, comes complete with a visit to the House of the Wannsee conference.

Its participants saw an exhibition devoted to the subject of the Holocaust, visited the premises where the conference was held back in January 1942, and then they were involved in the workshop focused on the theme: planning and organizing genocide. At the end of the day, the attendees discussed the pedagogical aspects of Holocaust education.

Participants of the seminar in the House of the Wannsee Conference, October 2016, photo: Martin Hemelík.

Participants of the seminar in the House of the Wannsee Conference, October 2016, photo: Martin Hemelík.

They spent the second day of the seminar in the former Ravensbrück concentration camp where, during the morning session, they were introduced to the activities of the local Department of Education. A highlight of the program was a visit to the depositary where archive documents were prepared for the participants to browse through. In the afternoon, the teachers attended a photographic workshop followed by a guided tour of the local exhibition. Time was also reserved for the teachers to get acquainted with the participants´ finished or planned projects and to discuss them. During the seminar, the attending teachers gained a lot of new information and findings, which, in their own words, would definitely prove to be useful for them in preparing interesting lessons or projects for their pupils.

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Seminar for Czech Teachers in the Israeli Yad Vashem

Participants of the seminar in the Yad Vashem memorial, November 2016, photo: Petra Pěničková, Památník Terezín.

Participants of the seminar in the Yad Vashem memorial, November 2016, photo: Petra Pěničková, Památník Terezín.


The fourth-level educational seminar for Czech teachers was held in the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem already for the twelfth time. Co-organized by the Yad Vashem, the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and the Terezín Memorial, the seminar was attended by a total of 18 teachers from different types of schools in the Czech Republic.

This seminar lasting several days featured a number of lectures and workshops led by experts in the given subjects. The participants not only learnt many new things, they were also introduced to a methodology for competently presenting this particular topic to their pupils and students at schools back home.

Workshop The Auschwitz album at Yad Vashem led by Yaftach Askenazy, November 2016, photo: Petra Pěničková, Památník Terezín.

Workshop The Auschwitz album at Yad Vashem led by Yaftach Askenazy, November 2016, photo: Petra Pěničková, Památník Terezín.


The attendees were particularly attracted and impressed for instance by the lecture delivered by Yeshay Balog on the subject “Substance of Traditional Judaism” or by Dr. Rob Rozett´s lecture “From Anti-Semitism to the Nazi Ideology”. Furthermore, such issues as the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”, “The Just Among Nations” or life after the war and how to cope with the past were brought up and discussed. Some of the teachers demonstrated to their colleagues their own approach to Holocaust education, sharing with them their experience hitherto. However, the Yad Vashem´s approach to Holocaust education proved to be exceptionally revealing and useful for all the Czech teachers.
During the visit of kibbutz Beit Theresienstadt, November 2016, photo: Jana Švarcová, Památník Terezín.

During the visit of kibbutz Beit Theresienstadt, November 2016, photo: Jana Švarcová, Památník Terezín.


A highly enriching point of the entire seminar was a visit to the Beit Terezín kibbutz, lying some 60 kms northwest of Jerusalem. During a guided tour we learnt many interesting facts about its history, establishment as well as current life of its inhabitants. We were also highly impressed by the colourful narrative of Mrs. Ruth Meisner, a Holocaust survivor, who had come from Czechoslovakia, was imprisoned in the Terezín Ghetto during World War II and moved to Israel after the war.

In an effort to deepen the participants´ knowledge of the local culture and the history of Israel the visit came complete with guided tours of Jerusalem’s Old Town, the ancient fortress of Masada and the Dead Sea. In the evening on Friday the seminar participants had a unique opportunity, as part of the evening prayers, to take a look at one of the local synagogues.

Šv

 

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