Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lens and Legacy. Family and Community. Hradec Kralove. Vignettes

Petr Ginz' Family

See him here, at ://

He lives with his parents and sister in Prague. Petr usually lists and inventories events objectively, but he also offers vignettes, short description of family life, and colorful happenings.

Hradec Kralove, CZ, birthplace of mother of Petr Ginz 

1. Mother. Time off.

Petr writes at Page 53 that his mother left for Hradec (RandR, but -- as in any family where mom takes some sudden RandR --left inadequate instructions on what the family was to cook. Petr says they will manage.

No wonder she wanted to to back to Hradec, for a breather. There it is. Orderly, beautiful, historic.

2. The designer turkey.

Peter writes at Page 72. Fair use quote-

"I heard that some local people wanted to kill a turkey, but they felt sad for it and didn't want to just cut its throat so they gave it to [sic] Veronal, plucked it, and put it in water. But then the dear turkey woke up and because it was cold without feathers, they knitted a sweater for it, and it now walks around in a sweater.***"

[Veronal, or barbitol, is apparently a central nervous system depressant, also used in veterinary medicine, see]

3. The prolific lungs.

Peter writes of his father at page 86, at the Jewish ambulatory hospital (I believe) in Prague. Fair use quote:

"They removed three litres of water from Daddy's lungs! They dragged some containers to him, lots of doctors came running, even the chief doctor Klein himself, and the puncture was one quite painlessly. They asked him: Shall we make it a full three litres?

"Daddy told them: 'Do help yourselves.' "

So read the diary carefully. There are nuggets there, amid the cool, detached event inventories.

Sgraffito is a technique of wall ornamentation.  A darker layer if plaster is applied; then a lighter shade.  Before the top layer dries, it is etched off, showing the darker beneath. Pictures, designs, fool-the-eye patterns.  Hradec Kralove was and is an elegant town visually.

4.  Grandma's house

Vojtesska Street.

Family: Grandma.  Grandma's house, at number 12. Page 67. This is in the Old Town. Do an Images search and up come all the apartments for rent or places for sale. You can even see the fine old building at number 22, just a few buildings away from Petr's Grandma's address at number 12.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Prague - Jewish Quarter, Dusni Synagogue now Prague Maharal, Institute

The Spanish Synagogue

Evolution of a Synagogue
Update to Petr Ginz post October 1, 2008 - The old Dusni Synagogue  appears to now be the Prague Maharal, an Institute promoting the life, personality and legacy of Rabbi Judah Loew, 1525-1609, renowned religious scholar. See photograph and article at :// The Institute will also train new rabbis.

Read an article on "The Legacy of Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague" online, by Byron L. Sherwin, European Judaism vol 34, 2001 at Questia, see ://;jsessionid=LrXGGpCP1Yp3VDkkhJl2CyVLGK3L458VV2vtmMBgMcwLpNVsYdTy!243734?a=o&d=5002422218

The photograph is the same as the building we were told was the old Dusni Synagogue.

Rabbi Loew became known to us in reading "The Seventh Well," by death camp survivor Fred Wander (book translated 2006, see "The Seventh Well".

See a shorter biography at ://

He created a fictitious Golem, a man-figure from earth, air, fire, and water, through ritual, an image through which the community could be rid of various evil accusations made against them by the Christians surrounding. The Golum served well, even with an invisibility function. When finally the laws and evil practices were changed, the Rabbi de-made (?) the Golem, and the legend lives in many respects. Read the legend, edited by D.L.Ashliman, at ://

Friday, December 12, 2008

Prague. The Silence of the Bells. St. Vitus; Church of our Lady Before Tyn

The Fate of Prague's Bells
Except for Zikmund

Prague, Charles Bridge, view toward St. Vitus Cathedral

1.  The bells are taken.

Petr writes: "*** You can't hear any bells ringing at all, because the Germans have confiscated them all; they will probably make cannons out of them. They left only Sikmund of St. Vitus and that's the only church bell in Prague now." Diary at 94.

There, on the hill, are the towers of St. Vitus, across the Charles Bridge that spans the Vltava River, at Prague Castle.

Petr watched the numbers rise: first, 82-100. Page 92. At least 2000 bells later, filling the Maniny sewer.

Prague, Cathedral of Our Lady Before Tyn

At page 95, Peter records that they were taking the bell out of Tyn Cathedral, shown here, and he watched how they removed the bells from 92 Strossmayer Place.

The bell at the Cathedral of Our Lady Before Tyn, shown here at the Old Square, was not spared.

See the history of this Cathedral at; and

2. But Zikmund is spared. 

Page 97. the Zikmund Bell and St. Vitus in photos at Scroll down to the last row for the bell.

No wonder the fate of Bell Zikmund was important to Petr and Prague. It is the biggest bell in Prague, and maybe the Czech Republic, and was made in 1549. See At that site, click on the"South Side" paragraph, and then on Zikmund to see a close-up of the bell.

This site - with much history in it - says that it is the largest bell in Central Europe, and weighs 16 tons. See Rename it Tennessee Ern?

A summary history is at, including legends: with a princess, Wenceslas and more. Silencing it means national tragedy.

In 2002, the clapper broke, and sure enough terrible floods came. Others saw the broken clapper as related to the outcome of recent elections, where the Communist party gained. Read about the break and repair at

The name "Zikmund," by which the huge bell at St. Vitus is known, is said to mean "guardian of the victory" in the Czech language, and is of German origin. See Was it saved from destruction by the Germans by its germanic name? Or just because it was humungous?
Petr says at page 95 that the bells were dumped at Maniny, and this area was finally one of the only places that Jews were allowed to walk. See page 103. This is a sewer-landfill area. He says the sewer was filling up there. Page 63. Search in Images for Maniny to see how it looks today, and for a map.