Karel Poláček

02.11.2014 | 00:00
Karel Poláček

He Died in the Place, where Everything Began

We will speak about Karel Poláček, a native of Rychnov nad Kněžnou (* 22 nd March 1892), who died on 21 st January 1945 not far from the Upper Silesian township Gleiwitz. Just here on 31 st August 1939 the German members of SD attacked the transmitter alone and they left in the place the bodies of dead prisoners from the Dachau camp, dressed in Polish uniforms. The attack should have justified the subsequent invasion to Poland.

Karel Poláček ́s father, Jindřich, was a Jewish grocer and mother Sophie Kohnová brought up seven children: Karel, Arnošt, Kamil, Ludvík and Zdeněk, but also Berta and Milan of his father ́s second marriage. Karel started to attend the Upper Secondary School in Rychnov, but he was expulsed and graduated only in Prague (1922). After that here he enrolled at the faculty of law. During the World War I he was sent to Russian front, where at the end of the War he surrendered himself to Serbian captivity. After returning home he worked as an office worker and in 1920 he started writing. At first he wrote for satirical magazines, later for Lidové noviny (The People ́s Newspaper), Tvorba, České slovo and humorist magazine Dobrý den (Good Day). In 1933 he returned to Lidové noviny (The People ́s Newspaper) from where he was dismissed for his Jewish origin in 1939. During the Nazi occupation he worked as a librarian with the Jewish Community. He succeeded in saving at least his daughter Jiřina against Nazis, who he helped her to leave to emigration.

But on 5 th July 1943 he alone was deported from Prague, by the “De” transport together with other 602 prisoners, to the Terezín Ghetto. As later the eyewitness Hana Dobešová-Fischerová stated: “Karel had already come to Terezín in a poor form, he was not sports-minded. In Terezín he gave lectures, I attended some of them, he even gave me a small piece of paper twice that I would be allowed to go to the showers. As a writer he was known and popular among the Czechs In Terezín, by the way there were the world ́s authorities and they did the worst works. He left for Auschwitz in the same transport as my father on 16 th October 1944. I could see him a short time before he got on the transport, when leaving he was so miserable, skin and bone, he was a total wreck”. Poláček departed from Terezín to Aschwitz together with other 1 500 prisoners in the Es transport on 19 th October 1944. Martin Jelinowicz, a grandson of Ka- rel Poláček, was born after World War II and he has never known his grandfather. Nowadays he lives in Ontario, Canada. As he says himself: “Everything, I know about my grandfather, is only from narration of my mother, who was, when she parted from his father in 1939, 17 years. Since then they have never see one another. Everything, what she remembered about him, she wrote out in a tiny brochure “My Fa- ther Karel Poláček”. An- other source is a couple of letters from the Pro- tectorate, which were written by my grand- father to his partner, Ms. Dora Vaňáková. The letters were published with the Škvorecký ́s Six-ty-Eight Publishers, Corp. in Toronto in June 1984 under the title “The Last Letters to Dora”. Martin provided a short preface for this brochure, made up on the basis of memories of his father and Ms. Fialová, who worked in Terezín as a typist. Although she never met Karel Poláček in Terezín, but she bore a general witness to the living reality in the ghetto. For long years it was believed that Karel Poláček died in Auschwitz. Only recently the eye witness, a Slovak woman Klára Baumöhlová, testified that Karel Poláček had survived the march from Auschwitz to branch camps, and both to Hindenburg and Gleiwitz. However he did not pass a selection and on 21 st January 1945 he was executed and buried into a mass grave jointly with hundreds of other prisoners. Although the Nazis took Poláček everything including his life, his work is immortal. Let us remember at least some film screenplays such as Muži v offside (Men in Offside), Obrácení Ferdyše Pištory (Conversion of Fred Pistora), Hostinec U Kamenného stolu (Inn “At the Stone Table”), Bylo nás pět (There Were Five of Us), U nás v Kocourkově (In Our Town of Kocourkov) (a topic) or Edudant a Francimor (a TV bedtime story). Karel Poláček was awarded in memoriam The Tomas Masaryk Order Second Class in 1995.

Source: Martin Jelinowicz
Photo © Terezín Memorial and Josef Krám
For the Terezín Memorial by Luděk Sládek


Transmitter in Gliwice Martin Jelinowicz in Rychnov nad Kněžnou

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