Josef Ledeč

01.06.2016 | 16:21
Josef Ledeč

Dynasty of great doctors
The memories of the doctor Jiří Ledeč (* 8. 8. 1923; † 26.3.2004), which I obtained from his son MUDr. Jan Ledeč, are very personal to me. Perhaps because the family roots reach to the places where I lived throughout my childhood, but mainly because I too often heard, in the memories of survivors from the Terezín ghetto, about the “Prague” Doctor Ledeč. That couldn’t be a coincidence.

The oldest known member of the clan was the merchant David Ledeč (born before 1800) who came from Přestavlky in Podorlicko and had three sons – Jakub, Abrahám and Eliáš. The family of Jiří Ledeč comes from great-grandfather Jakub (* 1823), who had three wives and a total of nine children. Jiří’s grandfather Bedřich (* 1861; † 1939) was the fi fth son of Jakub from his fi rst marriage to Kateřina Weinerová. He was born in Přestavlky, and he married Arnoštka Rothová (1864–1932) from Lično, and they moved to Rychnov nad Kněžnou. Here, the family lived in a small cottage with a large kitchen where everyone slept. Jiří recalled only a few memories of his grandmother, but he remembered his grandfather as being always content, chubby, in a good mood, and who liked to sit on the porch, smoking his pipe, and on Sunday he played a card game “mariáš” in the pub. However, life was not easy, especially trying to provide for the family, as he often had bad periods as a travelling textile salesman. The grandmother died in 1932 and the grandfather in February 1939, just before the Nazi occupation.
Jiří‘s father MUDr. Josef Ledeč (* 1894; † 1974), thanks to his ambition, elevated his family from the poor cottage U Kněžny to better times. From his fi rst marriage to Jiřina Nykysová, who graduated in philosophy at the Faculty of Arts and was the fi rst woman from Rychnov to receive a PhDr. title, he had his children Jiří and Eva. Josef, after completing grammar school and especially thanks to his brother, MUDr. Jaroslav Ledeč, started to study medicine. In the second semester, however, World War I caught up with him and he had to enlist. He didn’t like being separated from his family and his future wife, Jiřina. But thanks to Jiřina‘s help, he had his fi rst examination (rigorózum) behind him at the end of the war. After the war, he continued his studies and before his fi nal exam in 1921, he had already worked in the hospital in Český Brod. His name is still legendary, together with MUDr. Polák. After seven years of happy marriage, Jiří‘s mother, Jiřina, died.
Míla Velichová Šimáčková, a divorced, sociable woman, ready to meet the task of being a mother, became Josef Ledeč‘s second wife. The family lived happily until the Protectorate. Then, already on April 4, 1939, Jiří‘s dad was dismissed from the hospital and feeling devastated and unhappy accepted the introduced racial laws of the Protectorate. “Juden verboten”, suspicious eyes, ration cards, no practicing medicine, no owning property or pets… However, the children Jiří and Eva, as mixed race Jews, had freedom of movement. Jiří “only” had to sign in school that he was not a Jew. He remembers how they used to go, with their grandma, to see uncle Eda, who was in a forced labour camp for mica processing for the mixed race Jews (fi rst degree) at Hagibor in Prague (the camp was founded in the summer of 1944). Thanks to not so strict guards, they could talk to their uncle or give him something small, like a cigarette, over the fence. At that time, the initiative in Jiří‘s family was taken over by the second mum Míla. She took over all the property (the house, the car, the dog and also the canary, because a Jew wasn’t allowed to own anything. She worked as much as she could to save the family. She never complained, only perhaps when there were no cigarettes, she was not in the mood. Her grandson Jan Ledeč remembers granny Míla: “I remember her very vaguely, but I still remembered her as a very nice lady who spoiled me, to my mum’s displeasure.” Jiří‘s dad, after a while, stopped leaving the house, and if he had to, he only went outside with Jiří. In those days, listening to Jan Masaryk and Edvard Beneš on Radio BBC London gave him hope, although listening to them was under the death penalty.
The work at a Prague hospital pulled father out of absolute apathy. The hospital was under the Council of Jewish Elders of the Prague Jewish Religious Community and was located in Kelley Street No. 1 (today U Staré školy 1–3). In addition to the gynaecology department, there was also the department of general medicine, and the building also served as a home for elderly patients. Dad lived there during a week, and at weekends, he came home. However, he suff ered from a painful phase of Bechterew‘s disease, which the head doctor Polák helped him to alleviate. Who knows how he managed to get him the injections. Jiří also learned, by hearsay, that his dad helped his brother Bohuš here, when thanks to old TB fi ndings, he got his brother into a pulmonary ward. From there, Germans frightened by any infection sent him home with a “positive fi nding”, where he survived the war. Worse was when the Germans vented their frustration, because they were losing the war, by deporting Jewish spouses from mixed marriages to Terezín and the mixed race men into the forced labour camps. Jiří‘s dad kept delaying his departure to the Terezín ghetto thanks to his duties at the hospital, a deterioration of his state of health, and eventually, which was a big risk, he disappeared home away from Prague. At that time, even Jiří experienced a period of uncertainty. Mum packed his bundle with everything necessary, and he waited for the offi cial paper to arrive. At the end, nothing came and no one came for his father either.
All women from Rychnov, including aunt Jarmila Balcarová, survived their stay in the Terezín ghetto. But then the family learned about the extermination camps, the hundreds of thousands of children, and millions of adults who had been murdered by the death factories in an organized, elaborated and coldblooded way. Among them were also Aunt Eliška and her son Eduard (* 1936), her husband Arnošt Herrman and many other relatives.
After his return to the hospital in Český Brod, Jiří‘s father went to Terezín in May 1945 to collect the people from Český Brod who had epidemic typhus. However, only Ing. Klíma and Jiří‘s teacher and school director Mr. Hladký were returned to Český Brod alive. Josef Ledeč remained in the hospital after the February Coup in 1948 and, as during the Protectorate, he lost his own surgery. The only diff erence was that he could still work in the surgery. At that time, his second wife died, and the obligation to take care of him fell to his son Jiří. They moved to the villa which belonged to his second wife in Český Brod and Jiří and Eva transferred the ownership back to their father so he had some certainty in his old age. After his forced retirement, Jiří‘s father started to visit Mariánské Lázně, where he met his third wife, Vlasta, with whom he had a daughter, Jana, who became a doctor and later married and moved to France, where she still lives and works. Jiří‘s father died in the pulmonary ward in Prague at Bulovka (1974).
Jiří met his future wife Zdena during the war, at the time when Jiří‘s family was “dangerous” to its neighbourhood. However, it did not prevent her from going with Jiří to see Eda Ledeč at Hagibor. She helped with packages to Terezín and waited at his side for the, very uncertain, future. After the war, when Jiří began to study medicine, she patiently waited still. After his graduation, they spent a beautiful year at a lodging house in Kolín, where Jiří had his fi rst work experience. Then came the national service that was supposed to last seven months, but it stretched to fi ve years. In spite of all the waiting, Jiří and Zdena had a son at that time, Jan, who is now a respected internal medicine specialist in Rychnov.

MOTTO: “People who push their way forward at the end lack humbleness, modesty and life wisdom. They are a bit like Icarus, intoxicated by themselves, when the feathers begin to fall in the heights and eventually they crash down.” Jiří Ledeč

Jiří Ledeč remembers the national service as something that no one with common sense wanted. Bullying, checks, exemplary discipline, a ban from leaving the unit for all. Although a reservist, Jiří was forced to be a “paragrafi sta”, and to spend fi ve years as the Chief of Health Service at the Prague Exhibition Grounds. A big enterprise with about 20 doctors under him, a sick room, and an infi rmary. In order to get out of it, he pretended to have an infl ammation of the veins, but they gave him a bandage, and instead of boots, he had permission to wear shoes, and they added – you are a soldier. As a member of the Command, he had a permanent pass and could leave the guarded building at any time. Therefore, he disappeared home and in the morning, he went back to Prague again.
After the war, Jiří‘s uncle Eda returned to Moravia, to the War College, and indirectly caused Jiří to be persecuted by lieutenant Hobza, his half-witted company commander. When he heard the name Ledeč, he asked, “Do you have a relative in the War College?” Jiří gleefully nodded in the hope that he would be given leave (at that time Ledeč‘s son Jan was being born during a diffi cult birth). Nevertheless, Hobza became annoyed and aggressive. Jiří saw red, and he did not care anymore. He wanted to pounce at Hobza. Suddenly somebody pulled him back (a friend from Hradec Králové, Petrle, later an excellent cardiologist). “I was really afraid you would start to fi ght with him, you looked raving mad.” He actually saved Jiří at that moment. Eda later laughed, “Hobza, he was the biggest idiot, and we did not even want him to graduate, I gave him a hard time.”

Jiří Ledeč reminisced about his family
Aunt Štěpánka (* 8. 8. 1894; † 1927), married to František Houdek, had one child but it died. Štěpánka died in Prague hospital before the war. Aunt Mařenka (* 1886) left for America before the war, where she married a Czech man Bedřich Weil and had several sons. Uncle Jaroslav († 2. 7. 1923) was the pride of his parents, he became a doctor before the war, and he worked in the hospital in Český Brod. He had an important infl uence on Josef Ledeč’s decision to work in Český Brod, as his role model and his beloved brother. Jaroslav married Greta in March 1918 and they had a daughter Soňa (10. 12. 1918). Jaroslav died before the war on July 2, 1923. Aunt Anna (1890–1950) married Mirek Hányš from Rychnov and they both survived the war. Uncle Bohuš (* 1891; † 1962) was qualifi ed in textiles, he was a keen, capable, hardworking, reliable person with a pleasant demeanour. In 1920, he moved with his wife Božena Kapalová to Pilsen, to Max Vesecký‘s textile store, where he became an agent. In 1921, their only daughter Hana was born, a favourite cousin of Jiří Ledeč († 1989, at the age of 69). Uncle Eda (probably * 1896; † 1959), Jiří‘s favourite uncle had, with his fi rst wife Nina, a daughter Ljuba who grew up in modest circumstances with her grandmother in Kostelec nad Orlicí. She married her classmate Josef Luňáček, a professional soldier. For the second time Eda got married to Alena, they had a son Mirek, a forest engineer who lived in Bratislava. Eda enlisted in World War I, went missing, and returned as a legionnaire from Russia. He remained in the army and the family often moved. With the arrival of the Nazis, Eda‘s family moved to Rychnov nad Kněžnou, where they found refuge with an old friend, Průša, a well-known Rychnov butcher who owned a farm and employed Eda. Eda, with the yellow star on his chest, was not in public eye there. Nevertheless, at the end of the war he was sent to the Hagibor transit camp in Prague, from where he went to the Terezín ghetto. According to his curt replies to Jiří, he escaped from Terezín before the Prague uprising. He concluded his military career in Brno, as a commander at the War College, in a position of General, however at the rank of Colonel. Aunt Berta probably died in childhood. Aunt Eliška (* 1901) was lovely, she loved Jiří‘s parents, especially his mum and she often visited them in Český Brod. She worked in textiles and married an Arnošt Hermann, a textile businessman. However, their marriage was not happy. Until she was transported to Terezín, she had lived alone with her son Eduard. From Terezín they were both transported to Auschwitz from where they did not return. Jiří remembers visiting her with his mum. She was already packed for Terezín. Jiří did not fi nd her name on the wall of the Pinkas Synagogue, but he thinks she has a memorial in Terezín, according to which the whole family perished in Auschwitz in 1944. Jan Ledeč discovered the small memorial in Terezín and his Aunt Eliška with her son and husband are all recorded there. Aunt Jarmila (* 1903; † 1997) married Stanislav Balcar from Rychnov, an Air Force Offi cer. Their wedding was in 1933, while still mourning the death of Jiří‘s grandmother. Jarmila and Stanislav spent a happy life, mostly in Hradec Králové, and they had three children: Jarda, Jirka and Jarmila, who lives in Germany, where Jarmila found her second home in her old age.

Second branch of Ledeč family in Rychnov
They all came from Kostelec nad Orlicí. Nestor of the clan was Samuel Ledeč, a factory owner and founder of Sokol in Chleny. He was a cousin of Jiří‘s great grandfather Bedřich (their fathers Abrahám and Jakub were brothers – the sons of David Ledeč). The oldest son of Samuel was MUDr. Felix Ledeč (* 1880), the famous Prague paediatrician. With his wife Vlasta, they had sons Jan and Egon and daughter Helena. However, the Protectorate came and after the arrival of the Germans, Uncle Felix committed suicide. Son Jan became a well-known musicologist and music critic. Son Egon was a famous violinist and concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic. Egon was transported to Terezín, where he also played music, but Jiří does not know how and where he died. Ledeč Egon (* 16. 3. 1889) was transported on December 10, 1941 from Prague to Terezín by transport L under number 178 and from the Terezín ghetto by transport Er on October 16, 1944 under transport number 953 to Auschwitz (author‘s note). Jaromír Ledeč (* 1894) married Ludmila Štemberková, a classmate of Jiří‘s mum at the grammar school in Rychnov, who studied philosophy, history and got a doctorate. She died of pneumonia shortly after the birth of son Jaromír and a year before Jiří‘s mum. Her children Jaromír and Věra of mixed marriage survived the occupation. Uncle Ervín Ledeč, a strong athletic man, did not return from the concentration camp. Ledeč Ervín (* 11.11.1901) was transported on December 17, 1942 from Hradec Králové to Terezín by transport Ch under transport number 418 and from there on September 29, 1944 by transport El under transport number 182 to Auschwitz (author‘s note). Aunt Olga, a married name Horská, survived the war with her husband. The daughter Růženka, who was the youngest of Samuel‘s children, a married name Handlová. Her son and grandson are now well known dentists in Rychnov

For Památník Terezín Luděk Sládek

www.pamatnik-terezin.cz

www.facebook.com/TerezinMemorial


Grandad Bedřich and grandma Arnoštka MUDr. Josef Ledeč among his family MUDr. Josef Ledeč with his children Eva and Jiří Three Ledeč men (from left MUDr. Jan Ledeč, MUDr. Josef Ledeč,
and MUDr. Jiří Ledeč) Monument to victims of the Shoah, Dobruška



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