Karel Pirk and Ludvík Hraba

29.10.2016 | 18:07
Karel Pirk and Ludvík Hraba

Lives on the boundary of the seemingly impossible

Two more stories from Terezín Small Fortress will be about Professor Jan Pirk (JP), a respected cardiologist and head of the IKEM cardio Centre. He is the oldest of Otto and Jitka Pirk’s three children. He chose to be physician just like some of his family predecessors. He originally wanted to become a naval doctor, just as his grandfather Karel was for Austria- Hungary. However, his role models in life were both of his grandfathers. As the aforementioned doctor from his father’s side, was imprisoned by the Nazis, as was the grandfather of the mother‘s party – a businessman and a great athlete, imprisoned by the Nazis and communists.
The Pick family has been using the last name Pirk for the last hundred years, they come from Chrudim, from the town of Luže. It is likely that the family relocated here from Prague, where the Pick family was present even in the 16th century. Proof of this could be a tombstone found in Jewish cemetery of the couple Jehuda ben Itsak Pick and Rele Bat Volf Aškenas, a family affi liated with the Maharal family, rabbi Löw’s family. The fi rst written mention of the Jewish ghetto in Luže dates back to 1570. The ghetto members were not allowed to own the land, they could only rent the inferior facilities, therefore the Picks were tanneries. After the enlightenment reforms of Joseph II., the entire Jewish generations entered the universities in the Czech lands. Also, Pirk‘s great-grandfather, Julius, son of Jisrael Pick, graduated from the medical school in Prague thanks to his diligence and later became the head of the Health Council. MUDr. Julius Pick (* 1856) began the nearly 140-year tradition of Pick Doctors. He graduated as a medical doctor at the German part of Charles University and was the author of a number of professional articles and several books. For example, he published the Czech written book “First Aid for Sudden Accidents and Injuries” (1888), which is stored in the Clementinum in Prague.

MUDr. Karel (Pick) Pirk (March 18, 1888– 1968), grandfather of JP, a man of great courage, a great lover of life, and an immense optimist, was the second in the generation of doctors. He fell in love with the beautiful and rich Marie Schwarzová who was a Christian, whom he also married in 1917. But in order to get married he had to be baptized fi rst and then change his name from Pick to Pirk. In the context of this, JP remembers an interesting incident. At fi rst, his grandfather did not know what to do, so he went to the oldest uncle in the family for advice. The uncle thought about it and said to him: “ Do you know what, Karel, go ahead and be baptized, the Jews will not lose anything and the Christians will not gain anything.” Thanks to his grandmother‘s coming from the village of Lísková (Haselbach) in the Bohemian Forest on the very border with Germany, he discovered the villages of Pirk and Oberpirk not to far beyond the borders of Germany, which eventually led him to the idea of what to change his surname to.
The life of a successful physician was changed by the Protectorate Government, which, at its fi rst meeting on 17 March 1939, adopted a set of anti-Jewish measures. Among other things, it also banned medical practice for doctors of non-Aryan origin. The plan was clear, removing the Jews from key positions, then confi scating their property and eventually destroying them. It was clear to Karl that in the following days and months it would be a matter of survival for the Jews. His Jewish father, Julius, was already dead, but if Karel’s father were someone else, he could save his life and the lives of those close to him. So, a plan was created where his mother signed a fi ctional statement on her deathbed. Kamila Picková, the widow of the government councilman, affi rmed, “I declare my son, Mr. Karel Pirk, is not the son of my deceased husband, Mr. Julius Pick, for whom I married in 1887, but the son of Mr. Adolf Zahradník, also deceased. I make this statement because I wish my son, Mr. Karel Pirk, to know the truth about his origins. “The person of Adolf Zahradník was not chosen at random. He was childless and when he passed away and handed over his offi ce and apartment in Šlikova Palace on today‘s Národní třída 24 (the house was demolished in 1938 and replaced by the Máj house) to Karel Pirk, otherwise a great place for medical practice, he became the ideal, however, fi ctitious father of Karl Pirk. Documents about Karl‘s five-year eff orts during a lawsuit with the Protectorate authorities regarding the recognition of his non-Jewish background can be found in the National Archives of Chodov in Prague. During the trial, Charles‘s mother died, and his siblings Marie and Vili ended up in a concentration camp. Their children, however, rescued themselves to great luck by escaping to England.

MUDr. Otto Pirk (* 4th December 1918), the third in the medical dynasty and father of JP, was deeply in love with Ajka, with whom he took canoe trips and went for excursions. However, the last of a series of their common photos of trips would be on October 12, 1941. The next morning, Ajka joined the transport and never returned. Despite the fact that the time was becoming more and more fatal for the Jews, Karel managed to continue to fi ght for his own life, children and property, and eventually appealed to the Supreme Court in Leipzig, where he defended himself personally. And he achieved the impossible. The court acknowledged his statement of Aryan origin as true. He had escaped the deportation to Terezín, but he did not know that it wouldn‘t be for long.
The Charles University had a German and Czech part before the war. The Czech part was closed for the Protectorate, but the German part was not. Without his family knowing, Karel helped rescue about 200 people in the German surgical clinic, where he worked (with the knowledge of the head of the surgical clinic, Professor Hohlbaum). These people were saved from being forced to work in the Empire. He created false medical diagnoses, although he knew very well that it was a criminal off ense, the so-called damage to the economic laws of the Third Reich, punished by death. By the way, after the war, the chief of the clinic was arrested, imprisoned and forced to work in communist camps. A nurse who, not too wisely, wanted to hide her loved one, also with an absurd diagnosis, was revealed by the SS physician. At that time, 12 or 14 Dr. Pirks patient were in the clinic. Karel was arrested by the Gestapo on November 30, 1944 in his office and transferred to the prison in Pankrác. In the socalled Pankrác prison books, we can read:
He went through the hell of the infamous methods of investigators and then was transferred to the Gestapo prison in Terezín‘s Small Fortress on December 5, 1944. After fi ve years of tribulation, he ended up in the same place as his relatives and friends did… He was placed in cell No. 14, which, although we would say it looks rather small today, was fi lled with up to a hundred prisoners in 1944. He sent only letter in German to his family which says: “My dear, I am doing well. There is plenty of food, do not send anything to eat. Send me two pairs of underwear, my sports shoes, twenty-two crystal sugar bags and two tubes of saccharin and gloves. “The truth, however, was that he was not doing well at all. The food portions were wretchedly small, the underwear and shoes had their purpose in the cold cell, and the saccharin was more likely used for his co-prisoners because Karel never suff ered from diabetes, and he also requested sugar. It is clear what kind of man he was like. The situation seemed hopeless for him, but he managed to escape Terezín again. In the end, the Gestapo was more interested in his medical abilities. However, we look at the Pick and Pirk dynasty, each and everyone of them lived and worked on the boundary of the seemingly impossible.

An entrepreneur, a falcon, a resistance…
His father, Ludvík Hraba (5. 4. 1894, Zásmuky – 23. 8. 1975, Prague), a businessman, was the grandfather of Jan Pirk from his mother‘s side and also his second role model, a prominent representative of Sokol – Kolín County of Tyrš anti- fascist resistance.
He graduated from a two-year weaving school in Liberec and probably also a two-year business school with a revolutionary but then non-compulsory subject – Czech language. As a fabric expert, he then set up a shop for fabrics in his home town in Zásmuky. He was a member of the Trade Licensing Party, the director of the Civic Savings Bank and a member of the city council. Together with carpenter and entrepreneur Josef Linhart, they built a furniture factory called LINHRA (1936), which gradually expanded to produce wooden toys. The most manufactured article was the game “Ludo Hraba”, to which Ludvík Hraba had a Czechoslovak patent. The company thrived, opened several shops (Kolín, Uhříněves, Prague – Wenceslas Square) and its products were exported to the whole world. Besides the role of a successful entrepreneur, Ludvík also intensively devoted himself to the idea of Sokol, where he worked as Chief of Tyršova Kolín County, Sokol in Zásmuky.
After the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the Sokol community became a thorn in the occupation forces side, and Hitler even regarded the Sokol resistance organization as the only serious threat to the Empire. From Oldřich Stránský, a former Terezín prisoner, JP learned that Hitler, on his birthday on April 20, 1942, gave amnesty to about fi fty Sokol offi cials. But on the condition that they must tell everywhere how the resistance is futile. Ludvík was a member of the Central Leadership of Home Resistance (ÚVOD), the central authority of anti- Nazi resistance in the Protectorate. It was an umbrella body of major resistance organizations founded in early 1940. The task was to coordinate resistance activities on the territory of the Protectorate. Ludvík was arrested in 1942 by the Kolín Gestapo and the factory in Zásmuky occupied the German Protectorate power. The Cologne Gestapo experienced inhumane abuse during interrogations, for example when the investigator bumped his shovel into the stomach. He escaped the death penalty only by the coincidence of happy coincidences. The investigative SS was sent for punishment on the Eastern Front for a disciplinary off ense. From Cologne, Louis was deported to the Small Fortress of Terezín, where he was later known as Father Hrabba or Dad Hraba, which shows his broad heart and a great deal of empathy. He worked in the very unpleasant conditions of the local laundries, where he had been the headmaster. The JP remembers his grandfather telling him that the laundry was a meeting place for the spouses who were imprisoned in the Small Fortress, imprisoned separately in male and female prisons. When “Pinďa” appeared, SS-Hauptsturmführer Heinrich Jöckel, the ominous commander of the Small Fortress in the years 1940–1945, they were ready. They opened their cooked pans, and the unreal smell that had fallen from the pots, always pinned reliably from the control. But Louis did not come to the liberation of Terezín. Shortly before, he was placed in a death march that had gone to another camp (JP no longer remember the name), where they were liberated by the US Army. He survived in the war and returned to Zásmuky. In 1967, he gave the Memorial Terezín a memoir (Inv. No. 5774), which has 17 pages. After the 1948 Communist coup in February, his factory was for the second time prevented, this time nationalized and incorporated into the TOFY in Semily. And Ludvík, for the second time, wandered behind the bars.
But that was not the last time the family had lost to the Zásmuky Factory. The third and irrevocably lost thanks to the “After-November” privatizers who were pushing TOFU. So, mother of Jan Prka was left shares in the nominal value of worthless paper.

Pro Památník Terezín Luděk Sládek

zdroj © Jan Pirk; ČT, Tajemství rodu; Památník Terezín; autor

Prof. MUDr. Jan Pirk, DrSc. MUDr. Karel (Pick) Pirk Ludvík Hraba MUDr. Otto Pirk MUDr. Julius Pick Karel Pirk at the time of his arrest by the Gestapo Latest photo of Otto Pirk and Ajka Ludvík Hraba in a Sokol uniform Obrázek č.9 Obrázek č.10 Karel Pirk and  Marie Schwarzová Obrázek č.12

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