You are here

Švejk's Holocaust Connection

"Ruth Bondi was born in Prague.  . . .She came to Israel in 1948, after spending most of the war years in Ghetto Terezín, or Theresienstadt by its German name.  When Bondi was a child, Hasek was practically forbidden literature; it was not allowed to poison children's minds with Svejk stories.  It wasn't until she became resident of the Ghetto that she began to learn about the tremendous importance of Svejk. People in the Ghetto quoted Svejk all the time, and some could actually recite whole chapters by heart; the spirit of Svejk was so fitting to Ghetto life that one writer began to write the new adventures of Svejk in the Ghetto: He stands in the wrong line at city hall, has his ID stamped with the letter "J," and ends up in Terezín.  The book was not completed as the writer died in the whereabouts of Auschwitz."

from the Animal Review Makes the Scene: Svejk by Avner Shats

 

 "At the Theresienstadt [WWII Czech ghetto] readings of Jaroslav Hasek, Pepek [Taussig] was acknowledged as a Doctor of Good Soldier Svejk's Sciences.

"In his lectures, he frequently quoted Svejk -- the classic book about Czech resistance to militarism, force, and bureaucratic idiocy", Nora Fryd recalls. It was Pepek's plan to write a new Svejk. He was working on the manuscript. It was to be the story of an innocent Prague citizen who got into the wrong line when he went to pay his dog tax at the municipal offices, had a J. (for Jew) stamped on his identity card. From then on, he had to swim along in the stream of Jews through all the misadventures in the Theresienstadt ghetto...

"Pepek, who died as a Jew, wrote an essay about Czech humor in a camp. The Czechs whom he loved, and members of the communist party that he adored, took away and destroyed his work, and threw in jail the wife of his brother who had been killed by the Nazis. And all this happened after such a historical lesson -- the bloody war, Auschwitz, Gulag!

But then I began to wonder if the Terezín Svejk, tied shut with a band, is still lying on a shelf of some STB or KGB archive."

from The Saga of Pepek Taussig by Lena Makarova