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A Brief History of the Jews of Kolin during the Occupation 1939–45

This is a translation of the text of a booklet produced to mark the unveiling of the Memorial to the Jews of Kolin who died during the Holocaust. This brief history was almost certainly was written by Rabbi Dr. Feder, the Rabbi of Kolin [35 miles northwest of Nemecky Brod] before and after the Holocaust. It has been translated by Ladislav Homan.

The Memorial in Zaiabske Jewish Cemetery in Veltrubska Street was unveiled on Sunday, 23 April 1950 at 10.00 a.m. There was a memorial service in the synagogue later in the day at 2:00 p.m.

During the occupation, Kolin became an important city because it was the residence of a powerful regional commander, cruel Gestapo and police. It was therefore a feared place from which emanated ever new regulations, making the citizens’ lives more burdensome, where harsh interrogations took place, high fines and penalties were levied, and from where numerous people were sent to work in the hated Reich. Kolin was therefore a town which people did not like to, hear about or travel to, and from which they were happy to go.

The same fate was shared by the Jewish religious community of Kolin, which very quickly became the centre for all Jewish religious communities of the district under the rule of the Kolin Regional Command (Oberlandrat). Until then the other communities were completely independent. These were: Cesky Brod, Nymburk, Podebrady, Krai, Mestec, Novy Bydzov s Chlumcem, Kutna Hora, Uhlirske Janovice, Caslav, Golcuv Jenikov, Habry, Svetia n.S, Ledec n.S, Doini Kralovice, Havlickuv [Nemecky] Brod and Humpolec. The Kolin community had to make the work easier for the Oberlandrat and Gestapo and was obliged to advise the sister communities of all the regulations being issued by the Oberlandrat and the Central Office for Jewish Affairs in Prague by which increasingly greater limitations were placed on the lives of the Jews.

For example, Jews were not allowed to leave the house without the yellow star, be on the street after 8:00 p.m., or visit bars, cafes, theatres, cinemas, exhibitions, lectures, auctions, stock exchanges, swimming pools, parks and woods, could not send their children to schools for the general public but were not allowed to organise private schools, were not allowed to own a radio or listen to broadcasts, buy and read newspapers, own a telephone, could only travel, in the first carriage (where the engine was) of trains and trams, could not leave their district without an official permit, were not allowed to own bonds, shares, gold and silver jewellery and, if they did, all had to be handed over by a certain date, had to declare their money deposits and were allowed to withdraw only modest sums, could not carry on farming, medical practice, legal practice, commercial or industrial business, publish any article in the press, publish books, could be neither official nor private clerks, could not live in comfortable apartments and especially villas, could not own fur coats, woollen sweaters, skis and ski equipment, driving licences and vehicles, musical instruments, could not be accepted as patients (even if seriously ill) in public hospitals or private sanatoria, could not shop in the market but only in certain shops during the prescribed hour, could not receive full food rations and no smoking materials, could not go to the barbers, own dogs or pigeons, could, however, be organised in groups for work but were not allowed to work with other workers, etc, etc. As these rules were issued gradually, the Jewish community of Kolin always had a heavy administrative burden. Especially unpleasant was the community’s contact with the Gestapo, whose orders had to be obeyed strictly without objection.

It was difficult for Jews to breathe in these circumstances, but they managed to withstand all this with calm as long as they were allowed to live in private apartments, sleep in their own beds and eat their own food. But even this was not afforded to them for long.

In the middle of April 1942, all Jews with the exception of babies and the sick with doctor’s certificates, from the whole Oberlandrat were called to Kolin for registration which took place in the Western School and took a whole week. The official from the Prague Central Office of Jewish Affairs, who was dealing with the registration, lived in the school where he felt more secure than in an hotel, but the Jews had to furnish his room with beautiful furniture, refined carpets, and pictures. The registration was farcical because this official did not even look at the Jews who were approaching him by families, but only ticked their names off whilst he was bullying those who did not follow his procedure. Despite this, it was a very serious event as it signalled something much worse—deportation. This was carried out with much cruelty and lack of consideration in the first half of June 1942. The spacious building of the Zaiabska Grammar School was chosen as the collection point for these human outcasts, because it was situated close to Zaiabska railway station that was used the Jews in the mornings. When the Jews entered the school building, they were under the, control of the police. There they had to surrender the keys to their apartments, cash, the rest of their silver, watches, and the men had their hair and beards cut.

Many of them were harshly interrogated and beaten without mercy when they would not reveal where they had hidden their money. These interrogations unfortunately took place as a result of information given by our false friends.

The Germans consigned three transports from Kolin to Terezin. They named them AAb, AAc and AAd. The first transport started on 1 June and left on the 4th, the second started on the 5th and left on the 9th and the third started on the 10th and left on the 13th. Not even seriously ill people, with the exception of two or three, were taken out of the transport. But Jews from mixed marriages, several leaders of the community and one chemist whose expertise in disinfection was recognised as economically important were removed from the transport. But they were all taken later. Kolin, though, was never without Jews. There was one sick person who was accepted as incapable of transportation.

In Kutna Hora several women remained, who were declared seriously ill by a brave doctor. They all recovered, completely on 9 May 1945, when they were liberated by the Red Army.

The total number of Jews transported from Kolin was 2,202, of whom 168 died in Terezin, 1,944 were sent to the East of whom 16 returned, or maybe even 20. Eighty-eight people survived Terezin and altogether 2,098 people died which is nearly 96%.

The participants in the Kolin transports did not stay in Terezin for long. Two-hundred-fifty never even saw Terezin because, as punishment after the assassination of Heydrich, the Germans sent one thousand Jews to the East from Terezin on 13 June 1942, on the day the third transport arrived at Bohusovice. The 250 joined the other at the station and travelled on, although we do not know to where, and they were most probably murdered straight after arrival. We have no details, only that not one returned.

In this way, the cruel Germans annihilated almost all the Jews in the Kolin Oberlandrat, confiscated their entire possessions and even desecrating the Kolin synagogue, which was used as a store for blood-stained uniforms of dead soldiers and other unclean articles, sold the seats for firewood and dirtied the synagogue beyond recognition. Even the Western allies of the Kolin Jews, during their absence, left their visiting card: they dropped twelve bombs on Zaiabska Cemetery, making massive craters which destroyed many graves, about 350 head-stones being partly knocked down and partially or completely broken. Even the prayer hall was badly damaged and the cemetery wall collapsed in places and one citizen was killed. Due to lack of financial resources, it has not yet been possible to restore this cemetery and many headstones still lie on the ground awaiting the helping hands that will put them back in place.

424 Jews from Kolin and district left in the three transports. Already in November 1941 the Germans sent the two most influential families, the Glasers of Velim and the Arnsteins of Kolin, together with two community officials to Lodz via Prague transports. Seven Jews chose to die voluntarily to escape the evacuation. Many Kolin Jews managed to join villages and relatives and old people’s homes in Prague. Eventually, the Germans sent to Terezin the Jews that worked in the community, children of Jewish faith from mixed marriages who had reached the age of fouteen, and young men who were on forced labour in Lipa. The number of Jews even increased in Terezin because one mother gave birth there.

In February 1945 the Jewish partners from mixed marriages arrived there, two of whom perished. Frantisek Parkus was taken hostage and perished. Six local Jews were imprisoned for political reasons and perished in various concentration camps. These were: Prof. Jirina Pickova and Marie Weignerova of Kolina, Arnost Roth of Cerv. Hradku, Dr. Pavel Vyskocil of Tynce n. Lab, the brothers Arnold and Rudolf Weinberger of Hradenina.

One Jewish young man, Tomy Glaser, died as a pilot in foreign armed forces. The total number of Kolin victims amounts to 480 people. Out of these: 9 were under 6 years old, 9 were between 6 and 10 years, 13 were between 10 and 14 years, 22 were between 14 and 20 years, 40 were between 20 and 30 years, 148 were between 30 and 50 years, 104 were between 50 and 60 years, 67 were between 60 and 70 years, 55 were between 70 and 80 years and 15 were between 80 and 90 years.

Amongst the Kolin victims of racism were one teacher, one professor, one veterinary surgeon, eight doctors, ten doctors of law, four engineers, two Ph.D.s, two active officers, one policeman, two industrialists, four farmers, four businessmen, six skilled workers, thirty-nine economists, several shopkeepers, clerks, pensioners and many widows. They were in all, honourable people, industrious, well thought of, having warmly participated in Czech public life, and the acts of the Germans on these people were a great injustice. They died as martyrs. In order to preserve their names for future generations and for the history of Kolin, we have erected this modest memorial at this cemetery, where they would have come to rest had they been allowed to die at home a natural death.

The Germans were murdering all people of Jewish origin and therefore we have not made any distinction but have named on the memorial all the martyrs, even if they were not practising the Jewish religion. On 23 April at 10:00 a.m. we will pay our respects to these Kolin martyrs, and we ask all those who knew these unfortunates and who condemn this injustice which calls to the heavens and which was committed on them, to join us.

The memorial was built from the design by academic sculptress Vera Bejrova and architect, Eng. Jaroslav Krelina assistant at Prague Technical University.

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