When he finishes, the mayor introduces the officials who are going to sign an official memorandum signifying cooperation between the Jewish Community of Olomouc and the organization for the destroyed Czech villages and towns of World War II. This memorandum is a direct result of our visits and work with the diary of Otto Wolf.
1. the Jewish Community of Olomouc will provide resources for a new memorial in Zakrov. 2. the memorial to the rescuers and their families that we are dedicating today 3. A new museum in Trsice about this history where the first artifact included will be the pen used to sign this memorandum.
When we were in Berlin, Shalmi spoke to us about language as a unifying factor for humanity. Throughout the five years that we have been coming to Trsice to learn more about the Wolf family and their rescuers, our guide, Ilona Zahradnikova, has given us the gift of language through her tireless translations of the Czech language into English. Without Ilona, none of this would have been possible. We are very grateful to her for her work with our group on this historical day.
More than 100 people, surrounded by newspaper photographers, television reporters, radio journalists and reporters listen as the mayor of Trsice and other Czech officials recognize Colleen Tambuscio for her dedication to this project.
Otto's niece Eva expressed the gratitude felt by the Wolf family for the efforts made by the community both in the past and present.
One particularly moving part of the ceremony was the reading of Otto’s diary by local boy scouts.
These boys had slept in the forest the night before not 100 yards from the hideout. The two boys read a passage from the diary in Otto's original Czech language,
followed by our own Aidan reading an entry from Salvaged Pages in English.
Following the unveiling, many of the people assembled, in accordance with the Jewish tradition, placed stones on and around the memorial.
On a clothesline strung between two of the trees near the memorial, Dr. Brezina had laminated pages from our 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 Holocaust Study Tour books that include photographs of past visits to these woods, photos of pages from Otto’s original diary and written reflections of individual experiences here. Yes, our students from the past are with us on this historical day.
We leave the woods to go back to the village of Trsice to the restaurant across from the frog statue where we enjoy a delicious lunch hosted by the mayor.
At Zakrov, our final stop in the area, Mrs. Ohera and younger sister who was only five years old when her father was rounded up, along with Otto Wolf, in a raid to capture local partisans who had been operating in the area. They show us the memorial with the names, photographs, and birthdates of the 19 men who were tortured, and were killed April 20, 1945.
As Alexandra Zapruder says in the introduction to Otto’s diary, “. . .the diary paints a picture of a group of people who exhibited a whole range of human conduct, including altruism and generosity, indifference and opportunism, impatience, selfishness, and cruelty, and whose conduct itself shifted and changed over time, defying all attempt at simplification or generalization.” We are struck by the knowledge that Otto, despite being tortured as a result of being denounced as a Jew, did not betray any of the people of Trsice and Zakrov who had helped his family in hiding for three years, nor did he tell about his sister and parents still hiding.
Otto is the unwavering boy, whose diary led American teachers and students here, together with his descendants, to this place in the woods to mark the place where Czech rescuers saved his family.
At the first cemetery in Prague, rocks were laying on the tombstones, which meant nothing to me. Today at the memorial, the rocks meant so much more. Times have changed between the Holocaust and now, but these rocks are something that someone of that time or our time could possess, which is why the rocks felt so appropriate to remember the Wolf family by.
Hannah C. says:
The thing that impacted me the most was that I became a part of history. Not only did I see one of our teachers, Mrs. Tambuscio, unveiling the memorial, I also got to witness something huge. I got to watch Jewish people being represented in a place where once they had not even been allowed to breathe.
Alyssa S. says:
Today we experienced history and some of us heard something for the very first time---we heard Petr read a section of the Torah. I felt more at home, and I felt I could pray for the people who died or experienced the Holocaust. It was also ironic, because during the Holocaust, people were persecuted for being Jewish, yet now someone was speaking in Hebrew at a memorial of the Holocaust.
I felt uncomfortable when we were at the memorial in Zakrov and we saw how old the boys were when they were killed. I can’t even imagine something like that happening to me because they were my age. I am appreciative of how the people in this town have great tolerance and created a memorial to the Wolfs who don’t even share their religion. I don’t think I can completely grasp what went on today, but I’m sure that in ten years I will look back and be grateful.
Alyssa L. says:
Across from where the Ohera family hid the Wolf family, was a huge field that to me symbolized freedom. I couldn't imagine what it must have been like for the Wolf family to see that open field every day and at the same time know that they weren't free. It was even harder to stand at this place with the Ohera sisters and understand that their father died after his efforts to help preserve the Wolf family's freedom--they were almost able to run across that field and run free.
I felt a personal connection with the Ohera sisters because I also lost a parent. They taught me that it's okay to let your guard down and open up. That moment with the Ohera sisters impacted me the most of any throughout this entire trip.