This morning we said goodbye to Prague and headed east to our next hotel stop, Olomouc. We had said goodbye to Kamila last night after our dinner at Nebozizek overlooking Prague, and this morning we said hello to our new guide, Ilona, who will be accompanying us from Prague to Olomouc and Trsice, and will be leaving us when we get to Poland. On the way we stopped in the town of Lostice, a town of about 3,000 people, where town historian and director of the Respect and Tolerance program in Lostice, Ludek Stipl, met us at the former Lostice synagogue. The mayor of Lostice gave us the history of the Jews in Lostice.We learned that the Jews of Lostice were very much assimilated into the community and that there had been an atmosphere of cooperation between the Jewish community and the Catholics. During World War II, 59 Jews from Lostice had been sent to concentration camps and after the war, only 3 returned.
We were honored to listen to the story of Holocaust survivor Jiri Fiser, born in 1936 and deported to Terezin and later the Czech family camp in Auschwitz. Because he was a twin, he was chosen by Dr. Mengele for medical experiments. He and his brother survived and he was eight years old when he was liberated. Today he is a member of the Olomouc Jewish Community and his story was filmed and is at Yad Vashem.
In the box for Otto Wolf there were several items including pages from his diary, photos of his family and a spoon. We were all fascinated by these compartments and we spent some time looking through them. Mr. Stipl explained how these objects were used to teach both the history of the Jews in the area and the history of the Holocaust to children.
We said goodbye to our new friend, Mr. Stipl and headed on to Olomouc. After checking into our hotel rooms, we went to the Jewish Community Center and were met by Petr Papousek, the head of the Jewish Federation of the Czech Republic and the leader of the Olomouc Jewish community. Grandson of our dear friend, Milos Dobry, of blessed memory, Petr showed our group the small synagogue in the Jewish center, the prayer blanket which was used for Torah readings which was donated after the war by Otto Wolf’s father in memory of his sons, Kurt and Otto, and spoke to us about the slow but steady growth of the Jewish community in the area. Petr answered questions from our students before walking with us to dinner at a lovely, local restaurant.
When meeting with Peter Papousek at the Jewish Center of Olomouc the discussion of what defines someone as a Jew intrigued me. It did not make sense to me how one can be defined as Jewish if they had one JewIsh grandparent. Hearing this made me realize now meaningful being Jewish is to me for my heritage and to my family.