Catholics and Jews Gather in Kolin to Recall Deportations from Bohemia

Hundreds of local inhabitants and guests from abroad gathered Sunday in the Czechoslovak town of Kolin, about 25 miles east of Prague, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the deportation of more than 2,200 Jews from the town and surrounding localities.

The gathering recalled the killings as well of the Czechs of Lidice, a town 12 miles west of Prague that the Nazis burned to the ground after killing its entire male population of 199 and deporting their wives and children on June 10, 1942.

Some 30 Jews were then taken from the Theresienstadt concentration camp and forced, at gunpoint, to bury the Lidice victims.

Three days after the killings and deportations from Lidice, the Nazis rounded up the Jewish population of Kolin and sent a transport to the East, where nearly all of these Jews perished.

The atrocities were committed in reprisal for the attack on May 27, 1942, of Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler’s deputy protector for Bohemia and Moravia, who was one of the chief planners of the so-called Final Solution to the Jewish Problem in January 1942.

Heydrich, who died eight days after the attack, was killed by two Czech patriots who were parachuted into Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia after a flight from Britain.

Among those who came to take part in the unveiling of a memorial plaque in Kolin’s main square and participate in a service in its restored early Baroque synagogue were 13 survivors of the Kolin Jewish community, who now live in different countries.

The first Jewish service to be held here in decades was conducted by Rabbi Andrew Goldstein of London and Rabbi Brian Fox of Sydney.

The synagogue building, built between 1642 and 1696 and since the war used as a storehouse, will be the site of a Jewish museum.

The commemoration ceremony was attended by Israel’s ambassador to Czechoslovakia, Yoel Sher; Catholic clergy; and members of Jewish congregations in London; Chicago; New Haven, Conn.; Tel Aviv; and Sydney, Australia.

The Jews from these cities are members of synagogues which now house Torah scrolls originally from the Kolin synagogue.

The mayor of Kolin, Jiri Buric, recalled in his address the 600-year history of the town’s Jewish population and what their loss means to the community.

An essay contest among high school students was organized on the topic of the Holocaust. The four best writers were awarded Ernest Heller prizes, named after a Kolin Jew who escaped in the early 1940s to Palestine, joined the free Czechoslovak army and was killed in battle in the Carpathian Mountains fighting the Nazis to liberate Czechoslovakia.

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