Remembering the Forgotten Czech Zionist Who Helped Save Hundreds of Jewish Children from Hitler

Oct. 18 2017

In December 1938, a British stockbroker of Jewish origins named Nicholas Winton devised a plan to bring Jewish children from Czechoslovakia to England; he succeeded in getting over 600 to safety. But the rescue might never have taken place without the efforts of local Jewish leaders in Prague, among them Marie Schmolka. Anna Hájková and Martin Šmok write:

It was Marie Schmolka’s appeal for help in December 1938 that brought the young Nicholas Winton to Prague. . . . Born to an assimilated Prague Jewish family, Schmolka married late and was widowed early. Quiet, warm, and with immense organizational talent, she became an avid Zionist following a trip to Palestine.

A lifelong social democrat involved in social work and high-level politics, she coordinated assistance to refugees from the Nazi regime. Schmolka was the sole Czech representative on the League of Nations Commission for Refugees.

Originally, Jewish refugees from Germany were welcomed in Czechoslovakia, but were gradually viewed as Nazi agents. Other countries refused to offer asylum: Schmolka knew this first hand as the Czech delegate at the 1938 Evian conference. After the 1938 Munich agreement and the following annexation of Czech borderlands, the relief organizations were unable to cope with the influx of over 100,000 refugees, both Jews and political opponents of Nazism. . . .

Repeatedly warned by her friends and offered asylum while abroad, Schmolka insisted she must return home to do the work at hand. When Germany occupied the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Marie Schmolka and her co-workers from the Committee for Refugees were among the first arrested. . . . Schmolka was imprisoned for two months in Pankrác prison, while the Gestapo subjected her, a diabetic, to eight-hour interrogations. In August, Adolf Eichmann sent her to Paris to demand more efficient Jewish emigration [from Germany]; stranded by the outbreak of war, Schmolka moved to London. Six months later she was dead at age forty-six, having worked herself to a heart attack.

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More about: British Jewry, Czechoslovakia, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Kindertransport, Refugees

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy