The Prague Shoah Memorial

About the project
The sculpture “The Gate of Infinity”

THE MEMORIAL OF SILENCE is the planned transformation of Bubny railway station into a center for discussing the legacy of the past as a stigma of the present. The project is being realized by the non-profit Prague Shoah Memorial (Památník šoa Praha o.p.s.). The organization is currently focused on producing the architectural plans and exhibition script for the memorial’s future permanent exhibition, and also organizes exhibitions and events for the general public.

In coordination with its wide range of partner organizations, the Prague Shoah Memorial has been working to develop the educational program for the future memorial.

During the Second World War, Bubny Station was the departure point for transports carrying tens of thousands of Prague’s Jewish inhabitants to the Nazi ghettoes, concentration camps, and extermination camps. After liberation, the city saw the expulsion of its German population. This stigmatized place will now become a memorial with a modern exhibition commemorating the complex history of the 20th century, and also a space for discussion and critical reflection of the recent past.

The subject of the “Shoah within us” is one of the central themes of the proposed permanent exhibition. The memorial’s aim is to engage in a timeless dialogue in order to remember not only the victims of deportation, but to also focus on the stigma of those of organized the Final Solution and to remember the role of the passive silent majority that did nothing to stop them… For these reasons, we have chosen to call our project the Memorial of Silence.

If we can succeed in preserving Bubny station as a place of memory even as this part of the city sees massive development, then its tumultuous history will be sufficiently remembered and nobody will ever be able to erase this “gate of no return.” Nevertheless, the central theme for the Memorial of Silence’s permanent exhibition will be a timeless approach to dangerous social phenomena that appear again and again throughout history. We hope to call attention to the face of prejudice, xenophobia, racial enmity, and discrimination on the basis of “otherness” in the world today. Our seasonal projects and educational program will focus primarily on contemporary issues whose roots lie in this complicated history.

After signing a fifty-year lease with Czech Railways in 2013, the project is ready to move to the phase of renovating the train station building. We are also working with a wide range of partners the educational programs for the future memorial and the surrounding space associated with it.

The project has gained increasing awareness among the general public and currently enjoys broad support from the cultural and political spheres. In 2013, an Honorary Board was established, whose members include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Special Adviser on Holocaust Issues at the U.S. State Department Stuart Eizenstat, former Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg, founder of Art for Amnesty International Bill Shipsey, Lord Alf Dubs, and professor Philip Zimbardo.

Go to the Memorial of Silence

A Building in Prague, or How I Came to the United States

Tom Lenda, son of Pavel, and author of “Children on Death Row,” is a great story teller.  Here is his story of how how he came to the United States, some time after the war.

A Building in Prague, or How I Came to the United States
a Story by Tom Lenda
© Tom Lenda 2017

The whole story started a long time ago, when my Uncle Otto from Canada visited us in Czechoslovakia, in our town of Sumperk.

Otto had left Czechoslovakia when it was occupied by the Nazis, and went to China, where he spent the war. He finally settled in Canada. For some time he could not visit Czechoslovakia, because he would be immediately drafted into the army. So he waited. When he was too old for the army, he finally visited his brothers Pavel and Fred, and their families, safely. He invited me then to visit him in Canada, promising to pay all the expenses of the trip. I applied for permission to leave the country. Because it was a friendly time for the Communists (there was new management running Russia) I was permitted to travel to visit my Uncle and his family in Canada.

I discussed my plans with my Jewish friend and counselor, a retired engineer, Dr. Raichel. He had some valuables from Czech people who had held them for friends during the war, friends who never returned from the concentration camps. They gave these valuables to the friendly engineer, to pass on to their relatives now living in the West, including Canada, the United States, and other countries. All these valuables were supposed to be given to the Czech Communist government, so keeping them put the friendly engineer at risk. To take the valuables out of the country would be a risk also. So he suggested that I take them to the people’s relatives in Canada! Well, I was not all right about being asked to take them. So I suggested I would take some non-valuable items as a test, to see if the border officials would let them through. And it worked! I made it, and visited relatives in Canada and also the United States. While there I noticed a special business practice of having people model suits in the display windows of stores, in the evenings and at night. I had some friends doing the same in Prague. I returned home.

Prague WindowIn Prague I continued my normal life. I would go to my job in the General Bank for eight hours each day. Then I would drive home to my family in our basement apartment, and I would work on some designs for a new building hopefully planned for a future bank building. Then I would drive back downtown, and would settle and dream in a sales window of an office building in downtown Prague. It was the same building which is the official Czech Bank today. It was in the middle of Prague, at a place with big, arched glass display windows. I sat there, and moved around, dressed in a nice suit that was for sale. And people looked at the suit, hoping to buy it. Sometimes I got so tired I fell asleep. Then when morning came I would go and eat at the Wenceslas Place, and went on to my work at the main Bank down the street. This routine went on quite successfully for some time.

However, one evening a young man approached the arched glass display window where I was sitting. The young man held a heavy brick in his hand, and he threw it through the window. The glass shattered, and the brick fell inside. I was very afraid, but I wasn’t hurt. A policeman came and took the young man away to investigate him. It turned out he was the son of an important Russian official, a General in the Russian Army! So the General supposedly invaded Czechoslovakia with the Red Army, to get his son out of prison! Well the result, it seemed, was that the Red Army occupied Czechoslovakia. and all my so-called “friends” blamed it on me!

So I decided to leave the country, which I did with some difficulties. Finally, I am now in the United States!