To be born in Reichenberg, to live in Liberec
Today, the Czech Community House (Beseda) is an ordinary house standing aside the busyLiberec center. It has long ago lost its historical significance. However, at the time of its establishment, the Czech Community House was the “Czech island in a German sea”. As late as 1910, the Czechs only represented 7% of the population of Liberec. By 1918, their numbersrose to account for 20% of the city dwellers. In the recollections of RudofPilař, a world full of ethnic tensions between the Czechs and the Germans comes alive. It is a glimpse into a time when the two nationswere still living together in one country and in one city. It also reminds us of the violent and abrupt end of their coexistence,precipitated by the war and the Nazi attempt to destroy the Czech nation, followed by theexpulsion of the Germans after the war. Rudolf Pilař was embroiled in this conflict – a conflict about who was allowed to live in this country – himself. As one of the young people born in 1924, hewas presented as a “gift” by the protectorate minister of education Emanuel Moravecto the Führer of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler,to jointhe labor force ofthe war economy. The former day-to-day ethnic tensions between the Czechs and the Germans altogether disappeared from Liberec because nowadays there’s only a handful of Germans living in the city. Yet the failure of the Czech-German coexistence remains one of the important lessons of history for Liberec. It is a lesson that’s asrelevant today – to learn how to live with the “others” in one city although those “others” are no longer the Germans today. Testimony was gathered within the Living Memory of Liberec – Reichenberg project.
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