Our community is privileged to hold one of the many Torah scrolls from now defunct Jewish communities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. They were found after the war in a perilous condition in an abandoned synagogue in Prague and in 1963, with the cooperation of the Czech government, were brought to England. Here they have been administered by the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust which took on the task of preserving and distributing scrolls to Jewish communities throughout the world
We wanted to commemorate by name the individuals from our Torah’s town of origin who were killed in the Shoah. But there was a problem in identifying the town. Our Torah comes from one of two communities south of Prague, Pisek and Strakonice. The scroll was labelled as coming from Pisek-Strakonice, but the Scrolls Trust has no idea why it is so labelled. We therefore have decided to honour the memory of the Jews of both towns. In 1930 the Jewish population of Pisek was 254, the population of Strakonice 169.
Using information from the Yad Vashem database, the Auschwitz Transport Lists and names given us by individuals who had family members in these towns, we were able to create a detailed database for both towns of the Jews who either were born there or living there prior to the Holocaust. Every Yom HaShoah we read out the names of 10 former Jewish residents of both towns.
Our connection with the Scrolls does not end with our possession of them. In 2007 a group of us took a trip to the Czech Republic to see the buildings that were left, tour those villages whose Jewish cemeteries were still intact and meet some of the residents of both towns. As part of the project “Neighbours Who Disappeared” Strakonice High School raised money to build a memorial to the vanished Jewish community. In 2012 three students and their teacher, Pavel Sekyrka, came to Colchester to present their project at the University of Essex. A group from our community, comprising three adults and 3 children travelled to Strakonice to help dedicate the memorial. It was a moving and uplifting experience and we hope that the memorial will continue to remind thend the people Strakonice of its lost Jewish community.
This is the memorial: