Czech House Jerusalem happily presents the book of František R. Kraus "Stories from the Scabies Quarter - The Vanished World of Jewish Prague". The book is introduced by his son Tomáš Kraus. He graduated from the Faculty of Law at Charles University in Prague and occupied himself with activities in Prague's cultural life, particularly in the Jazz Section of the Musicians' Union. Since 1991 Dr. Kraus has been the Secretary of the Federation of Jewish Communities. Besides developing a new infrastructure for the entire organization, he has in this function particularly concerned himself with questions of restitutions of Jewish property and compensation for Holocaust victims, on both domestic and international levels.
František R. Kraus
František Robert Kraus (October 14, 1903, Prague - May 19, 1967, Prague) was a Czechoslovak Jewish anti-fascist writer, journalist and editor, member of the resistance movement and a sportsman. He belonged to the so-called "Der enge Prager Kreis" or "close Prague circle" (Prager Kreis). Right at the end of the World War I, he started to work for German newspaper, for example for the famous Prager Tagblatt, Prager Presse, Bohemia and others. He had strong ties to the Czech intellectual elite. He was well-befriended with Max Brod, Franz Kafka, (he describes his first encounter in a short story entitled "Džbánek plzeňského" - "A Mug of Pilsner"), Karel Čapek, Jaroslav Hašek, as well as he knew Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and his son Jan Masaryk. However, his literary role-model, family friend and life teacher was "The Angry Reporter" Egon Erwin Kisch. He even lived in his house for some time. Because, during the 1930s, he was one of the strongest voices criticizing the Nazis, he was immediately on their blacklist not only as a Jew, but as a Social Democrat and as a member of intelligentsia. In November 1941, Kraus was put onto the first transport to Terezín, later to Auschwitz and Gleiwitz. Kraus and also his wife survived and returned to Prague. Due to his political prosecution during the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, vast majority of his work was censored and banned. One of his disciples, Arnošt Lustig, considered him to be one of the most important modern Czech writers ever and compared him to authors such as Jack London, Egon Erwin Kisch or Primo Levi. However, Kraus still remains to be relatively unknown in the present-day Czech Republic, because most of his books remain unpublished. In his literary work, he deals with reflexion of the Holocaust in Czechoslovakia; topics such as human existence, dignity, justice, guilt and hope. Main theme of his short stories is a pictorial world of weird figures and characters from old Prague.
The stories published in this book, presents the first part of the comprehensive literary work of the Jewish Czech writer František R. Kraus (1903 – 1967). In the stories of this collection (partly even autobiographical) author’s distinctive description of “Prague types” and his extraordinary sensitivity to captivate realities stands out. A picture of Prague is depicted and grows in front of us, which is extraordinary (thanks to his skill of looking into unexpected angles) and at the same time realistic (it describes old, hidden yet realistic Prague). Some of Kraus’ stories are relate to the people that he knew (Franz Kafka, Egon Erwin Kisch) or to stories of the passed times (Mozart, Casanova), others are set into the period of Munich and the protectorate and partly even into the times of Holocaust, that he himself experienced (Terezín, Auschwitz) and that will be covered in his next stories.
Until this day only few of the author’s mentioned stories were published although mostly only in journals (these were also partly censored). Other works have so far remained only in typescript. Eventually, these stories are published in a book form for the first time.
The collection of stories by František R. Kraus is undoubtedly an unexpected literary discovery within the now well-researched literary “Prague circle” of interwar. Suddenly a new strong voice within the interwar Jewish, German and Czech writers has appeared. We are introduced to a writer with exceptionally rich language, authentically constructed themes and with faithfully depicted characters and descriptions of genius loci of Prague as sublime as well as poor and crumbling. The writer portrays the life in the streets of just rehabilitated Prague ghetto and also in the streets of past-rehabilitated avenues. He describes the faith of “little people” as well as Prague bohemians, he had lived this exact life, experienced it and was also able to describe it authentically, with fascination yet unsentimental.
Kraus’ literary pupil and also his longtime friend Arnošt Lustig wrote about him: “František Robert Kraus who is not in the literary dictionary. Aman of similar sort to those of Jack London, Albert Londres and Curzio Malaparte and Egon Erwin Kisch and Isaak Babel or Adolf Rudnický. One of my prematurely deceased friends.”The book is accompanied by an epilogue by František Cingra, glossary and short editorial notes. It was illustrated by a family friend and painter Ivan Bukovský
Ilustrations in the book were created by Ivan Bukovský
A family friend of F. R. Kraus, author of illustrations and the book cover Stories from the Scabies Quarter – The Vanished World of Jewish Prague
Ivan Bukovský is a painter and a high school teacher, a graduate from Václac Hollar Art School and also the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. In 1974, he received a student Award of November 17. In 1975 together with Jan Bouška and in 1976 for the first time solo, he exhibited in a small unofficial gallery of the “Theatre in Nerudovka” (Divadlo v Nerudovce). He also took part of the significant generational “Exhibition of the Youth” in Mánes Gallery (1976). In 1978 he participated in an unofficial generational group exhibition “Confrontation” in the Institute of Microbiology of the Czechoslovakian Academy of Science. Together with a fellow student from the Academy, Jiří Sozanský, he co-organized the first out of three unofficial art symposiums in Terezín in 1980. Two days before the symposium, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia imposed an information embargo on it. However, the reports about the exhibition had already been published in newspapers and television and the embargo on the contrary only increased the turnout. Until the 80’s Bukovský exhibited mostly in smaller galleries. During 1984-1990 he collaborated with the “Short Film” (Krátký Film). In the beginnings of the 90’s he visited Italy at the invitation of the Lucchetti brothers and in 1993 he also visited Israel. Since 1993, he works as a teacher in a Waldorf high school in Příbram. He teaches history and history of art and art education. During the years 1996-2003 he worked as a teacher at Secondary Technical School and Higher Technical School (SOŠ and VOŠ) in Štětí.
Ivan Bukovský lives and works in Příbram. He was a member of an artistic group Lipany (1991-1992) and SVU Mánes (1992-2013) and also of the “Central Bohemian Association of Artists” (Středočeské sdružení výtvarníků). After his departure from SVU Mánes, he becomes a member of the association “Volné sdružení M” (est. 2013).
Exhibitions: National Gallery Prague, GASK Kutná Hora, AJG Hluboká, Gallery Klenová, Gallery Cheb, Gallery Litoměřice, Paňstwowe museum Majdanek, Yad Vashem Jerusalem
Josefov is a town quarter and the smallest cadastral area of Prague. Previously it was also called the Jewish Ghetto and Jewish Town. In 1850, the quarter was renamed "Josefstadt" (Joseph's City) after Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor who emancipated Jews with the Toleration Edict. Most of the quarter was demolished between 1893 and 1913 as part of an initiative to model the city on Paris. What was left were only six synagogues, the old cemetery, and the Old Jewish Town Hall. For centuries, the area just north of the Old Town Square was the home of Prague’s Jewish population. Nowadays, the Josefov neighbourhood is one of the city’s most bustling districts.
In cooperation with The City of Prague Museum, we offer you to see selection of photographs before, during and after the redevelopment.
For descriptions in the video, please turn on the subtitles
Selected photographs from the collections of the City of Prague Museum
All copyright reserved to City of Prague Museum
Special thanks to:
Stáňa Findejsová, director of the publishing house Cattacan - Nakladatelství Cattacan