PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC -- Joined by leaders and members of the Prague Jewish community, U.S. embassy officials, and the Lord Mayor of Prague, RFE/RL President Steve Korn unveiled a monument Tuesday recognizing the historical significance of the Hagibor site on which RFE/RL's broadcast headquarters stands.
From the early 1910s, Hagibor (which comes from the Hebrew word for "hero") was the site of a Jewish retirement home, later doubling as the site of the Hagibor sports club. During the early years of the German occupation of then-Czechoslovakia, it served as one of the few public spaces still open to Jews. But, from 1944-45 Hagibor was the location of a forced-labor camp for people from so-called "mixed marriages" and non-Jewish men who refused to divorce their Jewish wives. For some, the site was a transit point to the Terezin Ghetto in what is now northern Czech Republic.
"My great grandmother was from Prague and my ancestors before her," explained RFE/RL President Steve Korn. “When I was told of the history of Hagibor, I was surprised and disappointed there was no monument.”
The memorial, originally conceived by Mr. Korn and U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen, is a piece of Bohemian sandstone with "Hagibor" in Hebrew carved into it. The plaque on the ground below bears the inscription:
"In memory of the Jewish youth who competed on this site; those interned and enslaved here 1944-45; and to all who fight for liberty and human dignity."
The unveiling ceremony included remarks by Holocaust survivor Dr. Dagmar Lieblova of the Terezin Initiative, Chairman of the Jewish Community of Prague František Banyai, and Lord Mayor of Prague Bohuslav Svoboda.
"More than seventy years ago, this location was associated with persecution and tyranny," remarked Dr. Lindsay Kaplan, speaking on behalf of U.S. Ambassador Eisen. "Today it hosts an institution dedicated to the proliferation of liberty and democracy."