Finding Kafka in the bath – Yerusha seminar in Prague

18 May Finding Kafka in the bath – Yerusha seminar in Prague

‘Well, of course’ – I thought to myself when apple strudel was served in the coffee break of the workshop organised by the Jewish Museum of Prague.  Nothing better encapsulates the cultural transfer between the nations of Central Europe than this signature cake. The idea of folding a mush of grated apple, cinnamon, raisins and sugar into sheets of unleavened dough so thin you can read your newspapers through it was probably brought into the region by the Turks. The cake soon found its way onto the table of all ethnic and religious groups of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and became an integral part of the Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine.

The strudel served at the workshop was great and so were the presentations. The Jewish Museum brought together researchers working in Yerusha and the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure to discuss issues of Jewish archival heritage in the Czech Lands. This is a region of rich Jewish history – the land of the legendary Golem and Yehudah Leib ben Betsal’el, the Old Jewish Cemetery of Prague, the unique political Jewish communities of Moravia, and Jewish intellectuals who shaped the cultural landscape of the 20th century such as Franz Kafka.

Speaking of Kafka, he was spotted in one of the baths of Zlaté Hory in August 1905.


Police Registration Book of Spa Guests (Meldebuch), 1905 – 1910 (State District Archives Jeseník)

This guestbook entry was presented by Michaela Neubauerová of the Jesenik State Archives. It demonstrates how information relevant to Jewish history might be hidden in non-Jewish records. Prague was hit by an unusual wave of cold, but the discussions regarding the project methodology heated up the workshop. It was great to see how passionate and committed our researchers are to create exhaustive and meaningful results for the project.

Just a few days before the Prague workshop, our partner project, the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) was launched. Dr Veerle Vanden Daelen, leader of the identification and investigation work package of EHRI presented the project and talked about the practical lessons of building a research infrastructure of this magnitude. EHRI and Yerusha have a lot in common. While the challenges and the solutions presented by Veerle sounded very familiar, we can still learn a lot from EHRI’s success.    

Special thanks go to Michal Frankl, Deputy Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague and Jarka Vitámvásová, coordinator of the Czech Yerusha, for organising the workshop and looking after us with superb professionalism and unshakable calm. 

(The opening image is an invoice from 1912 issued by Hugo Dreschler, a Jewish merchant selling medical supply and equipment. State Regional Archives in Plzeň.)

Gabor Kadar is the Project Director of Yerusha.