Ivo Feierabend

* 1927  

  • Interviewer: “Could you tell us again that anecdote about your method to tell who was a good professor?” – “It was a ritual. Normally, when a teacher entered the classroom, the class had to get up to greet him to show respect. We sat down only after he had sat down; he would also tell us: ´Sit down.´ But during the Nazi era, there was an order that when a teacher entered the classroom, he had to greet the class with his raised right hand. It was called an Aryan greeting, a Nazi greeting, and we also had to raise our right hands. But if he was a good professor, he would do like this (waving his hand downward, auth.´s note) and say: ´Sit down.´ He was thus making fun of this Aryan greeting by turning it into a command for us to sit down.”

  • “My name is Ivo Karel Feierabend. I was born in Prague in 1927. My mom was born Hartmanová. Her father, my grandpa, was a doctor in south Bohemia in Velešín. Mom attended grammar school in České Budějovice. Then she began studying art history in Prague, but she didn’t finish her studies. She married my father when she was very young. Perhaps I should say more about my grandmother Hartmanová.” Interviewer: “I’d interrupt you here. So you’re the son of Ladislav Feierabend, the well-known minister during the Second Republic era?” – “My father – this was being told as an anecdote, but it was true – replied to a job advertisement while still under Austria-Hungary rule, and he worked his way among the most important workers of the Czechoslovak cooperative movement, especially among agricultural cooperatives. Among others, he was the chief director of Kooperativa and also the head of the produce exchange, and he held numerous other offices. He was not a politician.”

  • “I told my sister: ´I will go open the door.´ The door couldn’t be opened from the outside. If somebody rang the bell, you had to open the door. ´I will always go and look at who stands there, and if I don’t like it and dad is at home, I will put the pipe into my mouth and turn to you. And this will be a signal that dad is in danger and he has to get out.´ And it really happened this way. I think father was sitting in his study, a doorbell rings, I go down to answer it and there is some man saying that he has an important message for father. I replied that father was not at home, that he was on a political campaign in Moravia; we were speaking through the closed door. And there was something about this man that I didn’t like. And as I was nervous, I kept putting the pipe into my mouth and taking it out again, making noises with my fingers, and this was confusing my sister. She didn’t know what the signal was, and I didn’t know either. But then it became obvious to me, so I put the pipe in my mouth and looked at Hanka, who disappeared behind the door. Some other men jumped out from behind the wall nearly simultaneously. There was a low wall next to the wicket, and they wanted me to open the door. I had to open it. I didn’t know what was happening, but I saw my mom angrily descending the stairs. The villa is situated on a slope, and if you go to the ground floor, you need walk up the stairs. And the police were taking these stairs. I remember my mom walking next to me while I was telling her: ´These gentlemen want to speak to father, but I told them that he is not here, that he is in Moravia speaking in a campaign.´ And my mom, angry, replies: ´Of course, father is in Mirošov.´ Well, as you know, Mirošov is not in Moravia. I thought: ´Oh my God!´ But nothing happened. Now what Hanka did: she grabbed dad’s coat, which was hanging in the entryway, she passed him the hat and told him: ´Run away quickly, run away.´ Father left using another door; he left through the garden and he walked out. There were probably just seconds in between: he was still in the house and they were already in, but he just managed to escape within this short interval.”

  • “At first I’d like to share two proverbs with you. The first one is from a Harvard philosopher, who said at the beginning of the 20th century that the one who does not know his past, and he meant a bad past, has to repeat it. This is one thing to understand. And the other moral is that conscience is a matter of memory. And if your memory is crooked, your conscience will become crooked as well. That’s what this coping with the past is about. To have this individual and social, national conscience. This is reconciliation. And if some crimes happen, and they are not declared crimes or go unpunished, then anything becomes possible. All standards are suddenly gone. I think that this coping with the terrible past is very difficult. I understand that, but if there is no such settlement, then normal life or worthy life is actually impossible. This is the settlement. And the settling of some extreme situation is immensely difficult. A totalitarian regime is an extreme situation, I understand that. There are very few people who act well in an extreme situation. I would call them moral athletes.”

  • “Our class was split. There were people like Bohušák or Kristek, who became great communists later, but they had been communists even back then. At that time we were still friends, and we were having academic arguments.” Interviewer: “What were these discussions about?” – “Is dialectics a natural law? Is there historical materialism, is it really so, or is it something different? It’s a world going one-way without stopping... We talked like that.” Interviewer: “How did these young people actually perceive communism?” – “I think that for some of them it was idealism, or conviction that it was something much better than before. I think that for some, even then, when they joined the Party it was something like scouting for us. When we were scouts, involved in the scouting movement, which is now being recovered, we were criticizing it. We were criticizing it in class. And later, when we formed our opinions clearly, in the final year of grammar school and then at the law faculty, I think we already saw the Third Republic as a struggle against the wrongdoings of the Communist Party. Its infiltration, its shamelessness. And at first I thought I should vote for the social democrats, I already had the voting right. And I thought I was making fun of my father by doing it.”

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    Praha?, 30.07.2010

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    duration: 03:37:13
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I was almost afraid to go to Prague in 1990, because everything was destroyed and neglected

Ivo Feierabend
Ivo Feierabend
photo: současná: Mikuláš Kroupa

Ivo Feierabend was born March 2, 1927 in Prague in the family of Ladislav Feierabend, a politician and representative of agrarian cooperativism. Ivo’s father served as a government minister during the Second Republic and at the beginning of the Protectorate. In 1940 he emigrated, and the family was then persecuted. Some of the family members were sent to concentration camps. After the war Ivo studied law at Charles University in Prague, and in 1948 the whole family emigrated. Ivo Feierabend studied political science at the University of California, Berkeley, and he pursued an academic career in the USA. He is professor emeritus at San Diego State University and he lives in the nearby Del Mare. Since 1989 he has visited the Czech Republic; the family looks after the property which was returned to them in restitutions.