Architect Josef Janský

* 1929  

  • "I had the name until I was ten years old, when we all changed our names because it was quite dangerous. I had a classmate in a kindergarten in Opava, and once she stopped in front of me, looking at me with a kind of hatred in her face, and said, 'Jews, you stink!'. I didn't understand what it was all about. Then I realized that she probably had it from her parents, because she was just as little as me. She couldn't know anything. That was the only thing, when I ever experienced something like that, because I'm already, as I say, one-eighth. Even under the Nuremberg law. However, it is interesting that my father, who was therefore a Jew from one fourth, was not allowed to have a state job under the reign of Germans. So, he only had a private practice as a doctor and he couldn't be in a state insurance company or anything."

  • "I am, as you might say, exactly: a man has eight grandparents, and one of those grandparents before he got married was a Jew. He was baptized before entering the marriage. There has been no Jew in our family since then. However, the name [Kohn] existed in one, in that masculine family line, so my father was a relative of Archbishop Kohn. You know. They were the 'owners'. That is, my father's father was an archbishop's cousin. And the archbishop, who was still the archbishop, came to visit relatives, that is, my grandmother, probably my great-grandmother, he just came to have a benevolent fun with his relatives. My great-grandmother, who must have been a little older than he was then, kissed his hand and the archbishop's ring. She treated him very respectfully, and when he left, the young generation scolded the grandmother for being so humble. They already had such a progressive view of it. Otherwise he had no great contact with us. Apparently, he was a rather unhappy man, the archbishop, I think. An unhappy man who didn't have many friends. That's just a weird thing. Although they were a Catholic family, they were no longer making those jokes."

  • "My professor's name was Benš and he was the author of the old airport, which is already out of order today. It was a first-class construction and electrical companies. He thought of the socialist realism that was being promoted and tried to get through it. Basically, there were a few such dummies, but it wasn't that there was any oppression. When I finished school, I was at the Prague Design Institute. An interesting episode was there when some inspections started taking place in 1958, where a number of engineers were to go either to a manufacturing plant or directly as bricklayers. It was an event that did not actually manifest itself in public. People did not know about it at all. It was really running and a lot of people had to go to other, mostly lower positions." - "How was it with you? Were you affected too? Or did it not affect you?" - "I was not affected. They told me then, because they asked about my father in Kroměříž and got a good reference. So, I survived, not in good health, because I wasn't allowed to go when there was a trip to Finland for example or to the West. So, I did not go... Those checks actually did not help me to get to higher functions either, but I didn't even want to get there."

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    v Praze, 29.07.2020

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    duration: 01:08:52
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Never accept the saying ‘You can´t make an omelet without breaking eggs’

Josef Janský, circa 1975
Josef Janský, circa 1975
photo: archive of the witness

Josef Janský was born on February 3, 1929 in Opava as Josef Kohn. He remembers the Czech-German environment of his childhood as quite non-conflicting. His father was a doctor, the head of a military hospital, he also had a private practice and took part in the cultural activities of the Czech minority. Family residences in Hertlov near Kroměříž and in Golič, Slovenia played an important role in the compactness of the family. With the arrival of the Nazis and the capture of the Sudetenland, the Opava family had to leave and move inland. One of the witness’s great-grandfathers was of Jewish descent, and although he converted to the Catholic faith in the 19th century and the family changed his surname from Kohn to Janský in 1938, his father was not allowed to be employed in state protectorate services. In 1948, Josef Janský began studying architecture at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. A year later, he joined the Communist Party, from which he was expelled during normalization checks. Some of his relatives emigrated, which was why he was banned to travel abroad by the standards authorities. He spent his entire professional life at one workplace, at the Prague Design Institute as an architect. In the early 1990s, he worked in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Civic Forum Coordination Center.