Obituary: Czech Jewish Leader Vladimír Poskočil

Vladimir Poskočil and Cantor Ivan Kohout in 2014, at the laying of a “Stolperstein” (“stumbling blocks”) on a street near the Děčín ynagogue, next to the former home of Adolf Pächter’s widow Minna, whose death in Theresienstadt (Terezin) was hastened by starvation. “Stumbling blocks” is a memorial project of German artist Gunter Demnig in the form of brass paving stones (more than 50,000 have been placed), marking the homes of people murdered by the Nazis during WWII. (Provided)

Vladimír Poskočil, head of the Jewish community in the Czech city of Děčín, passed away on Aug. 8, 2017, following a stroke in the summer of 2015. It was through his efforts that the Czech government restored the 1907 synagogue of Děčín, at the crossing of the river Labe (Elbe) into Germany. He was also the one who revived its Jewish community.

Poskočil was born in 1932 in the Slovak Republic and hid with his family during World War II. As an adult, he was passionate about athletics, and he represented Czechoslovakia internationally from 1953 – 1963 as javelin thrower. He was a three-time veteran champion with the javelin, reaching 75.25 meters and earning several medals.

The Děčín synagogue was founded in 1907 by a group of industrialists headed by Adolf Pächter, and it served its community until the Nazis came, stripped its interior and used it as a clubhouse. After WWII, the Communist Czech government used the building for many years for storage, but after the 1989 restoration of democracy, Poskočil convinced the authorities to renovate it again as a synagogue. It was then given back to the Jewish community, which holds regular services in it, though it is also used for lectures and cultural events of the city.

“Vladimír Poskočil was an important person who had spent most of his life intensely devoted to the development of culture and sports. His tenure as chairman of the Jewish community was positively focused on restoring the unique cultural monument, the Děčín synagogue and development of the Jewish community,” said Děčín mayor Marie Blažková.

Poskočil’s funeral was held Aug. 16.

David Stern is a Greenbelt resident.

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