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Three-volume biography of Czechoslovak Romani partisan, decades in the making, has been published

2.11.2016 12:30
Josef Serinek (PHOTO: Post Bellum)
Josef Serinek (PHOTO: Post Bellum)

On 21 October the Moravian Museum and the Triáda publishing house launched a new book, "Česká cikánská rapsodie" ("Bohemian Gypsy Rhapsody") by Josef Serinek and Jan Tesař at the Dietrichstein Palace in Brno. Those scheduled to discuss the three-volume biograpy of Serinek included Jiří Mitáček, the General Director of the museum, former dissident and former chair of the Czech Senate Petr Pithart, historians Daniel Říčan, Petr Koura and Vítězslav Sommer, conservationist Marta Procházková, publisher Robert Krumphanzl and the author, Jan Tesař, who has worked on the book for decades.

There is no other Romani resistance fighter or soldier in all of Europe whose life has been so well-documented. Josef Serinek (1900-1973) served in the Czechoslovak Army prior to the Second World War.

In 1942, together with his family, Serinek was imprisoned in the concentration camp at Lety by Písek, from which he escaped with his relative Karel Serinek under dramatic circumstances. After surviving a shooting, Josef, also known as "Black Joe" ("černý Pepek") first joined a group of Czech partisans, but they were afraid that the presence of a Romani man in their ranks could lead to their being betrayed to the Nazis by the villagers on whose aid they were dependent.

"I wanted to fight, if it had just been about hiding I wouldn't have been there," Serinek said after the war

Serinek eventually became commander of the Čapajev partisan division and in June 1943, together with Lieutenant Colonel Svatoněm and General Vojtěch Luža, agreed to organize the partisan struggle in the Protectorate. In September 1943, the division of 28 members, most of them from the Soviet Union, took up the name "Čapajev".

They were armed with just 15 pistols and revolvers in the summer of 1944, as well as a rifle and ammunition provided by Serinek's future wife. At the beginning of October 1944, the Czech gendarmerie based in Přibyslav shot the resistance General Luža dead in the town of Hřiště.

Three weeks later, Serinek, a former military pilot named Nikolai Bachmutskiy, and Radomír Luža, the deceased general's son, attacked the gendarmerie station in Přibyslav in a punitive expedition and interrogated five gendarmes in a cellar under threat of death. Since none of the gendarmes would confess to murdering the general, the partisans decided to shoot them all.

One gendarme survived the incident with severe injuries. After the war, Serinek was given many military honors.

Together with his wife, Serinek ran the "At the Black Partisan" pub (U černého partyzána) in the East Bohemian town of Svitavy. His biography is a milestone in the history not just of Romani people in the Czech Republic and former Czechoslovakia, but in Europe.

The book demonstrates that during the Second World War, Romani people also excelled in fighting the Nazis, and not just the German ones. The publication of the book has been supported by the Czech Culture Ministry, the Czech-German Fund for the Future, the Foundation for Holocaust Victims, and the town of Svitavy.

Markus Pape, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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dějiny, Josef Serinek, Knihy, Nacismus, Válka



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