Monument to Jewish Industrialist Emil Kolben Unveiled in Prague

A plaque honoring Jewish industrialist Emil Kolben was erected in the Czech capital.

Kolben, who died in the Holocaust, co-founded CKD, one of the most important industrial firms in the former Czechoslovakia.

The monument located in the heart of Prague’s Vysocany district where Emil Kolben’s machinery empire was based, was unveiled by his granddaughter-in-law, Andree Kolbenova, and the district’s mayor, Jan Jarolim.

“We are proud to commemorate Emil Kolben,” Jarolim said. “He played a prominent role in the formation of Czechoslovakia’s industry, and contributed to the country’s rapid development between the wars.”

Born into a poor Jewish family in Strancice, central Bohemia, Kolben graduated from Prague’s Technical University and relocated to the United States where he spent four years working for Thomas Edison’s General Electric Company.

He founded his first company after returning to Prague in 1896. Through a series of mergers some three decades later, he created CKD, a large industrial complex that evolved into the world’s largest manufacture of streetcars and survived until the 1990s.

In 1939, Kolben was transported to the Terezín concentration camp along with his wife, son and grandson. He died there within three weeks at the age of 80.

After the war, Czechoslovakia’s communist authorities played down Kolben’s legacy, labelling him a capitalist who exploited his workers. Today, a metro station and a street in Prague bear his name. Slovakia and the Czech Republic peacefully split in 1993.

The monument in Vysocany takes the form of life-size glass plates showing a photo of Kolben and several of his collaborators.

Emil Kolben’s granddaughter-in-law, Kolbenova, 87, told JTA she liked the monument.

“It’s very unusual, and I could not really picture it when they first told me about it,” Kolbenova said. “But now I’m really excited. It was a great idea and I just hope it does not get vandalized.”

Author

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Monument to Jewish Industrialist Emil Kolben Unveiled in Prague

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close