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History In A Box - The Austerlitz Story

The small town of Austerlitz, which the Czechs call Slavkov, achieved surprising fame because three emperors happened to fight just there for European supremacy in 1805. In the 1930’s it was just a quiet town in Moravia, with a small Jewish community – about a hundred people, most of whom were killed by the Nazis. One of the Torah scrolls rescued from their small synagogue was given new life by our synagogue in Nottingham. Many years later, Neil Pike found one Jewish survivor still living in Slavkov, Ruth Matejovska.

She had survived because the Nazis needed her father’s skills as a dentist. Neil and other members of our shul established a lasting link with Ruth and with Slavkov that has brought together generations of Jews across our two countries, culminating in the magnificent Bat Mitzvah of Neil’s daughter Hana in Slavkov’s restored synagogue. Ruth was a girl of 11 when she was transported to Terezin. The memories of her childhood in Slavkov and her imprisonment in a concentration camp were the subject of a play performed in our shul in 2003 and again in the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in 2005. The play, translated into Czech, was performed by the schoolchildren of Slavkov on 5 June of this year, in the presence of its subject, Ruth Matejovska.

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