Karel Jeřábek (October 26, 1899 – September 21, 1950)
Today marks 70 years since the tragic death of long-time Lobkowicz librarian and archivist Karel Jeřábek.
Karel Jeřábek was born in 1899 at Roudnice Castle. His father, Tomáš Jeřábek, was a custodian of the Castle Collections, and began preparing Karel for his future occupation from a young age. Karel started working in the Roudnice Archive and Library in 1928. He would later go on to become personal secretary to diplomat Maximilian Lobkowicz. Like many of his predecessors, he was deeply dedicated to his work, and considered it his life’s mission to preserve and protect the collections.
Sadly, things changed with the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938. After Roudnice Castle was seized by the German army in 1942 and converted into a NAPOLA (National Political Institute of Education) boarding school, the Archive and Library were relocated. When World War II ended, Karel played a crucial role in returning the collections to Roudnice. However, these efforts were cut short with the arrival of Communism in February of 1948. Max Lobkowicz went into exile, and the new regime decided to turn the Castle into a military compound. Karel bravely defended Roudnice, but his heroic efforts were unsuccessful.
The official reports written by Karel Jeřábek before the Castle was seized are still frightening to read today: “… they have come to see the appointed eastern wing of the Castle, which is according to them unused – although it contains a Castle museum, the rest of the Castle Library, stored paintings, collections of porcelain, ceramics and small objects, and also archival materials… on the 2nd floor the furniture from this Castle is stored, along with furniture from the Castle at Dolní Beřkovice and the Prague Palace, which had to be cleared for the Castle Administration. They said they have come to see if this part of the Castle would be suitable for military purposes…” (report by Karel Jeřábek for National Cultural Commission in Prague, August 29, 1950).
The Castle was handed over to the army in early September of 1950, with orders for it to be emptied within the month. On September 21, 1950, Karel was found dead at the bottom of the Castle’s stairwell. We may never be sure whether he ended his life voluntarily, saddened by the dramatic changes being made to his beloved Roudnice, or whether he simply became inconvenient to those in charge of the eviction. Regardless, his death marks a symbolic end to an important historical era in the history of both Roudnice Castle and the Lobkowicz Collections.