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Vrchotovy Janovice Chateau

Meeting Place of Rainer Maria Rilke, Karl Kraus and Sidonie Nadherna

Order Tour Code: C SE4
Tour availability: Tour available in summer season

The first mention of Vrchotovy Janovice, or just Janovice, as they used to be known, comes from the 1220s. The original name of the village derives from its founders, the Lords of Janovice. In 1879 the estate was claimed by the family Nadherny of Borutin. As far as culture was concerned, the most prominent member of family was the art-loving baroness Sidonie (1885-1950), who entertained at Janovice the likes of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), the Austrian journalist and playwriter Karl Kraus (1874-1936) or the outstanding Czech painter and graphic artist Max Svabinsky (1873-1962).
World War II represented a gloomy period in the village´s history. The entire village and its surroundings were evicted to make space for an SS military training ground and a concentration camp (officially part of Flossenburg). The inhabitants of the village were moved away until April 1st, 1944.

WWII Concentration Camp Vrchotovy Janovie
Forty Czech prisoners that tried to escape from the forced emploeyment in the so called Empire were brought to the village and inhabited in two empty farms in spring 1944 when the concentration camp was founded in the empty village. Also from June 1944 there were imprisoned also aprox. 80 men, the Jewish prisoners from the so called mixed marriages.
The prisoners of both camps were inhabited in the barns and were guarded by the Czech policemen. The task of these two groups was to build the new camp - six wooden houses by the so called New lake, surrounded with the barbed wire that was planned to be so called branch concentration camp.
Three wooden houses were planned to be used by the prisoners, another two were planned for SS guards and one was planned to be the kitchen. In the corners of the camp were standing guarding towers.
Nobody knows to where the prisoners from the mixed marriages were brought, probably to the main camp called Bystrice. The prisoners of the first group - i.e. those that tried to escape from the forced work in the Empire, were moved in September 1944 to the concentration camp Hradistko.
In June 24th, 1944 there were brought about 100 prisoners of different nationalities from the concentration camp Flossenbürg. Until November their number increased up to 200. The largest national group about 182 people were the Russians, than 45 French people, 15 Germans, 6 Czechs, 2 Spanish, 1 Belgian, 1 Dutch, 1 Bulgarian, 1 Italian and 1 Hungarian.
Their main task was to build the workshop to reastoire the tanks and also the destruction of the empty buildings. With their help were also constructed SS school,kennel, storage, SS cinema and railway station. They used the stone from the nearby pit in Stebanovice. There was the lack of auxilliary labour the prisoners bulit one more wooden house-prison.
The commander of the camp was SS-Hauptscharführer Christel, the SS guards were 35 men changed every 4 weeks.
Two French prisoners escaped in August 26th, 1944, 2 Polish prisoners escaped in December 23rd 1944 aand 2 Russian prisoners escaped in March 27th 1945. Nobody knows what happened with them.
In the end of November 1944 the number of dead prisoners suddenly increased. In the second half of November in 1944, there were only 200 prisoners and 4 of them died, two because of TBC.
In the beginning of the year 1945 there started the epidemic of spotted typhoid. Because of his concentration camp was in the military training area and completely isolated from the civil authorities, no official doctor of the area was informed about the epidemic, that would be responsible for every case of the infection in the civil area. From February 1945 the dead prisoners were not cremated any more in the Prague crematorium Strasnice. Nine of them were burried by the chateau surrounding wall, another dead prisoners were burried at the local cemetery.
Those that survived the epidemic of spotted typhoid were moved to the camp Krepenice, from there in the end of April 1945 they were transferred by the trucks to the village Mechenice and joined the big evacuation transport of prisoners. 14 prisoners that were not able to move any more and those that protested were killed in Krepenice befire the evacuation. Still in April 1945 there was send the transport with 50 prisoners from terezin to Vrchotovy Janovice and Krepenice to dig the anti tank moats.
The concentration camp Vrchotovy Janovice - the wooden houses were destroyed by the fire completely after the liberation. The remaining building were destroyed. There is the memorial from 1982 and the grave of the Frech prisoners in the local cemetery.
The exhibition in the chateau museum reminds also this concentration camp.

Chateau of Baroness Sidonie Nadherna
(Among the most famous visitors of the chateau´s owner - the baroness Sidonie Nadherna were - Rainer Maria Rilke (German poet and journalist) , Karl Kraus (Viennese journalist, poet, playwriter), Adolf Loos (architect), Antonin Podlaha (bishop, archbishop, art historien), Max Svabinsky (painter), Herbert Masaryk (painter, son of the president T.G.Masaryk), prince Max Lobkowicz, etc..)
Once a fortified Gothic settlement of the Lords of Janovice protected by a moat, the estate was gradually transformed into a Renaissance chateau, serving as the main seat of the Votice branch of the Counts of Vrtba in the 17th and 18th century. Its last major reconsrtuction was given its present Gothic Revival style.
The entire chateau is now a part of the National museum and houses several permanent exhibitions: "19th Century Society in Bohemia" , offering a closer look at the living in Bohemia at that period, "Rainer Maria Rilke, Karl Kraus and Vrchotovy Janovice" , an opportunity to acquaint oneself with the family of the last private owners, with main emphasis on Sidonie Nadherna, and an exhibition of "The Czech Bell-Founding", focusing on teh history of bell-founding in the Czech lands.
You may choose to conclude your visit to Janovice by a walk in the ancient park surrounding the chateau.
You can find the stone table where Karl Kraus wrote, the funeral place of the family of Sidonie Nadherna.
The baroness Sidonie Nadherna escaped from the communist Czechoslovakia after the the communist regime started. She died in the Great Briatain. To have from what to live she sold letters that Rainer Maria Rilke wrote her. She died in 1950 and was buried in Harenfield nearby London. At the same year there was made the public auction in her chateau, people could buy anything they wanted for almost nothing,or for free, what nobody wanted was burnt in the front of the castle, that time the whole archive, the whole history was destoyed, also thousands of letters...... Respectively, not completely, some filatelist is said tore off their stamps, just stamps that had no value compare to these letters .............

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RAINER MARIA RILKE (1875 Praha - 1926 Valmont)
Writer and poet, considered one of the greatest lyric poets of modern Germany. Rilke created the "object poem" as an attempt to describe with utmost clarity physical objects, the "silence of their concentrated reality." He became famous with such works as DUINESER ELEGIEN and DIE SONETTE AN ORPHEUS. They both appeared in 1923. After these books, Rilke had published his major works, believing that he had done his best as a writer. "Works of art are indeed always products of having been in danger, of having gone to the very end in an experience, to where man can go no further." (from Letters) Rainer Maria Rilke was born Renee Karl Wilhelm Johann Joseph Maria Rilke in Prague, as the son of Josef Rilke, a railway official and the former Sophie Entz, the daughter of a bank official with the title of Imperial Counsellor. A crucial fact in Rilke's life was that his mother called him Sophia and forced him to wear girl's clothes until he was aged five - thus compensating for the earlier loss of a baby daughter. However, his father gave him toy soldiers and dumbbells for exercise. Rilke's parents separated when he was nine. At the age of ten Rilke was sent by his militarily inclined father to a military academy. Rilke spent miserable years at St. Polten and Mahrisch-Weisskirchenn until 1891, and then entered a business school in Linz after studies at a preparatory school. He also worked in his uncle's law firm. Rilke continued his studies at the universities of Prague, Munich, and Berlin.
As a poet Rilke made his debut at the age of nineteen with LEBEN UND LIEDER (1894), written in the conventional style of Heinrich Heine. In Munich he met Lou Salom�, the talented and spiritied daughter of a Russian army officer, who was 14 years his senior. Salome influenced him deeply; they become lovers in 1897. Salome had been a friend of Nietzsche, who broke off his relationship with Salom� in December 1882. Later she married professor Friedrich Carl Andreas. Other important women in Rilke's life were the young sculptress Klara Westhoff, the Swedish writer Ellen Key, Marthe Hennebert, who was a young girl who become a textile designer, the great Italian actress Eleonora Duse, Marie von Thurn und Taxis, and Hertha Koenig, both very wealthy, and Nanny Wunderly-Volkart and Sidonie Nadherna.
In 1899 Rilke traveled with Lou Andreas-Salome and her husband in Russia, visiting among others Leo Tolstoy. Rilke was deeply impressed by what he learned of Russian mysticism. During this period he started to write The Book of Hours: The Book of Monastic Life, which appeared in 1905. He spent some time in Italy, Sweden, and Denmark, and joined an artists' colony at Worpswede in 1903.
In 1901 Rilke married Klara Westhoff, one of Auguste Rodin's pupils. They had a daughter, Ruth. She was born seven months after the marriage, which lasted only one year. However, legally they did not divorce.
Rilke composed in rhymed, metered verse, the second part of The Book of Hours. The work expressed his spiritual yearning. After Rilke had separated from Klara, he settled in Paris to write a book about Rodin and to work for his secretary (1905-06). Under the influence of the famous sculptor and his artisan confidence, Rilke developed his idea of the "thing-poem", modeled after Rodin's art: "The thing is definite, the art-thing must be still more definite; removed from all accident, reft away from all obscurity, withdrawn from time and given over to space, it has become enduring capable of eternity. The model seems, the art-thing is." (from a letter to Andreas-Salom�, 8 August 1903) The "thing-poems" (Dinggedichte) were not about dead objects, but in Rilke's writing they came alive - in 'Archaic Torso of Apollo' (from New Poems, 1908) the ancient statue discovered at Miletus is "stuffed with brilliance from inside" and "gleams in all its power".
During his Paris years Rilke developed a new style of lyrical poetry.'Der Panther', in which the psychological distinction between the observer and observation melts together, marked the beginning of the period: "Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille / sich lautlos auf -. Dann geht ein Bild hinein, / geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille - / und h�rt im Herzen auf zu sein." In the Spring of 1906 the overworked poet left Rodin abruptly. Rilke revised DAS BUCH DER BILDER and published it in an enlarged edition. He also wrote The Tale of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke, which became a great popular success. After NEUE GEDICHTE (1907-08, New Poems) Rilke wrote a notebook named DIE AUFZECHNUNGEN DES MALTE LAURIDS BRIGGE (1910), his most important prose work. It took the form of a series of semiautobiographical spiritual confessions but written by a Danish expatriate in Paris. Finishing the book emptied Rilke's creative powers and he decided to undertake several translations, including the sonnets of Louise Lab�. Later reviewing the work George Steiner reproved Rilke because he excelled her: "Where he does so, the original is subtly injured."
Rilke kept silence as a poet for twelve years before writing Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus, which are concerned with "the identity of terror and bliss" and "the oneness of life and death". Duino Elegies was born in two bursts of inspiration separated by ten years. According to a story, Rilke heard in the wind the first lines of his elegies when he was walking on the rocks above the sea - "Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels's hierarchies?"
Rilke visited his friend Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis-Hohenlohe in 1910 at Duino, her remote castle on the coast of the Adriatic, and returned again next year. There he started to compose the poems, but the work did proceed easily. After serving in the army, Rilke was afraid that he would never be able to finish it but finally in 1922 he completed Duineser Elegien (Duino Elegies) in a chateau in Muzot, Switzerland. He also wrote an addition, the Sonnets to Orpheus, which was a memorial for the young daughter of a friend. In the philosophical poems Rilke meditated on time and eternity, life and death, art versus ordinary things. The tone was melancholic.
In 1913 Rilke returned to Paris, but he was forced to return to Germany because of the First World War. Duino Castle was bombarded to ruins and Rilke's personal property was confiscated in France. He served in the Austrian army and found another patron, Werner Reinhart, who owned the Castle Muzot at Valais. When English soldiers read Rupert Brooke's poems, young German soldiers took Rilke's Five Cantos / August 1914 to the front.
After 1919 Rilke lived in Switzerland, occupied by his work and roses in his little garden. For time to time he went to Paris for a few months or to Italy. Rilke's companion during his last years was the artist Baladine (Elisabeth Dorothea Spiro), whose son, Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski), become also an artist. Rilke wrote a foreword to a book illustrated by Balthus's drawings of cats. Rilke died on December 29, in 1926. He had suffered from leukemia and spent much time at the Val-Mont sanatorium, but he died of an infection he contracted when he pricked himself on a rose thorn - or this was what he encouraged in his last days his friends to think.
An important part of Rilke´s writings are his letters (to Marina Tsvetaeva, Auguste Rodin, Andre Gide, H.v.Hofmannstahl, B.Pasternak, Stefan Zweig etc.), which have been published posthumously in different collections. The Russian poet and novelist Boris Pasternak was a great admirer of Rilke's work; Pasternak's father Leonid had met Rilke in Russia and Italy. When Leonid congratulated Rilke on his 50th birthday, the poet confirmed his love of the old Russia: "... but even if we do not live to see it at its resurrection, the profound, the real, the other surviving Russia has only fallen back on her secret root system, as she did before, under the Tatar yoke; who could doubt that she is still there and is gathering her forces in that dark place, invisible to her own children, leisurely with her own sacred slowness, on to a possibly still-remote fu

Karl Kraus (April 28, 1874 - June 12, 1936) was an eminent Austrian writer and journalist, known as a satirist, essayist, aphorist, playwright, and poet. He is generally considered one of the foremost German-language satirists of the 20th century.
Kraus was born into a Jewish family of Jacob Kraus, a papermaker, and his wife Ernestine, nee Kantor, in Ji��n, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). The family moved to Vienna, Austria in 1877. Kraus enrolled as a law student at the University of Vienna, where he also studied philosophy and German literature (1894-1896).
In 1896 he left university without a diploma to begin work as an actor, stage-director and performer, joining the Jung Wien (Young Vienna) group, which included Peter Altenberg, Leopold Andrian, Hermann Bahr, Richard Beer-Hofmann, Felix Durmann, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and Felix Salten. In 1897, however, Kraus broke from this group with a biting satire Die demolirte Literatur [Demolished Literature], and was named Vienna correspondent for the newspaper Breslauer Zeitung. One year later, as an uncompromising advocate of Jewish assimilation, he attacked the Zionist Theodor Herzl with his polemic Eine Krone fur Zion [A Crown for Zion] (1898).
On April 1, 1899, he renounced Judaism and in the same year founded his own newspaper, Die Fackel ("The Torch"), which he continued to direct, publish, and write until his death, and from which he launched his attacks on hypocrisy, psychoanalysis, corruption of the Habsburg empire, nationalism of the pan-German movement, laissez-faire economic policies, and numerous other bêtes noires. In its first decade, contributors included many well-known writers and artists such as Peter Altenberg, Richard Dehmel, Egon Friedell, Oskar Kokoschka, Else Lasker-Schaler, Adolf Loos, Heinrich Mann, Arnold Sch�nberg, August Strindberg, Georg Trakl, Frank Wedekind, Franz Werfel, Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Oscar Wilde. After 1911, however, Kraus was usually the sole author.
The Fackel targeted corruption, journalists and brutish behaviour. Notable enemies were Maximilian Harden (in the mud of the Harden-Eulenburg affair), Moriz Benedikt (owner of Neue Freie Presse), Alfred Kerr, Hermann Bahr, Imre Bekessy and Johannes Schober.
In addition to his writings, Kraus gave numerous public readings during his career - between 1892 and 1936 he put on approximately 700 one-man performances, reading from the dramas of Bertolt Brecht, Gerhart Hauptmann, Johann Nestroy, Goethe, and Shakespeare, and also performing Offenbach's operettas, accompanied by piano and singing all the roles himself.
Kraus never married, but from 1913 until his death, he had a close relationship with the Baroness Sidonie Nadherna von Borutin (1885-1950). In 1911 he was baptized as a Catholic, but in 1923 he left the Catholic Church.

1,5 hour to drive from Prague - SE
1)Vrchotovy Janovice Chateau CSE4 - 4 hour round trip
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