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Petr Zenkl, Czech Heritage Papers

Title: Petr Zenkl, Czech Heritage Papers

Creator: Zenkl, Petr, 1884-1975

Dates: 1940-1970

Quantity: 2 boxes (0.8 linear feet)

Collection Number: MS 0097

Language: English

Restrictions: None

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Historical Records Statement: Please see our statement on historical records and materials.

Preferred Citation: Petr Zenkl, Czech Heritage Papers (MS 0097). Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries.


Born on 13 June 1884 in Tabor, Czech Kingdom, Petr Zenkl, son of Petr and Veronika (Unger) Zenkl, attended Charles University in Prague, completing his Ph.D. in 1907. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Strasbourg, France, in 1947. Zenkl married Pavla Sevcovic on November 13, 1909.

Between 1907 and 1918 Zenkl taught at the School of Commerce, the Graduate Schools of Engineering, Social Service, and Agriculture in Tabor. From 1918 to 1926 he worked as the Chief of the Division of Education and Welfare for the Ministry of Social Welfare. From 1926 to 1948 Zenkl acted as the General Manager of the Czechoslovak Social Security system. Zenkl, from 1911 to 1921, served as Mayor and Member of the Municipality of Karlin and on the City's Committee for Public Welfare. Between 1921 and 1946, he served on the City Council, as chairman of the Central Committee for Social Welfare, and three terms as Lord Mayor of Prague.

From 1932 to 1936 he was a member of the Provincial Diet of Bohemia and became chairman of the Committee for Social Welfare and Public Assistance. In 1938 he was elected to the Czechoslovak Parliament and became the Minister of Social Welfare and Public Health. Between 1939 to 1945 he was imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald.

After the Czechoslovak government collapsed in 1948, Zenkl and his wife were imprisoned, eventually making it to the U.S. In 1949 Zenkl joined the Council of Free Czechoslovakia and served as chairman until 1951. He also served as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Council of Free Czechoslovakia and as the chairman of the National Committee of Free Czechoslovakia. Petr Zenkl died in Raleigh, North Carolina, on November 3, 1975.

Scope and Content:

The collection consists of Zenkl's manuscripts and papers, including correspondence, published and unpublished writings, and biographical information. Of particular interest are a memorandum signed by various Eastern European political exiles and Zenkl's unpublished memoirs.


Zenkl, Petr, 1884-1975 -- Archives


Political refugees -- Czechoslovakia -- Archives

Czechoslovakia -- Politics and government -- 20th century -- Sources

Series Description: Series 1: Correspondence Box 1, Folder 1

This series consists of personal and professional correspondence to and from Petr Zenkl.

Series 2: Writings Box 1, Folders 2-8, Box 2, Folders 1-5

This series contains the unpublished memoirs of Petr Zenkl. The manuscript drafts are written in Czech with some English translations. Also included in this series is the speech, "Czechoslovakia Today," which was published in Vital Speeches of the Day, 1 April 1949.

Series 3: Biographical materials Box 2, Folders 6-7

This series consists of biographical sketches and articles documenting Zenkl's life.

Container List: Box 1. Folder 1. Correspondence, 1948-1970

Consists of personal and professional correspondence to and from Zenkl. Of special interest is a letter to Zenkl from U.S. President Richard Nixon in honor of Zenkl's 85th birthday and a 1954 memorandum to the U.S. Congress urging its members to conduct public hearings into the activities of political exiles. A big number of noted exiles from Central and Eastern Europe signed the memorandum, including former Vice-Premier of Yugoslavia Miha Krek, former Prime Minister of Poland Stanislaw Mikolajczyk and former Czechoslovak Minister for Foreign Trade Hubert Ripka. The signers of the memorandum felt that closed investigations of various Czechoslovak exiles by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security headed by U.S. Senator William J. Jenner were unfairly influenced by allegations made by anti-democratic Czechoslovak extremists.

Box 1. Folder 2. Memoirs, part 1

Manuscripts on childhood, siblings, Christmas, poor family conditions, and family business.

Box 1. Folder 3. Memoirs, part 2

Manuscripts containing information on grammar school in Tabor, Zenkl's favorite professor, the Sokol athletics organization, working in Tabor and going to Prague only for exams due to his family's financial conditions, studying philology, life in Prague, his friendship with Czech poet Vrchlicky, teaching at the Commerce School in Karlin, and activities during WWI.

Box 1. Folder 4. Memoirs, part 3

Manuscripts regarding activities after the 1918 revolution, social activities, the establishment of the Czechoslovak Red Cross, and information on accomodation policies, employment, transport, and beggary.

Box 1. Folder 5. Memoirs, part 4

Manuscripts regarding Zenkl's memories of the first Czechoslovak President Tomas G. Masaryk as his teacher, colleague, and president.

Box 1. Folder 6. Memoirs, part 5

Manuscripts regarding politics in the first Czechoslovak Republic and the honorary citizenship of the City of Prague, along with accounts of escaping Czechoslovakia, the 1938 mobilization in Czechoslovakia, the election of Emil Hacha as President in 1938, being taken by gestapo in 1939, the first day in prison, and conditions in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Box 1. Folder 7. Memoirs, part 6

Manuscripts on Communist co-prisoners in Buchenwald, on sardines sent President Benes through the Red Cross, and liberation of Buchenwald.

Box 1. Folder 8. Memoirs, part 7

Manuscripts regarding Ilsa Koch, wife of a Buchenwald camp commander, last days in Buchenwald, examples of the spread of Communist power in Czechoslovakia, and an Eastern German publication about Buchenwald.

Box 2. Folder 1. Memoirs, part 8

Manuscripts on Czechoslovak politicians before the Communist putsch, Communist power and techniques, and the government of Klement Gottwald.

Box 2. Folder 2. Memoirs, part 9

Contains a copy Walter H. Judd's speech in the U.S. House of Representatives on the 10th anniversary of the Czechoslovak Communist putsch in 1958, Zenkl's article in Ceske Slovo an article titled "Why Have We Submitted Over the Demission in February 1948?", manuscripts on the Marshall Plan, and information on Zenkl's job search in the U.S.

Box 2. Folder 3. Memoirs, part 10

Manuscripts regarding the last days in Buchenwald, political challenges in the 1930s, an attempt to kill Zenkl with a bomb package, political events before the Communist putsch, and advice given by the Lord Mayor of Vienna, who was also being detained in Buchenwald.

Box 2. Folder 4. Memoirs, part 11

Manuscripts on Zenkl's reaction to a publication written by Jan Kozak called "The Role of the Parliament and the Unions In the Communist Revolution," an address to the U.N. on Kozak, an international partnership organization, cultural activities in exile, and Zenkl's return to Czechoslovakia after WWII.

Box 2. Folder 5. Speech, "Czechoslovakia Today: No Way of Cooperating With Russia," Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XV, No. 12, 1949, Apr. 1 Box 2. Folder 6. Biographical sketches

Contains biographical information and versions of Zenkl's resumes. In Czech and English.

Box 2. Folder 7. Articles

Contains articles about Zenkl, memories of him in the concentration camp Buchenwald, propaganda about Zenkl's behavior in the camp, and Zenkl's manuscripts regarding Buchenwald.

Related Material and Resources: Please see other Czech Heritage Collections under the Ethnic American Collections List.

If you have questions about the Archives & Special Collections, please email "archives@unl.edu."
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