SCHMOLKA, MARIE

SCHMOLKA, MARIE (1890–1940), Czech leader of the Jewish women's movement and social worker. Marie Schmolka (née Eisner), who was born in Prague, became associated with the Czech democratic movement and alienated herself from Judaism. After the death of her husband, a lawyer in Prague, she toured the Near East, and her visit to Palestine reawakened her attachment to Judaism. Upon her return to Prague, she joined the Zionist Organization, the WIZO, and the Jewish Party, of which she soon was one of the central figures. In the early 1930s she was the moving spirit in the establishment of the relief committee for the Jews of subcarpathian ruthenia . In 1933 she was the initiator and director of the committee assisting Jewish refugees from Germany and later became the director of HICEM. She subsequently took the central role in the relief campaign for Nazi victims, both Jews and non-Jews, and acted as the chairman of the coordinating committee of all the refugee organizations. She often attended the conferences of international committees in Geneva, Paris, London, and evian , as well as Jewish conferences dedicated to social and national causes. Her struggle on behalf of Jewish refugees who were stranded in no-man's-land (the narrow strip between the 1939 German and Czechoslovak borders) attracted worldwide attention. When hannah steiner , the president of the Czech WIZO, was arrested on the day after the German occupation of Prague in March 1939, Marie Schmolka presented herself to the Gestapo and declared that she was responsible for all the activities of the relief committee. She was arrested and imprisoned for about two months in the notorious Pankrác prison. After her release, she resumed her work. In August 1939 she was authorized by the Nazi authorities to travel to Paris and London for negotiations to accelerate Jewish emigration from the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia. When World War II broke out, she established herself in London, where she was active on behalf of the Czechoslovak Jewish refugees and exiles. There she died suddenly, in March 1940, and was eulogized by Jan masaryk . -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Marie Schmolka Society of Women Zionists from Czechoslovakia, In Memoriam… (1944); WIZO, Saga of a Movement; Wizo: 19201970 (1970), 236–8; C. Yachil, Devarim al ha-Ẓiyyonut ha-Czekhoslovakit (1967). (Chaim Yahil)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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