Almost 70 men, women, and children have taken part in an extraordinary “wild swim” down the River Elbe in Kolin, 80 km from Prague, in an initiative sparked by a UK Channel swimmer, and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.
The Hana Greenfield Memorial Swim was held to commemorate the life and times of one of the few survivors of the Nazi deportation of the 500 Jews of Kolin. Greenfield swam regularly in the Elbe in the 1930s before being deported to Terezin and then to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.
After liberation, she moved to Britain then Israel, becoming a noted author, journalist, and educator. She helped to keep the memory of Kolin’s Jews alive, instituting an annual prize for school students to write about the town’s Jewish heritage.
It took place on Sunday, August 26. The date coincided with the birthdate of legendary Kolin rabbi Dr Richard Feder, who conducted Christian as well as Jewish funerals in Terezin, where he was interned for most of the war.
They included Hana’s family, people from the Jewish communities in Prague, the UK and Germany and non-Jewish swimmers from the UK and other countries in Europe.
At the event, she addressed the swimmers. She acknowledged the significance of Jewish and non-Jewish people swimming in the river for the first time since it was stopped in 1933 due to the pollution caused by industrialization.
She said: “I hope that in 85 years’ time, the people of Kolin, and Hana Greenfield’s descendants, will still be living in a free society and that the river will still be clean enough that they can come and swim together.”