The Pekelsky Collection

In 1977 the Collegium Carolinum acquired an extensive collection, especially of exile publications from the estate of journalist Vladimír Pekelský (born 1920 in Bratislava, died 1975 in Cologne). The collection contains more than 850 periodical titles, monographs and other written resources. The Collegium Carolinum is the sole possessor of some of these printed resources in the German-speaking world.

The inventory for the Pekelský collection lists the entire stock of journals and monographs it contains in alphabetical order. A register of places, persons and languages is provided to help you better orient your searches. The bequest also contains a number of documents not recorded in the inventory, but which can be viewed at Collegium Carolinum by prior arrangement. If you are interested in these materials, please contact the library staff.


Collections and Inventory

Vladimír Pekelský set up and operated an archive of contemporary Bohemica, which by 1961 contained 4,200 periodical titles, brochures and monographs. Over the years, what was initially a small editorial archive has developed into a fully-fledged documentation center. Pekelský collected material on Czechoslovakia, German-Czech relations, the situation of Czech and Slovak emigrés, the Sudeten Germans and on the East-West conflict in general. Collegium Carolinum cares for about 850 journal titles and monographs from this extensive archive.

The collection consists mainly of Czech and Slovak exile journals. Reflecting Pekelský's own political commitment and interests, the collection contains a disproportionate volume of writings from conservative, nationalist and anti-communist groups. The collection also includes newsletters of religious communities. A particularly large number of the printed materials were published in Berlin, London, Munich, New York, Paris and Vienna. In addition to the many European refuges to which East Central European emigrés fled, there are also materials published in such locations as North and South America, Africa and Australia.

To a lesser extent, the collection also contains documentary material (correspondence, background materials, notes). The correspondence includes letters between Pekelský and the publishers of newsletters and figures active in a variety of institutions, associations, committees and initiatives. The collection also contains some individual files and minutes from a range of exile organizations, including Český narodní výbor (Czech National Committee), the Democratic Exile Union and others. The collection of documentary records also includes Pekelský's research material from his time as an employee in the documentary archive of Deutsche Welle. These materials, stored in a large number of folders, only some of which are labeled, contain assortments of newspaper clippings, reports and communications, which were probably used to help Pekelský himself compile his news articles and the like. These documents, which are not cataloged in the inventory, can be viewed on request.

The collections periodical and monograph holdings are listed alphabetically in the inventory. Some periodical titles changed their title over the period during which they were published. Such titles, where known, are either cross-referenced to one another or are listed one after the other. In some cases, the names of editors and the place of publication can provide information on the personal and intellectual connections between individual journal editors. The Register of persons at the end of the inventory makes it much easier to search by publisher or by some person involved in a publication you are interested in, while the Register of locations helps you search by place of publication. Most of the periodicals in the collection are written in Czech, but there is also a large number of Slovak journals, as well as some English- and German-language press. For this reason, if your research is centered around a particular language, please refer to the Register of languages.

Vladimír Pekelský

Vladimír Pekelský was born in 1920 in Bratislava in the then young state of Czechoslovakia. He became a member of the fascist Vlajka Party (The Flag) and spent the Second World War in Germany, where he studied medicine. His stay in Germany, along with his membership in the fascist party, led to him having to answer to the new Czechoslovak government in 1945 for collaboration with the National Socialist occupiers. After spending a year in prison, he left Czechoslovakia in 1946. He first went to Austria but was later to settle in the American occupation zone in Germany.

Vladimír Pekelský was politically active from the very beginning of his exile. Until 1951 he was chairman of the Český narodní výbor (Czech National Committee), secretary general of the Democratic Exile Union and close confidant of the Czech General and fellow exile Lev Prchala. As a supporter of Prchala, who was an inveterate opponent of the policies of Edvard Beneš, Pekelský advocated a great many national and conservative positions that were opposed by the majority of the democratic groups often referred to as the Czechoslovak groups among the Czech and Slovak emigrés. Following this pattern, he was a co-signatory of the Wiesbaden Agreement, a pact drawn up in 1950 by Sudeten German groups and the Czech National Committee, which demanded, among other things, a right of return for displaced Sudeten Germans. Pekelský and Prchalas parted ways in 1951 due to political differences.

Vladimír Pekelský remained in exile in Germany – initially in Munich and latterly in Cologne – until his sudden death in 1975. He worked as a journalist, writing articles for OSTEUROPA magazine and for Deutsche Welle, among other bodies. In addition to his journalism, he founded the Bohemia specialist publishing for exiles and ran the Informationsdienst Bohemia journal, which appeared in Munich during the 1950s under his editorship. He was later to write for the Bohemia newssheet in Cologne. List českého exilu (despite the similar name, that publication has no institutional connection with Bohemia. Journal of History and Civilization in the Bohemian Lands, which has been published by Collegium Carolinum since 1960).

Together with a number of other emigrés, he accumulated an archive in a private apartment in Cologne in the 1960s. The materials he collected included press and documentary material on the development of Czechoslovakia from 1918 onwards and on Czechoslovak, Czech and Slovak exile groups both during the war and after 1945. It has since been revealed that Pekelský also worked for the Czechoslovak secret service from 1953 onwards. Pekelský married Marie Blaschtowitschka (née Tomšů), the widow of Kurt Blaschtowitschka, in exile.  Her first husband had worked in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia as a public prosecutor at the Prague Special Court and had been executed after the end of the war. It was with the help of Marie (also an agent of the Czechoslovak State Security) that the Czechoslovak Secret Service successfully recruited him as an agent.

Exile publications and emigration from Czechoslovakia after 1945

The target readership of the exile publications accumulated in the Pekelský bequest was mainly emigrés who had left Czechoslovakia after 1945. It is estimated that approximately 200,000 people left Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1989.

Mass emigration from Czechoslovakia reached its peak when the Communists came to power in February 1948. The number of refugees between 1948 and 1951 alone amounted to about 25,000, rising to a total of about 60,000 by 1968. Pekelský had left the country in 1946 for fear of further sanctions from the new Czechoslovak government, who accused him of collaboration with the National Socialist forces of occupation.  Those who left Czechoslovakia from 1948 onwards often went in the belief that they would eventually be able to return once Communist rule had ended. They expected not to have to remain in exile for very long. Publications created by and for exiles and emigrés played an important part in their lives. The people working in such publications wrote against the political system in their home country. Many of the published texts contained calls from the editors demanding the end of communist rule in their homeland.

The next major wave of emigration from Czechoslovakia followed the  ultimately unsuccessful attempts at reform by the then Czechoslovakian reform communist leadership in 1968, in the episode which came to be known to history  as the "Prague Spring" and which was violently brought to an end by troops of the Warsaw Pact. At the time as the troops arrived in Prague, about 80,000 to 100,000 Czechoslovakians were located either in western countries or in Yugoslavia. Some of that number were only there temporarily as tourists and were to apply for political asylum in response to events in their home country. The majority of the emigrés who left the country after the suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968 harbored no hope of returning any time soon.

But life for Czech, Slovak and Czechoslovak exiles was also marked by discord, political conflict and animus. Despite their shared enemy in communism, they did not always find it possible to overcome the political rifts between them. Munich, which was increasingly becoming a center for migrants from Eastern Central Europe, was among the places where these rifts were most visible. The Bavarian capital’s geographical proximity to Eastern Europe and the fact that it was within the American zone of occupation explain why Radio Free Europe established its main broadcasting center there in 1950. On Radio Free Europe, cf. the Conference proceedings of the conference held by Collegium Carolinum on the topic. Pekelský became involved in political groups of Czechoslovak emigrés hostile to Radio Free Europe. He took full advantage of his journal Bohemia to further his cause, publishing a great many articles in opposition to the broadcaster and the emigrés who supported it.