Karel Švenk

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Karel Švenk

Karel Švenk, sometimes referred to in German as Karl Schwenk (Prague, 17 March 1917 – near Karlsberg, en route to Mauthausen, 1 April 1945), was a Czech cabaret artist, comedian, songwriter and writer. A leading figure in the cabaret at the Theresienstadt concentration camp, a "show" concentration camp for artists, Svenk was eventually sent to Auschwitz and later died on a subsequent transport to Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.

Karel's parents were Rudolf Schwenk (1880-1944) and Klara Koráleková (1882-1944), both were killed in Auschwitz concentration camp presumably shortly after their arrived on the 9th October 1944. Karel had three sisters - Erna, Lili, Ottilie as well as a younger brother Otta. Only Ottilie survived the holocaust and emigrated to the US with her husband Rudolf Wenzel Köegler and son Heinrich Frederick Köegler. Ottilie died on the 9th April 1996 in Ramsey County, Minnesota.


Švenk was one of the members of the avant-garde Klub zapadlých talentů (German "Klub der ungenützten Talente", "Club of Wasted Talents") in Prague.[1][2] He was one of the first artists to be deported to Terezín on November 24, 1941, and was among the 342 young Jewish men sent to prepare the previously non-Jewish camp for the Jewish artist inmates to follow.[3][4] In the autumn of 1942 he appeared in passing in the propaganda film Theresienstadt. Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem jüdischen Siedlungsgebiet, standing with the puppetteer Otto Neumann and the dancer Kamila Rosenbaumová. Svenk was sent to Auschwitz, then briefly to a factory, and later died in a cattle wagon on a subsequent transport to Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.


  • "Die verlorene Essensmarke" (The Lost Ration Ticket) with Rafael Schächter
  • "Vsechno jde!" (Anything Goes!) "Theresienstädter Marsch" ("Terezin March") - a secret camp anthem, and his best-known composition.
  • "Why Does the White Man Sit in the Front of the Bus?" - this was composed in Terezin and preserved by George Horner (musician) one of the Terezin cabaret musicians. It was later arranged by David Post and recorded by the Hawthorne String Quartet with Thomas Martin, clarinet.
  • "Der letzte Radfahrer" ("The Last Cyclist") 1944 cabaret censored by the Nazis after the dress rehearsal.
  • "Pod destnikem" (Under an Umbrella) - recorded on Terezín - Theresienstadt (Anne Sofie von Otter album)


  1. ^ Franz Peter Kien Peter Kien, Elena Makarova, Ira Rabin - 2009 "Under occupation established the Club of Needless Talents. Deported from Prague to Terezin on November 24, 1941. Deported from Prague to Terezin on November 24, 1941. One of the prime initiators of cultural activities in Terezin. In early 1942, Svenk presented the first all-male cabaret, called "The Lost Food Card", for men living in the "Sudeten" barracks,"
  2. ^ The Terezín album of Mariánka Zadikow Marianne Zadikow May, Debórah Dwork - 2008 "In Terezin, the Germans' story of a permanent settlement had exploded in January 1942 with the first deportations from the ... them.14 Svenk's former career at the Club of Wasted Talent in Prague stood him in good stead in Terezin, where he ..."
  3. ^ Joža Karas - Music in Terezín 1941-1945 1985 - Page 9 "The forceful evacuation of the gentile population had hardly begun when the first Jewish transport arrived in Terezin on November 24, 1941. This group of 342 young men, many of them volunteers enticed ..."
  4. ^ Thelastcyclist.com