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  The Stamp Gallery of Czech and Slovak Graphic Art



PRAHA VI
Farewell


1939: Karl Seizinger has already left Czechoslovakia, when Hitler occupies the rest of the Czech lands, too, and enters Prague in March. By the declaration of independence of Slovakia, the establishing of the protectorate "Böhmen und Mähren" and the occupation of the Carpatho-Ukraine by Hungary, the end of Czechoslovakia has come.
"Jedu pryč, do Prahy se nevrátím, ať si to tam dělá kdo chce."
(I'm leaving Prague, I don't return, may there do the stuff who wants.)

Karl Seizinger 1938
(after leaving Prague)

* * *

Als Hitler den Vorstoß nach der Tschechoslovakei vornahm, verließ ich Prag freiwillig, um nicht für das Protektorat zu arbeiten.
(When Hitler carried out the attack to Czechoslovakia, I voluntarily left Prague in order not to work for the protectorate.)

Karl Seizinger 1947
(in his application for Enschedé en Zonen)



One of the great mysteries in Karl Seizinger's biography is the sudden leaving of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and giving up a regulated life in Prague, where he - according to his own words - spent the best years of his life. This event happened in the time of the Munich agreement, in which Hitler has got awarded the Sudetenland by the European powers. What is more likely to associate Seizinger's departure to Belgrade with it and to explain it with his opposition against the Nazis. However, there are also indications which speak but other reasons. There are two statements by Seizinger (see above) which also admit different interpretations. It seems to me, anyhow, that this decision of Seizinger was probably multilayered as one can read in the literature.

But let's begin with facts. It is fact that Seizinger left Czechoslovakia in autumn 1938, probably in October or November, thus after the Munich agreement, which was concluded on September 30, and after the entry of the German Wehrmacht into Sudetenland on the 1st of October. Not later than in November, Seizinger already was in Belgrade, from where he wrote a postcard to Prague on the 24th of November 1938. The circumstances of his departure point to the fact that he didn't rush into leaving the country or even in panic, but that this decision with far reaching consequences was surely made in a well-conceived way. For this assumption also is much to be said that he soon had an employment in Belgrade, what he probably had prepared already from Prague. Also arrangements with his colleague Goldschmied that this man should support him in building up a new existence in Belgrade by procurement of graphic material indicate an exact and long-term planning of his intentions. It is quite sure that he already decided before the Munich agreement for the departure, as well as Rudolf Fischer states: "K tomtu rozhodnutí dospěl ještě před Mnichovem."
(He already came to this decision already before Munich). Therefore it also seems to be more probably, that there were less political reasons for his leaving of Czechoslovakia. For if his decision has been done before Munich, how Seizinger - a rather unpolitical man - already was able to estimate the following political development so well at this moment? Could he already now foresee - as his second quotation above states - that he probably had to work "for the Protectorate", which was founded only after the occupation of the "Rest-Tschechei" in March 1939? It seems to me quite improbably, particularly as one would judge Seizinger as a political engaged person, in some sources he was even called an "antifascist". But he surely wasn't that!

He was no friend to the Nazis, but also no member of the resistance and no antifascist at all. For how, otherwise, he would have been able to live under the authoritarian and fascistic political system of Ante Pavelić in Croatia for years and feel himself well there? Or how he could visit his friend Václav Fiala in Prague of the Protectorate in 1944, if he didn't feel safe before the Nazis? He has discussed the political development of the late 30ies with his Czech friends and has observed it with concern, particularly he obviously had problems with the German institutions in Czechoslovakia, too. Unfortunatley there are only suggestions about this in the sources which were accessible to me. So he surely had conflicts with the administration of the German high school in Prague which his son Heinz attented. Therefore he sent his son to a Czech one, where he learned Czech and integrated himself well into the Czech life. This fact and his own cooperation with the Czech state for so many years would have certainly brought some difficulties to Seizinger under German administration. It also seems that he saw a danger for himself from the Germany embassy in Prague which arranged investigations about his relations to the German emigrants and jews in Prague. This all surely worried him and let him think about his own relation to Germany. But in September 1938, this didn't mean no danger to him, yet. Therefore I think that still other reasons must have been added to take such an extensive decision already to this early moment.

For Seizinger not only had trouble with the German side in the conflict of that time in Czechoslovakia, but also his openly shown Germanness was not completely unproblematically on the Czech side. He already had lost his monopoly in engraving Czechoslovak stamps for a long time and with Bohumil Heinz a rival had appeared who was much more frequently preferred by the Czechoslovak postal authorities and who also became a national counterpart to the German Seizinger. Much more often Heinz got the preference with orders. And certainly the self-confident Karl Seizinger was angry that also the critics praised Heinz much more often than him in the highest tones and interpreted the artistic rivalty between Seizinger and Heinz as a symbolic example for the German-Czech conflict of these years. Even personal hostility and envy don't seem to have been absent in this struggle. And it surely isn't any coincidence that in beginning of 1938 an engraving by his rival Heinz for the first time was chosen instead of Seizinger's comparable execution of the same motif - Cyril Bouda's "Sokol motif" - and this by poor and later disproved arguments. Seizinger, convinced of himself, must have felt this as a personal offense. The fact that this decreasing acceptance of his work by the Czechoslovak authorities, the unsatisfactory appreciation of his merits for the Czechoslovak art of postage stamps and the nationalistically colored praising of his rival Heinz have contributed to his decision for leaving, is not only be proved by the second quotation above which was said by him to a contemporary witness during a stop on his journey to Belgrade. The same witness also reports a further statement by Seizinger in the FILATELIE magazine (11/1974, translated from Czech): ".. in Prague allegedly someone can not endure. He didn't say any details, but he was angry about the Prague post office. Perhaps it was the dissatisfaction with the competition which more and more disturbed his earlier monopolistic position". Even if Seizinger's real reasons for his decision to leave Prague probably never will be unambiguously cleared, it is not improbable that there were a mixture of political fears, moreover, however, personal dissatisfaction about his professional situation and artistic perspective. In my opinion it is a fact that this dicision must have been very difficult to him, he probably has regretted it later.

He gladly would have returned to Prague again. However, he had to wait more than 35 years. Till today, it is finally not clear, why nobody has gone up to Seizinger after re-establishing of Czechoslovakia to win him for working in Prague - last but not least also because of his former importance. From the literature about Seizinger only a little can be derived, because one hushed him up from the official side in post-war Czechoslovakia. It almost seemed, as if there had never been Seizinger's era in the history of Czechoslovak postage stamps. And when someone - as for example the philatelistic journalist Ervín Hirsch - spoke about him, then a former positive opinion was given away for a very critical attitude to him. However, there are many indications that the reason for this ignoring was Seizinger's German nationality. After the Czechoslovak state had expropriated the Germans of the country in 1945 and 1946 and forced them to leave the country, it would not have been understood, if one had fetched back a German at the same time and in addition had employed him at a so symbolic place like the National Bank or the State Printing House - and not at all, if one had called a German the founder of the so-called "Czech school of stamp engraving". Seizinger probably had recognized this desinterest in himself by his still existing connections to Prague, when he applied in Haarlem in July 1947. And when the communists took over the power in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, the door to Prague finally might have shut for him. But at this moment he almost was sure that he would have an employment in Holland for the future.

Title Page * Introduction * Biography * Personality * Hildburghausen * Helsingfors *
Praha I * Praha II * Praha III * Praha IV * Praha V * Praha VI *
Belgrade * Zagreb * to be continued

The stamp depicted above is Seizinger's last stamp for Czechoslovakia.