Josef Jelínek was born on 8 October 1927 in Ústí nad Labem, where he spent part of his childhood and joined the Scouts. After the north Czechoslovak borderland was occupied by Germany in 1938, his family moved to Prague, where Jelínek, then 15 years old, joined the anti-German resistance. For his activities during the war, he was awarded the Medal for Bravery by Edvard Beneš in 1946. After the war, he returned to Ústí nad Labem where he graduated from grammar school in 1947 and continued his education in Prague at the University of Chemistry and Technology. After February 1948, he joined the anti-communist resistance; he printed and distributed leaflets. He was imprisoned in July 1948 and sentenced to six years in prison for subversive activities by a court in Litoměřice in September the same year. He served his sentence in the Jáchymov mines. After his release in autumn 1953, he often changed his occupation. His last job in Czechoslovakia was at a glassworks. He emigrated to West Germany, together with his family, in October 1968; he worked as a technician in Siemens in Erlangen. He was very active in the Czechoslovak exile movement. In 1980, he met the historian Vilém Prečan and started working with him on copying samizdat literature for libraries in the West, as well as helping him to prepare parcels of books for his homeland, sent via smuggling channels, whose capacity was limited. Therefore, Jelínek started printing smaller “smuggling” versions, with dimensions of 9cm x 7cm. These were easier to smuggle across the boarders even in bigger numbers. The smaller print was hard to read – Jelínek solved this problem by adding a magnifying glass to the book spine. The books were called “kolibříky” (hummingbirds). In 1986, he was a founding member of the Czechoslovak Documentation Centre of Independent Literature, which was founded in West Germany and led by Vilém Prečan. He was awarded the Medal of Merit by Václav Havel in 1998. He died on 21 April 2015 in Erlangen.
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- Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic
Date of death
Author(s) of this page
- Hanáková, Jitka
Czechoslovak Documentation Centre Collections, Archives of the National Museum
Last edited on: 2019-01-26 14:58:58