Josef Kazda – A Film Legend

Josef Kazda– A name most have never heard before, but nonetheless, it should be talked about. Kazda was an amateur film historian, and a true movie buff. Located in the Golden Lane, a colorful little street in the Prague Castle that used to be where artisans, fortune tellers, and alchemists would reside (famous existentialist writer Franz Kafka lived there for a while). In the 1950s, the communists changed the lane into a national exhibit. All the houses are numbered and painted light pastel colors. If you go to house No. 12, you will discover an amazing story!

During World War II, Czechoslovakia was overrun by the Nazis. If you travel to other countries that were occupied by Germany during that time, you will see new buildings which replaced ones that had been bombed and destroyed during the war. Prague on the other hand, seems to have been untouched, despite unsurmountable odds. It is said that the reason for this is because Hitler wanted to retire to the beautiful city once his work was done (although, that is most likely just a myth).

If you weren’t an ethnic German, then you were an enemy to the state. Those adhering to Nazi ideology saw Slavic people as “subhuman.” If the Germans had won the war, the Czechs most likely would not be here today. Efforts to suppress Czech culture were done in a variety of ways. First, there was the banning of the Czech national anthem. Then there was the forcing of German language to be taught in schools. German language dominated media, and the destruction of Czech film and literature was ordered. However, very few films were made in that time anyways, as money was being spent on funding the war.

Before the war, Czech cinema had really taken off. Over 160 films had been made from the year 1896 to 1938. Most of them had been light comedies. The Third Reich forbade any Czech film that was in anyway nationalistic, therefore several pre-war directors were able to keep their jobs as long as they abided by those guidelines…

This is when Josef Kazda came in.

Josef Kazda was an amateur film historian and cinematographer that owned a house in the Golden Lane, house No. 12. Since he had many connections with filmmakers, he was able to collect thousands of Czech films and documentaries that the Nazis wanted destroyed, and hide them in his house on the Golden Lane. He would also have private screenings and try to distribute these forbidden films. It wasn’t until many years after the war that these movies, which were thought to have been lost forever, were rediscovered.

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