“I consider it a great honor and a sincere pleasure to unveil this memorial plaque to a great man and a great family.” With these words, His Excellency Raphael Gvir, Israel’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, concluded his brief remarks in a small square in front of the house at U Templu Street 10 in Boskovice.
It was June 1998.
Earlier that day, the cantor of the Brno synagogue and a small chorus had chanted a brief prayer, and the city ‘s vice mayor had welcomed everyone to the ceremony. A crowd of about 100 invited guests — local people and dignitaries — and perhaps another 50 local folks who happened to stumble onto this ceremony waited eagerly. Twenty-seven members of the Ticho family from England, Israel, South America, and the United States also were there. They had traveled to Brno on this Sunday morning to attend the dedication and tour the Czech Republic.
The windows in surrounding houses were open, and curious residents peered out. Children squeezed through the crowd to get a better look. Two newsreel cameramen and some reporters were covering the event.
Now they all stood silently, with eyes on the ambassador, waiting to see what would happen next.
The ambassador paused briefly, waiting for his last sentence to be translated into Czech, then stepped toward the wall to pull down a white sheet that was covering the plaque. He gripped the cloth and pulled down. Nothing happened. He tried again. The cloth remained in place. There was a moment of embarrassed silence. “This is no way for this moment to end, after all the work that has gone into it,” I said to myself, and I joined the ambassador for one more pull. The cloth finally came down, revealing the plaque and filling me with great emotion. Some of my family members joined me with a tear or two.
The crowd applauded, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment. It had been a long road, and I had just saved a piece of our family’s history.
During the past few years, with the help of a dedicated and skilled genealogist, we were able to trace the Ticho family back eight generations, to the mid-1600s. They all lived, married, raised families, and died in Boskovice, a small town in today’s Czech Republic. This town was a major center for the Jewish communities of the land, and the Ticho family played a substantial role in maintaining that status.
I also learned the important role that the house at U Templu Street 10 (By the Temple Street 10) in Boskovice played in our family history.
In 1846 the house belonged to the Fuchs family. The head of this family was the deacon of the large synagogue in town and a well-respected member of the Jewish community. His daughter, Esther, was married to Avraham Ticho, the dayan — assistant rabbi — of the community. He also was my great-grandfather and the highly esteemed head of a major branch of the Ticho family.
On March 27, 1846, Esther Ticho left her home at house number 56 and came to the Fuchs house at U Templu 10 in order to be with her mother as she delivered her sixth child and second son, Itzchak Zvi Ticho, the man who one day would become the father of 13 children, grandfather of 35, and the family root of countless other family branches thereafter.
In 1995, when I first learned of the significance of this house, I was surprised. It was in great disrepair — so much so that no one lived in it. The roof leaked, the chimney needed rebuilding, the exterior was in shambles, and the structure was near collapse. Old real estate records indicated that Abraham Ticho, my great-grandfather, bought the house in 1843. When Abraham died, the house was passed on to his son, Yitzchak, and then to Yitzchak’s eldest son, Jacob. The house was in the family for more than 100 years, until the Nazis seized it in 1940. After World War II the Communist Czechoslovak government nationalized it, and then the town authorities sold it to two Czech families.
I decided that it was important that this house should be preserved. It is hard for me to explain why I felt so strongly that this piece of our family history should not fall victim to time and neglect. During an earlier 1996 visit in Boskovice I learned that another house that played a major role in our family’s history no longer existed. The house on the main square of the town that my grandfather, Ignatz Hirsch (aka Yitzchak Zvi) Ticho bought, the house where my father and all his siblings were born, had been torn down and replaced by a new building.
Now, I felt that the house at U Templu 10, this last vestige of the life of our family that had stretched over several centuries in this town, must be preserved.
I approached the two owners of the house at U Templu 10 (one owned the downstairs and the other the upstairs) with a simple proposal: Allow me to replace the roof and repair the exterior of the house and I will ask you for just two things — first, allow me to place a plaque on the outside of the house, and second, agree not to sell the house for 15 years.
They agreed, and after a few weeks a document was signed and the reconditioning of the house began. I was anxious that the work be completed by the time of the June 1998 Ticho Family Festival that was set to take place in Israel, followed by the family gathering in Boskovice for the dedication of the plaque.
While this was my personal campaign, I was eager to have other family members share in the restoration of our ancestral home. To my great pleasure, several did, with small and large donations and by attending the dedication.
It is through a fortunate set of circumstances that the family of Ignatz Ticho not only flourished before the Holocaust, but most of its members were able to survive it. It might have been the strict and formal Jewish upbringing in the Ignatz Ticho household that resulted in such a great bond among the 13 adult children that translated into an intense, dedicated, and unified effort to save the family. Or it might have been just sheer luck. In any event, after World War II ended and the survivors of one of the greatest human tragedies gathered, many offspring of Ignatz Hirsch Ticho were among the fortunate few who were alive.
Today, some 75 years later, these survivors have built many large, thriving families of their own in Israel, the United States, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia, and England, and true to the spirit of their forefathers, continue to live and act as one large extended Jewish family.
It is my sincere wish that other members of our family will take their children and grandchildren by the hand, as I did, and bring them to Boskovice and Brno, and say: “This is where our forefathers were born, here is where they prayed, here is where their children played, here is where they lived, and this is where they were laid to rest.
“This town was once the beating heart of a Jewish community that lived here for over 1,000 years, and throughout the few good times and some bad times, held firm to the teachings of our religion and made the survival of our Jewish faith possible.”
The plaque reads, in Hebrew, Czech, and English: “In this house, on March 27, 1846, was born Ignatz Hirsch Ticho, a scholar and the founder of the Ticho family.”
Charlies Ticho of Hackensack was a film producer and director for more than 60 years. He retired at 88, is writing about his experiences, and just celebrated his 94th birthday. He has spent the last five years writing about his experiences.