The first European of the Broumov region

We are talking a lot about Europe, European integration, European citizenship, ... We are imagine mostly something new behind such words, historically new quality of relationship based on traditional European values such as regards to human being, respect to human rights and liberties, political and cultural pluralism...

We are still not familiar with such values and are awaiting help in carrying them out in our everyday life through changes connected with entry of the Czech Republic into the European Union. It is a mistake of course – the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms has been included in our Constitution ten years ago already. Application of mentioned values depends first of all on individual people – it belongs to inner issue of each person, his self-regard.

People are often led by patterns and ideals in their behaviour, which are helping them to take the right orientation in the complex society we are living. Sometime it is a fairy tail hero, sometime hero of movie, book or spectacle, often we consider our near people – parents, grandparents, maybe personalities from neighbourhood as the idol to follow...

There is a very few samples of real European citizenship in our Czech neighbourhood. We are proud however to announce, there was a man among citizens of Broumov, who was a true European - the Grand Old Man Emerich Rath. He was a child but also a victim of the horrific times of the last century, in which most of us was born.

Childhood in Broumov

His rich life started in Prague – born in November 5, 1883 as the second child of Josef Rath and his wife Frantiska. Emerich spent his first four years in Prague, and moved with his family to Broumov in 1887. His father started to work here as a nurse in the small private hospital of the Schroll company, where also died in 1908 in the age of 59 of tuberculosis.

Emerich started the school education in 1889. He was not excellent pupil – good in geography, history, nature science but worse in writing and German. He was not excellent even in physical education despite on his later star sport carrier

Emerich received his first skis in 1896 as a gift from a student from Vienna, who studied in Broumov that time. He wrote in his memories published in the Zimni sport magazine (1931-1932), that he had one bamboo stick and learned the ski technique by himself, as a zealous young guy while others got green of envy. In a short time he went alone for skiing in “mountains”, i.e. hills at the border with former Prussia nearby Broumov. Back home he came wet and tired so his father tried to forbid the skiing. Emerich explained him however he needed the ski to be quickly in the school and father gave him the ski back. More people in Broumov started skiing in Broumov in quite a short period time. Emerich was however the only young guy among adults.

Emerich Rath was real pioneer of skiing not only in the Broumov region taking in account, that first two skis imported count Harrach for his foresters from Norway in 1892. Only four years after young Emerich Rath makes skiing!!! He was not only the first skier in the Broumov region but one of the first in the whole Czechia.

All-round sportsman

The Rath family including Emerich has got the home registration of Broumov in March 13, 1901. Emerich however left Broumov for Prague where he started to work as salesman in the hardware store U Rotta. After getting the skills he lives and works mostly in Germany, where the young and full of energy man becomes member of several sport clubs, and takes part in many races and sport contests. He also married Frantiska Kraus in Berlin, in June 24, 1912. Within two years he comes back to Prague with his wife and opens his famous sport shop.

His sport profile is very large including many sport branches. He made athletics, ball and disc throwing, jump, mountain-climbing, football, hockey, rugby, tennis, knock-down, box, swimming; loved water sports, canoe-rack, speed-skating, long run, long walking and tramping. His big love remains the skiing – he often took part at ski matches in Bohemia, Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, and Norway having friends everywhere. He became member of many sport clubs such as S.K.Slana ner Prague, S.K. Slavia Praha, F.C.Germania , Sport Favorit, D.F.C. Touring club, R.C.Regalta Turnvercin, Berliner Sportsclub, Ruders club Hellas Berlin, F.C.Rapid Bolzano, Vegetarian athletic club London, Boxing club Hamburg, S.C. Charlottenburg, etc.

In athletics he went in form run and long-distance walk. Took part in Marathon competition at the Olympic games in London 1908 and Stockholm 1912. He regularly took part at the famous Bechovice-Prague run. He won the long walk Liberec-Ustí n.L. (108 km) being one hour ahead. He was called a king of long-walks with full infantry equipment – he won eleven times with this race including four wins of 50 km distance in Berlin. In 1912 he won the German amateur heavy-weight box championship and stroke down also the champion of British Commonwealth the same year in Hamburg. In speed skating he took part in the contest of 1932, where beaten Nedved and got even with his victory of 1904. Such race, where the same rivals meet after 28 years is unique in the whole sportive world. He was very good in canoe already before the First World War being the first secretary of the Czech canoe Union. As pioneer he took a boat on Tibera from Citta di Castello for Rome, and from Bolzano for Venezia in 1921. He became very famous in Italy by this. Three years later, in 1924 he took a canoe for Paris – he went 360 km on Seine to be in time in Paris by occasion of opening of the 8 Olympic Games. He received there a diploma from the hands of baron Pierre de Coubertin, chairman of the International Olympic Committee.

Third hero of the Golden Hill

It happened in the Easter period – exactly in March 24, 1913. The 8th international long ski run (50 km) started at the Labska bouda with the final at Horni Misecky. The skiers that time run the three round competition in average speed of 6-9 km/hour having a rest for launch - they sprinted with a full commitment only the last 10 kilometres (the winners time of the competition in 1910 was 8.o6 hour and 7 hours in 1912). In the competition of 1913 six skiers started (4 Czech and 2 German) – among them the famous Master skier Bohumil Hanc, who agreed to start only to hinder Germans to win. Many Germans ignored Czech competitions that times but Emerich Rath took regularly part on it, he spoke and wrote German and Czech on the same level and had a lot of friends among Czechs.

The run had a tragic outcome - during the competition warm springtime weather was suddenly changed by heavy snowstorm. The skiers gave up – only Hanc, which was very popular that time, decided to go on. He finally lost his road despite on help and advice of his friend Vrbata who met him before in the heavy snowstorm. Other skiers were expecting him to come to the Labska bouda. When he did not appear a long time - people decided to look for him. It was Emerich Rath who found him in the mountains. Hanc was almost frozen and both were exhausted. Rath decided to leave him to go for help to Labska bouda. He told others where they could find Hanc – finally they found him but Hanc was died already. There is a monument now at the place of Giant mountains and a movie was made describing the story.

The memorial monument of Hanc and Vrbata is on Zlate navrsi (Golden hill) – Rath had a good luck to survive the story.


Emerich Rath – sportsman, tramp and Indian

Emerich loved romances, Indians, adventure stories and life in nature from his very childhood. He bought before the Second World War a wooden house in Luky pod Mednikem village in bedrock area nearby Sazava river. He spent there weekends during the whole year. There was a wooden carved totem close to fire place – Emerich was coming to the camp fire wearing Indian dress with coronet and tomahawk. Dressed the same way he usually visited families of his friends in Prague to wish them a Merry Christmas.

He was bringing sport atmosphere in the tramp area of Luky pod Mednikem village. He built athletic play field at his house there visited the whole by young tramp people from broad neighbourhood. Emerich was organising various contests. The area was called Rath Ranch and he won the nickname Grey wolf. It was one of the happiest periods of his life – the whole year walking barefooted – also during the winter. He was very tough being member of the Club of hard people of Prague.

Emerich was famous by his vegetarian style of life. He did not want any animal to be killed because of him. He is still recognised vegetarian in Germany (http://vegetarierbund.de/nv/dv/__Sporthoechstleistung_und_Vegetarismus,_Guenther_Stolzenberg.htm).

Emerich Rath wrote: „ I am living already 60 years a vegetarian life. Abstinent, no smoker, 50 year active in sports. I won more than 500 prizes, became famous by 10 victories in army march with full infantry equipment for distance of 50 km in Berlin (4times), Kiel, Lübeck, Munnic, Dresden, Hanover, Wroclav. I took part in Marathon of the Olympic games in London 1908 and Stockholm 1912 and also as sport correspondent of Olympic games in Antwerp 1920 and Paris 1924. Winner of cycle race in Dresden, Sczecin, Schwerin, Brehmen and Hamburg 1904-1911. Long run walker, hockey player, boxer, wrestler, Champion of Germany in amateur boxing 1912 and winner of the box Hamburg 1912. I first run in kayak the river from Bolzano to Venetia (Bozen-Venedig, 1921) and also Bolzano -Verona-Etsch as well as Tibera from Cittä di Castello to Roma (460 km) in six days. I am skiing already 64 years ...“

Schindler of Prague

In the beginning of World War Two he was more than fifty doing sport just a recreation way. He concentrated on his shopping and the house at Sazava. He did not try to get some advantages of his German origin during the German occupation of the Czech Republic in the period of so called Protectorate. He was a free man, Anti-Nazi. The life of Emerich and his wife was in a big danger because of his help to a German Jewish Boris Efenberger. He concealed him in the warehouse of his store in Prague and after the war finished – he helped him to leave Prague for Stockholm. Rath could stay in Prague after the war as the Anti-Nazi.

Hard times after 1948

He had to leave his shop after the February 1948 (communist putsch) and was put in jail. He was accused for the propaganda of America and western style of life. The reasons of it – there were scout and tramp badges and accessories, cowboy Stetson hats, Indian coronet, American flag, etc. placed in the window of his shop. That time his wife died. He was retired after coming back from jail. He got the lowest rent possible - 374 crowns a month. It was not enough to survive so he must to eke out of rent with other jobs such as shift man or street-sweeper. In 1956 director Cenek Duba started to film a movie after the novel of Frantisek Kozik “Sons of Mountains”. It was a story of the ski contest of 1913 where Hanc died and Emerich Rath took part. The movie is still well known in the Czech Republic. Ho got a small role of a gamekeeper with his face hidden behind a beard (his name is called in the titres of the movie however). He was disappointed by the tale shown in the movie – he complained to his friends “It was very different story….”

He fall in teething troubles in 1959 – he was 76 without any job and pure. He offered Naprstkovo museum rests of his collection and property. Museum bought just a model of Chinese junk and lasso from South America both for 600 crowns …

Old tramp and sportsman does not give up

Olympic Games 1960 were behind the doors. He planed to go to Rome by bike with a sleeping bag and tent. He was going to make a lecture tourney through Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia on the road back. Full of optimism he said: I worked as salesman to live a simple life, and worked 5 – 6 hours a day but never mind to work 12 hours a day. Physical work is important for me the same way as clean air. I am now 77years old swain, healthy and everything taking with grim humour. Besides 7 countries I know all the Europe and England, where I was engaged as sportsman. I can speak Czech of course but also German, English, Italian, Polish, French, and Russian and am learning Spanish.

He could not leave for Olympic Games however because Czech authorities did not giver him the necessary documents. He suffered by diabetes and after car accident (car run over his leg) was placed in old folks’ home in Odlochov near Prague. His cousin visited him there offering him to move to Broumov. Old Emerich accepted the offer with pleasure and after getting necessary papers moved to him to Broumov.

Last months of the Grey wolf

Common life with cousin lasted short – in a few months cousin ejected him away and Emerich had to range through the town without any sources. He had to sleep on banks and wash himself in the fountain at the square in the same Broumov where impressed people as a young guy by his ski abilities. After some time dirty and uncared he caused attention of town administration and police. They organise for him a transport to retirement home in Starkov. When the police brought him there in August 11, 1962 - in the reception document the columns money, deposits, debts left empty – he had nothing. Also in the column will was written: He has nothing – N/A. But in the column personal preferences of applicant is stated: He would like to make sport and to work.

He visited several times his old friend and schoolmate Frantisek Vanek in Hromov. Childless Emerich Rath several times told his friend how envying the Vanek family background, which he was missing so much, is. Emerich Rath spent in the retirement home only the last four months of his life. The all-round sportsman finished his last marathon in December 21, 1962 in the age of 79. He died in the hospital in Broumov.

There is a passage in Prague (between Na Prikopech Street and Ovocny trh square bringing his name (Rathova pasaz). Here was popular sport-shop of Emerich Rath.

Grand child of Frantiseka Vanek, the teacher Jindrich Vanek in Hronov called his private collection of old skies, sleds and sled-bobs „ SKI-MUZEUM of Emerich Rath“ and still is thinks about Emerich Rath: „ I admired Rath very much – he was Zatopek of his time…“

(Emil Zatopek – Hero of Helsinki Olympic Games: http://www.olympic.org/uk/athletes/heroes/bio_uk.asp?PAR_I_ID=4731)

Translation Zdenek Zalis