Summing Up a Fruitful Life

Today science has a tendency for narrow specialization and does not much favor broader intellectual fancies. However individual scholars still arise who, with a wide scope of research activities and a synthesizing approach, continue along in the tradition of the once great polymaths. Within the Czech intellectual community Professor Jaroslav Krejčí unquestionably belongs among them, as he has significantly contributed to several academic disciplines, enriching them with valuable and often pioneering papers, while always simultaneously continually reacting to the events and problems of his time. At the same time his academic and cultural contributions persevered in spite of unfavorable fate: his work reflects his eventful life story and thus Czech history in the twentieth century.

Jaroslav Krejčí was born in the middle of World War I on February 13, 1916 in Polešovice na Slovácku, where his grandfather on his father’s side was the head teacher. His father, lawyer Jaroslav Krejčí (1892-1956), came from a Moravian family, and his mother Zdenka, née Dudová (1897-1976), came from a family of millers from Záklony in Central Bohemia. He spent his childhood and youth in interwar Czechoslovakia, mainly in Prague, where his father worked as a high-ranking government official. Jaroslav Krejčí came of age in a cultured, intellectually rich and socially refined home under the democratic conditions of the First Republic, characterized by the free confrontation of ideas, opinions and politics. This thoughtful young man, who had demonstrated an unusual sense of responsibility since childhood, intensively experienced the contemporary social and political struggles around him as well as his cultural surroundings, which contributed to creating his ideological profile and character.

After completing grammar school on Slovenská Street in the Královské Vinohrady neighborhood of Prague he went on to study law at Charles University in Prague from 1935-1939; as a result of Czech universities and colleges being closed on November, 17 1939 he was unable to take his advanced state exam until July of 1945. He became a member of the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Workers’ Party in 1936 and was active in their youth organization in the second half of the 1930s. As a secondary school student he had already started to develop his journalistic activities and after a time he took part in editing the magazine Mladá kultura (Young Culture) and contributed to various periodicals. His experience of the Great Depression of the 1930s and its social consequences brought forth in him an interest in questions of the national economy, which took on even greater shape during his university studies.

In December of 1935 he met Anna Černá, who was two years younger than him and a grammar school student, at a dance party and after going out for several years they were married on May 11, 1940. After completing grammar school Anna graduated from the State Pedagogical Academy and worked as a teacher in 1939-1940 (until their wedding) and then again after 1943. After the war she studied psychology at the Philosophical Faculty in Prague, completed a doctorate in philosophy and then worked in special education. She provided lifelong support to her husband.

Jaroslav Krejčí went through his first trying time during the German occupation and World War II. Whereas he himself joined the domestic resistance movement against the Nazis by at first keeping contacts with the National Movement of Working Youth and eventually working with illegal trade union groups directed by Evžen Erban, his father, who had become a leading authority on constitutional law in the 1930s and was named associate professor at Masaryk University in Brno in 1938, was one of the representatives of the autonomous Czech government of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and between 1942 and 1945 was the Prime Minister of the Protectorate. In this ambivalent position as a son he could sense the awkward position of his father and the Czech protectorate government in general, and their systematic dilemma between lesser and greater evil and odium, which they had been stuck with. He could furnish proof from his own experiences of how the resistance and protectorate legality blended into one another: through his father he was able to obtain confidential information and documents for the resistance, which were intended only for the highest officials of the occupation administration. Although he personally took a critical stance against certain steps of the protectorate government as well as his father, he denied the postwar criminalization of their actions as part of the retributions that where purposefully politically misused by the Communists.

From 1940 to 1945 he worked for the Central Business Association where he dealt with trade law and the social policy agenda and at the same time he had continued in his study of economics, especially working with the problem of planning the national economy. Within the resistance, in connection with the illegal Trade Union Congress, he contributed significantly in preparing the postwar system of economic management for Czechoslovakia. In autumn of 1945 he became the head of the State Planning Board and two years later he became the head of its president’s secretariat. The president at the time was Professor Karel Mailwald, with whom he had worked in the preceding war years. He simultaneously worked as an economic expert for his party, Czechoslovak Social Democracy, where he worked up a proposal for a five-year economic plan as an alternative to the communist conception of the five-year plan, and lectured at the Workers’ Academy as well. From 1946 to 1950 he taught economics lectures at the Political and Social College in Prague, where in 1947 he qualified as an associate professor with his work entitled “Pension Stratification” (in the same year it came out in print, but his associate professorship was not confirmed by Zdeněk Nejedlý, the Minister of Education, after February 1948). From 1949 to 1952 he also taught lectures at the Prague Business College. His academic work focused on macroeconomics at the time.

All rights reserved to Badatelský nadační fond 2008 / Designed by BARBARADESIGN / CODE: FILIP HORAK