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Winter, Gustav

(1889–1943), journalist, writer, and translator. Gustav Winter (brother of politician Lev Winter), was born in the Czech village of Radenín near Tábor in southern Bohemia, and studied at Charles University in Prague and at the Sorbonne. Fully integrated into the Czech linguistic and cultural milieu, in 1913 he began to teach Czech and French language and literature at a secondary school in Prague.

In 1915, Winter was recruited for military service and worked as an interpreter for the provincial nutritional commission. At the beginning of 1919, he served in Paris as a secretary of the Czechoslovak mission for supply; he later became press officer to the Czech delegation at the League of Nations. Winter was best known as the Paris correspondent of Právo lidu (The People’s Right), the organ of the Czech Social Democratic party. He contributed to this newspaper from 1920, became a permanent correspondent in 1926, and stayed in Paris until 1938, when he moved to Great Britain. Active in the Czechoslovak resistance movement in France and Britain, he died in the latter country in 1943.

In Paris, Winter collaborated closely with Richard Weiner, another Czech Jewish writer and journalist, who worked there for the liberal newspaper Lidové noviny (People’s Paper). Winter also served as the press officer of the Czechoslovak mission to the League of Nations in Geneva. Thanks to three factors—his diplomatic abilities, contacts with leading Social Democrats from Czechoslovakia and France, and the position of his brother Lev—Winter played a crucial role in maintaining ties between the Czech and French Social Democratic parties. His contribution to the close relationship between the two countries was not limited to politics, however, as he also worked as mediator between the two cultures. He translated Victor Hugo, André Gide, and Francisque Sarcey into Czech; and also familiarized French readers with the works of Tomáš Masaryk and Karel and Josef Čapek. He translated Heinrich Heine and Robert Louis Stevenson into Czech as well.

Winter’s own writings focus mostly on France. He received the Czechoslovak state literary award in 1931 for his Kniha o Francii (Book on France; 1930). In this study, Winter writes about the sociological and political character of the French nation by analyzing a broad range of issues including economic stratification, the position of women, the press, literature, art, the army, Christian churches and Judaism, politics, linguistic questions, and attitudes toward foreigners. In 1937 and 1938, he published a series of articles in Ferdinand Peroutka’s journal Přítomnost (The Present) about reactions in French literature to Hitler’s aggression. Among his other works are texts about the Social Democratic movement in Czechoslovakia (The Evolution of Socialism in Czechoslovakia; 1924), about political development in Spain during the Spanish Civil War (Oč jde ve Španělsku [What Is Going on in Spain]; 1937), and about cultural life in the Czech lands under the Nazi occupation (Culture Lives on in Occupied Czechoslovakia; 1941).

Suggested Reading

František Klátil, In memoriam Gustava Wintra (London, 1944); František Svátek, “Deux intellectuels pragois d’origine juive: Lev et Gustav Winter,” in Allemands, Juifs et Tchèques à Prague, ed. Maurice Godé, Jacques Le Rider, and Françoise Mayer, pp. 331–338 (Montpellier, Fr., 1996).