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Czechoslovakia At A Century of Progress

Anton J. Cermak
by R. A. Ginsburg

Pictured below is Anton J. Cermak, Mayor of Chicago from 1931-1933.

Today, when Time has begun to heal the wounds of remorse, and rational judgment replaces sentiment and emotions, we can begin to evaluate the personality of Anton J. Cermak, the first Slav mayor of the City of Chicago. As a foreign flower transplanted upon the fertile soil of American opportunities he applied his natural talents, his perseverance and tenacity, his capacity for leadership, and above all his ability to make and keep friends, and through these personal attributes he rose to the heights from which he was removed by the capricious whim of Fate.

But the rise of Anton J. Cermak is more than the story of personal success, for it carries with it the rise in importance of the group from which he descended and to which he remained faithful to the very end. Prior to his rise in political power, the Czechoslovaks of Chicago played a very backward role in the City politics and - with few exceptions - held only minor offices in the city administration. But with a truly prophetic vision Anton J. Cermak realized the growing strength of the 'foreign' vote, and brought his important element to the attention of the political leaders.

Anton J. Cermak never forgot his humble beginnings and remained firmly rooted in the nationalistic group from which he arose. Whether this adherence to his Slav origin was guided by a lofty ideal of national tradition, or whether it was only guided by a lofty ideal of national tradition, or whether it was only a well chosen political expedient, is a subject of future speculation, but the fact remains that, as he grew in power the entire group followed him, as if attracted by a magnet that slowly raised the political consciousness of the group. It must be admitted that the Czechoslovaks of Chicago produced other great men before and contemporaneously with Anton J. Cermak, but for some reason or other the influence of these men upon the lives of the people was limited, their appeal was too local, while the personality of Anton J. Cermak, magnified and glorified by his spectacular rise in power, permeated the very lives and thoughts of the Czechs and Slovaks of Chicago.

That the influence of Anton J. Cermak was of more than local or accidental importance may best be realized from the enthusiasm which greeted him in the summer of 1932 during his tour of Europe. Wherever he went, extending a personal, hearty invitation to eagerly listening Europeans to come to Chicago's Century of Progress, he was received with promises of co-operation. Anton J. Cermak with a thoroughness and vibrant energy so typical of his life, wanted so much to make good as the World's Fair Mayor, he wanted so much through his personal efforts to remove the stigma of slurs that clung injuriously to the name of Chicago. He worked for the re-establishment of the city's tottering credit, he worked for the repression of lawlessness, he worked to make the city a safe and pleasant place to visit and to live in.

With inspired vision he looked forward to the opening day of the Century of Progress Exposition, beaming, no doubt with justifiable pride at the thought of the son of a foreign miner, who had risen to the enviable position of Chicago's World Fair Mayor. He planned and he dreamed, he toiled and he hoped, and when the goal was almost within reach, when the plaudits of the world were to be his reward, he fell, a warrior upon the battlefield of life, and his tragic fall resounded around the world, a mournful echo that tolled the passing of a martyr.

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