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The JEWS of CZECHOSLOVAKIA
SUMMARY

FROM YIVO ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE JEWS OF EASTERN EUROPE
CLICK ON SOURCE TO READ FULL ARTICLE)

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A republic located in central Europe,  By the Munich Agreement on 29 September 1938, Nazi Germany annexed the borderlands of Bohemia and Moravia (Sudetenland), which were populated mostly by Germans. The rest of the republic (minus regions annexed by Poland and Hungary) was called the Second Czecho-Slovak Republic. After the Nazi occupation of 15 March 1939, the Czech lands were transformed into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, with Slovakia becoming a semi-independent state. Following World War II, the Czechoslovak Republic was reestablished without Subcarpathian Rus’, which was incorporated into the Soviet Union. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia was divided into two independent states called the Czech and Slovak Republics.

Interwar Czechoslovakia had 354,342 Jews (by religion), representing 2.6 percent of the total population.  Antisemitism did not play a significant role in the political life after the consolidation of Czechoslovak democracy, only persisting in segments of Catholic, agrarian, and nationalist groups and among marginal groups of Czech fascists/ On 15 March 1939, German troops marched into Czechoslovakia.

The exclusion of Jews from society followed the German occupation when the Czech authorities attempted to push through their own  anti-Jewish measures. Anti-Jewish orders were thus issued by both German and Czech authorities—often also by police or local authorities. However, with the decree of 21 June 1939 by the “Reichsprotector” regarding Jewish property, the Germans reserved decisive powers for themselves, especially in the area of “Aryanization” and later in the organization of deportations. Beginning 1 September 1941, all Jews six years and older had to wear a yellow badge. At the same time, Czech authorities issued orders limiting the Jewish freedom of movement and excluding Jewish children from attending non-Jewish schools/

There has been a resurgent in Jewish life since the end of WW2.  The Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, is the umbrella organization of  Jewish Communities and Jewish societies, +The Federation of Jewish Communities of Slovakia is an umbrella organization for all Jewish communities in Slovakia. .

Click to go to the interactive map towns/photos

  

























COUNTRY

A republic located in central Europe, Czechoslovakia was established from the break up of the Hapsburg Empire in 1918   Following the signing of the Munich Agreement on 29 September 1938, Nazi Germany annexed the borderlands of Bohemia and Moravia (Sudetenland), which were populated mostly by Germans. The rest of the republic (minus regions annexed by Poland and Hungary) was called the Second Czecho-Slovak Republic. After the Nazi occupation of 15 March 1939, the Czech lands were transformed into Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia, with Slovakia becoming a semi-independent state. Following World War II, the Czechoslovak Republic was reestablished without Subcarpathian Rus’, which was incorporated into the Soviet Union. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia was divided into two independent states called the Czech and Slovak Republics.

DEMOGRAPHIC STRUCTURE

The number of Jews living in interwar Czechoslovakia was considerably less than in other East European states. In 1921, there were 354,342 Jews (by religion), representing 2.6 percent of the total population. However, the Jewish population was distributed very unevenly among the different parts of Czechoslovakia.

Jewish communities in the highly industrialized Czech lands (Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia) represented typical West European Jewish communities. An acculturated Jewish population lived mostly in large cities, where Jews made up only a small fraction of the general population. This was especially true in Bohemia, where 69 percent of Jews lived in cities that had populations greater than 10,000 (39.8%, or 31,751 Bohemian Jews, lived in Prague, representing 4.7% of the city’s population) in 1921. Apart from Prague, Jewish communities with more than 1,000 residents existed in Teplice-Šanov (Teplitz-Schönau), Plzeň (Pilsen), Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad), Liberec (Reichenberg), Ústí nad Labem (Aussig), and České Budějovice (Budweis).

RELIGIOUS IDENTITY

Demographic differences with the various parts of Czechoslovakia corresponded to the variety of religious practices within the Jewish population. Bohemia belonged to the more secularized regions of Europe not only in the Jewish but also in the Christian context (10% of the Bohemian population was nonconfessional in 1930). Prague was no longer a center of Talmudic studies during the interwar period; rabbis from Czech lands had to study at rabbinical seminaries in Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. Only a small group of Orthodox Jews lived in Bohemia, many of them immigrants from Subcarpathian Rus’ and some from Galicia. In contrast to the situation in Germany, the Reform religious movement was not prominent. The majority of Bohemian Jews visited synagogues only on the High Holidays. Between 1912 and 1930, Hayim Heinrich Brody served as chief rabbi of Prague.

NATIONAL IDENTITY

Varying patterns of acculturation and traditionalism in Czechoslovakia produced a wide spectrum of national identities within the Jewish population. Uniquely in the European context, Czechoslovak Jews could claim to be Jewish by nationality even if they lacked knowledge of a Jewish language or membership in the Jewish religious community. This status was guaranteed by the official interpretation of Article 128 of the Czechoslovak constitution of 1920

CULTURE

The literary culture of interwar Czechoslovakia was enriched by Jews who wrote in several languages. Among those who wrote in Czech were Vojtěch Rakous, František Langer, Karel Poláček, Richard Weiner, Otokar Fischer, Jiří Orten, Egon Hostovský, Jiří Langer, Hanuš Bonn, Jindřich Kohn, Alfred Fuchs, and Eduard Lederer. Many of these writers were members of the Czech Jewish movement. [See Czech Literature.]

POLITICAL AFFILIATION

Jews in Czechoslovakia supported a broad spectrum of political parties. In the Czech lands, however, the vast majority was oriented toward the Left. Alfréd Meissner, a social democrat, was a member of the Revolutionary National Assembly from 1918 to 1920; he was one of the main authors of the Czechoslovak constitution and served as minister of justice in 1920 and from 1929 to 1934. Lev Winter was minister of social welfare from 1918 to 1920 and again from 1925 to 1926; Ludwig Czech was minister of social welfare (and later of public works and of health) from 1929 to 1938. Other Jewish social democrats who served as members of parliament (both in the chamber of deputies and the senate) included Arnošt Winter, Zikmund Witt, Robert Klein, Ignaz Schultz, Zoltan Farkas, Siegfried Taub, Carl Heller, Victor Haas, Arnold Holitscher, Fanni Blatny, and Irene Kirpal. Several leading Communist politicians of Jewish origin included Viktor Stern and Rudolf Slánský.

ANTISEMITISM

The foundation of Czechoslovakia was—until the fall of 1920—accompanied by a wave of antisemitism and anti-Jewish violence. Although antisemitism did not play a significant role in the political life of the Czech lands after the consolidation of Czechoslovak democracy, it persisted in segments of Catholic, agrarian, and nationalist groups and among marginal groups of Czech fascists. This can be explained by the high degree of secularization in Czech society, the leftist character of Czech intelligentsia, the strong personality of President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, and not least by the satisfaction of the Czechs, whose political ambitions were fulfilled by the creation of the Czechoslovak state.

THE HOLOCAUST

The exclusion of Jews from society following the German occupation of the Czech lands took place in a much shorter time frame than in Germany. While traditional historiography tends to stress that the Czech “autonomous” government was forced by the German “Reichsprotector” Konstantin von Neurath to implement anti-Jewish policies, the situation was far more complex. Czech authorities attempted to push through their own share of anti-Jewish measures. The transfer of Jewish property and economic positions into Czech hands was also perceived as a means of resisting Germanization. Anti-Jewish orders were thus issued by both German and Czech authorities—often also by police or local authorities. However, with the decree of 21 June 1939 by the “Reichsprotector” regarding Jewish property, the Germans reserved decisive powers for themselves, especially in the area of “Aryanization” and later in the organization of deportations. Beginning 1 September 1941, all Jews six years and older had to wear a yellow badge. At the same time, Czech authorities issued a number of orders limiting the Jews’ freedom of movement and excluding Jewish children from attending non-Jewish schools.

After Reinhard Heydrich was appointed “deputy Reichsprotector,” starting on 16 October 1941 five transports of Jews were sent to the ghetto in Łódź (in Poland) and one to Minsk (in Belarus). Fearing further deportations to the east, the leadership of Czech Jews participated in German plans to establish a ghetto in Terezín (Theresienstadt) in the “Protectorate.” Between 24 November 1941 and 30 March 1945, exactly 73,468 Jews from the “Protectorate” were deported to Terezín, with most arriving in 1942. More than 60,000 were later sent on to Auschwitz and other extermination camps in the east. On 8 March and 12–13 July 1944, the prisoners of the “Terezín family camp” in Auschwitz-Birkenau were murdered in gas chambers, representing the largest mass murder of Czechoslovak citizens during World War II.

Slovakia was the only nonoccupied German satellite state that willingly handed over its Jewish citizens to the Germans for deportation into the extermination camps and even paid the Germans 500 Reichsmarks for every deported person. From 25 March until 20 October 1942, exactly 57,628 Jews were deported from Slovakia to Auschwitz and the Lublin region, and only several hundred survived. After the wave of deportations, approximately 25,000 Jews remained in Slovakia, among them mostly holders of exemptions (and their families) and Jews in labor camps in Sereď, Vyhnie, and Nováky. Following the suppression of the Slovak National Uprising and the German occupation of Slovakia (29 August 1944), another 13,500 Slovak Jews were deported to Auschwitz, Terezín, and other camps.

In November 1938, Hungary gained southern Slovakia, with its approximately 45,000 Jews. In March 1939, it occupied Subcarpathian Rus’, which had a Jewish population numbering approximately 100,000. Most of the Jews of Subcarpathian Rus’ were denied Hungarian citizenship. They represented the majority of the 18,000 Jews deported in July and August 1941 to Kamenets Podolski, in Galicia, where they were murdered by the Nazis. Following the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, approximately 130,000 Jews from southern Slovakia and Subcarpathian Rus’ were deported to Auschwitz.

In November 1938, Hungary gained southern Slovakia, with its approximately 45,000 Jews. In March 1939, it occupied Subcarpathian Rus’, which had a Jewish population numbering approximately 100,000. Most of the Jews of Subcarpathian Rus’ were denied Hungarian citizenship. They represented the majority of the 18,000 Jews deported in July and August 1941 to Kamenets Podolski, in Galicia, where they were murdered by the Nazis. Following the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, approximately 130,000 Jews from southern Slovakia and Subcarpathian Rus’ were deported to Auschwitz.

POSTWAR

The Jewish population of Czechoslovakia was greatly harmed during World War II. In the east, only about 15,000 Subcarpathian Rusyn Jews survived. In reaction to the annexation of Subcarpathian Rus’ by the Soviet Union in 1945, about 8,500 survivors opted for Czechoslovak citizenship and moved to Bohemia and Moravia. Jewish communities included not only religious Jews but also those whose connection to Judaism was mainly limited to the Holocaust experience. In Slovakia, the number of Jews was estimated to be 30,000 in November 1946, of which 24,000 were of the Jewish faith. In the Czech lands, 24,395 people—including the Subcarpathian “repatriates”—were registered as residing in Jewish religious communities in June 1948; of these, 19,123 were of the Jewish faith.

Jewish survivors faced many difficulties. The majority had no relatives and lacked economic means. Property restitution was hindered by many obstacles. “Nationally unreliable” persons and institutions (i.e., Jews who had registered their nationality as German or Hungarian in the 1930 census) were excluded. In some cases, the restitution of small factories was reversed as a result of workers’ demonstrations organized by Communists. Court proceedings concerning restitution often were extremely slow; as a result, following the Communist takeover of February 1948, restitution was impossible. There were also instances of German-speaking Jews being interned in camps for Germans or even being expelled to Germany with the German minority. In some cases, survivors faced hostility (an extreme case was the pogrom in Topoľčany, Slovakia, in September 1945).

The Communist coup on 25 February 1948 marked a new period in Czechoslovak history. Although sovietization and the growing power of Communists had been noticeable immediately after the war, the takeover now had a direct impact on individual freedoms. Thousands of Czechoslovak citizens decided to emigrate, a process that was accelerated by the founding of the State of Israel in May 1948. Israeli statistics reveal that 2,558 immigrants born in Czechoslovakia arrived in 1948; 15,689 came in 1949. The increase was due to an agreement between Ehud Avriel-Ueberall (the Israeli envoy in Prague) and the Czechoslovak government. Beginning in the latter half of 1950, emigration from Czechoslovakia was extremely difficult. Roughly 14,000–18,000 Jews remained in Czechoslovakia at the end of 1950.

A series of trials for political opponents of communism was followed by a purge in the Communist Party, culminating (in November 1952) in the handing down of death sentences for 11 prominent Communists, among them 8 Jews. The trial was accompanied by a harsh anti-Zionist and antisemitic propaganda campaign.

During the short period of liberalization that culminated in the Prague Spring of 1968, connections between the Jewish communities within Czechoslovakia and the outside Jewish world were renewed, though relations between Israel and Czechoslovakia cooled following the Six-Day War of 1967, when Czechoslovakia broke off diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. After the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies in August 1968, a new wave of emigration started, with roughly one-third of Czechoslovakian Jews leaving the country.

Following the Velvet Revolution of 1989, which toppled the Communist regime, religious and communal life recovered slowly. In 1992, Karol Sidon became the new chief rabbi of Prague. Australian Lazar Kleinman took up the post of rabbi in Košice in eastern Slovakia, and in 1993 Baruch Meyers came from the United States to serve as rabbi in Bratislava.

From Wikipedia

For the Czechs of the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia, German occupation was a period of brutal oppression. The Jewish population of Bohemia and Moravia (117,551 according to the 1930 census) was virtually annihilated. Many Jews emigrated after 1939; approximately 78,000 were killed. By 1945, some 14,000 Jews remained alive in the Czech lands. Approximately 144,000 Jews were sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp. Most inmates were Czech Jews. About a quarter of the inmates (33,000) died in Theresienstadt, mostly because of the deadly conditions (hunger, stress, and disease, especially the typhus epidemic at the very end of war). About 88,000 were deported to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. When the war finished, there were a mere 17,247 survivors. There were 15,000 children living in the children's home inside the camp; only 93 of those children survived.

SLOVAKIA
From Virtual Jewish World

(See also The Fate of the Slovak Jews)

Before World War II, 135,000 Jews lived in Slovakia; 5,000 of whom immigrated before the war. Under the protection of Nazi Germany, Slovakia proclaimed its independence in March 1939. The country came under the control of an extremely religious and right-wing party, the Hlinka (Slovak) Peoples’ party, under the leadership of Father Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest. After its establishment, the Slovakian government approached the “Jewish Question” as one of their first public issues

Following the Holocaust, only 25,000 Jews survived and many survivors decided to emigrate. Those Jews who did remain worked diligently to rebuild the devastated Jewish community.

TODAY
European Jewish Congress      CZECH REPUBLIC     SLOVAKIA       (Click tab for more detail)

The Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, is the umbrella organization of  Jewish Communities and Jewish societies, such as B´nai B´rith, Union of Jewish Youth or the Terezin Initiative, a gathering of Czech Soah survivors. It is also a founder of several institutions. The most important one is the famous Jewish Museum in Prague, however a substantial role is played also by the Foundation of Holocaust Victims or the Sefer Publishing House. The Federation initiated e.g. also the foundation of the European Shoah Legacy Institute which is dealing with restitution of Jewish property on a world level.

There are many other active organizations playing an important role in the Czech civic life, such as the Czech-Israeli Chamber of Commerce, promoting economic cooperation between the two countries, or the Franz Kafka Society promoting Jewish culture, or the Society of Christians and Jews, leading a religious dialogue and many more.

The Jewish quarter of Prague is a treasury of Jewish art and architecture and is one of the most outstanding Jewish sites in Europe. Its synagogues (including the 14th century Altneushul), ancient cemetery, and museum are visited by both Jews and non-Jews alike.

Slovakia has many sites of Jewish interest, including numerous synagogues and cemeteries.  One of the most outstanding sites is an underground memorial in Bratislava, which is the resting place of 18 renowned rabbis.

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Slovakia is an umbrella organization for all Jewish communities in Slovakia. The biggest communities are in Bratislava and Kosice (several hundred members each).

There are synagogues in a number of Slovak towns, and Rabbis are active in Bratislava and in Kosice. The synagogues in Bratislava and in Kosice are used regularly for services. Religious observance is increasing, as even some children of mixed marriages are returning to the community and studying Judaism.

LINKS

Why We Can Walk Without Fear in Prague  Forward, Don SnyderJune 28, 2015Matej Stransky

History | Federation of Jewish Communities in Czech Republic

Jewish History of CzechRepublic    porges.net

Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews

Czech - Jewish Web Index

New documentary recounts story of Czechoslovak Jewish children saved from Holocaust

19-04-2016 15:27 | Ruth Fraňková

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Country

Demographic Structure

Religious Identity

Antisemitism

The Holocaust

Postwar

Czech Republic

Slovakia

Today

Links

Prague's Jewish Town
Linda Ivanov, 2011 (30.34)

"The Working Group" -
The Attempt by Jewish Activists to Rescue the Jews of Slovakia
Yad Vashem 2013, (8.45)

The Story of the
Jewish Community in Bratislava
Yad Vashem, 2013, (9.06)  

THE

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STORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE