Czechoslovakia (chĕk´ōslōväk´ēə), Czech Československo (chĕs´kōslōvĕn´skō), former federal republic, 49,370 sq mi (127,869 sq km), in central Europe. On Jan. 1, 1993, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic (see Slovakia) became independent states and Czechoslovakia ceased to exist. (For history prior to 1918 as well as geographic and economic information, see Bohemia; Czech Republic; Moravia; Slovakia.)
The Emergence of Czechoslovakia
The creation of Czechoslovakia was the culmination of the long struggle of the Czechs against their Austrian rulers. It was largely accomplished by the nation's first and second presidents, T. G. Masaryk and Eduard Beneš. The union of the Czech lands and Slovakia was officially proclaimed in Prague on Nov. 14, 1918; the Treaty of St. Germain (Sept., 1919) formally recognized the new republic. Ruthenia was added by the Treaty of Trianon (June, 1920).
Because Czechoslovakia inherited the greater part of the industries of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, it was economically the most favored of the Hapsburg successor states. Benefiting from a liberal, democratic constitution (1920) and led by able statesmen, the new republic appeared to have a bright future. Redistribution of some of the estates of the former nobility and the church generally improved the living conditions of the peasantry. In foreign policy Czechoslovakia relied on its friendship with France and on its Little Entente with Yugoslavia and Romania.
Yet the new state was far from being a stable unit. With its antagonistic and nationalistic ethnic elements, it reflected the inherent weakness of the Hapsburg empire. The Czechs and Slovaks had separate histories and greatly differing religious, cultural, and social traditions. The constitution of 1920, which set up a highly centralized unitary state, failed to take into account the important problem of national minorities. The Germans and Magyars of Czechoslovakia openly agitated against the territorial settlements. Although the constitution provided for autonomy for Ruthenia, in practice autonomy was constantly postponed. The Slovak People's party accused the Czech government of having denied Slovakia promised autonomous rights. Hitler's rise in Germany, the German annexation of Austria, the resulting revival of revisionism in Hungary and of agitation for autonomy in Slovakia, and the appeasement policy of the Western powers left Czechoslovakia without allies, exposed to hostile Germany and Hungary on three sides and to unsympathetic Poland on the fourth.
The nationality problem led to a European crisis when the German nationalist minority, led by Konrad Henlein and vehemently backed by Hitler, demanded the union of the predominantly German districts with Germany. Threatening war, Hitler extorted through the Munich Pact (Sept., 1938) the cession of the Bohemian borderlands (Sudetenland). Poland and Hungary obtained territorial cessions shortly thereafter. Beneš resigned the presidency in October and was succeeded by Emil Hacha. In Nov., 1938, the truncated state, renamed Czecho-Slovakia, was reconstituted in three autonomous units—Bohemia and Moravia, Slovakia, and Ruthenia.
The War Years
In Mar., 1939, Hitler forced Hacha to surrender Czecho-Slovakia to German control and made Bohemia and Moravia into a German "protectorate." Slovakia gained nominal independence as a satellite state. Ruthenia was awarded to Hungary. After the outbreak of World War II, Beneš set up a provisional government in London, and Czech units fought with the Allied forces. Except for the brutalities of the German occupation, Czechoslovakia suffered relatively little from the war. In Apr., 1944, Soviet forces, accompanied by a Czech coalition government headed by Beneš, and American troops entered Czechoslovakia; the fall (May 12, 1945) of Prague marked the end of military operations in Europe. Soviet and American troops were withdrawn later in the year.
At the Potsdam Conference of 1945 the expulsion of about 3,000,000 Germans from Czechoslovakia and an exchange of minorities between Czechoslovakia and Hungary were approved. The country's pre-1938 territory was restored, except for Ruthenia, which was ceded to the USSR. In the elections of 1946 the Communists emerged as the strongest party (obtaining one third of the votes) and became the dominant party in the coalition headed by the Communist Klement Gottwald. Beneš was elected president. Soviet pressure prevented Czechoslovakia from accepting Marshall Plan aid (June, 1947).
The Communist Era
During the summer of 1947, the Communists began a campaign of political agitation and intrigue that gave them complete control of the government in Feb., 1948. In March, Jan Masaryk, the non-Communist foreign minister, died in suspicious circumstances. After the adoption of a new constitution (Beneš resigned rather than sign it), a new legislature was elected and enacted a program for nationalizing the economy. Czechoslovakia became a Soviet-style state.
Political and cultural liberty was curtailed, and purge trials were conducted from 1950 to 1952. Riots occurred in 1953, reflecting economic discontent. A very modest liberalization trend was begun in response but was reversed in Nov., 1957, when Antonin Novotný became president. In 1960 a new constitution was enacted. Another cautious movement toward liberalization was initiated in 1963. Restrictions on the press, education, and cultural activities were eased, and local authorities received increased economic autonomy. Profit considerations were introduced into the economy. Czechoslovakia became celebrated internationally for its experimental theater work and its many fine films. But political power remained the exclusive possession of a small circle in the Communist party.
That factor, the sluggishness of the economy (despite the reforms), and Slovak resentment over Novotný's Czech-dominated administration, produced the startling developments of 1968. Alexander Dubček, a Slovak, replaced Novotný as party leader in January; Ludvik Svoboda became president in March. Under Dubček, in what is known as Prague Spring, democratization went further than in any other Communist state. Press censorship was reduced, and the restoration of a genuinely democratic political life seemed possible. Slovakia was granted political autonomy.
Seriously alarmed at what it construed to be a threat to Soviet security and to the supremacy within the USSR of the Soviet Communist party, the USSR with some of its Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia in Aug., 1968. Dubček and other leaders were taken to Moscow. Despite opposition by the populace, the USSR forced the repeal of most of the reforms. A revised constitution was promulgated. (Slovakian autonomy was retained.) In Apr., 1969, Dubček was replaced as party leader, and in June, 1970, he was expelled from the party.
In the early 1970s there were many efforts to stamp out dissent, including mass arrests, union purges, and religious persecution. The repressive policies and rigid Soviet-style economic policies continued throughout the 1970s despite inflation and a sluggish economy. In 1977, the appearance of a declaration of human rights called Charter 77, which was signed by 700 intellectuals and former party leaders, instigated further repressive measures.
The Velvet Revolution
In late 1989, massive antigovernment demonstrations in Prague were at first suppressed by the police, but as democratization swept through Eastern Europe, the Communist party leadership resigned in November. In December, a new, non-Communist cabinet took over, and the playwright and former dissident Václav Havel was elected president. Under Communist rule, Czechoslovakia had a Soviet-style planned economy in which its highly developed industry as well as trade, banking, and agriculture were under state control. In 1990, the nation began the transition to a market economy with a broad program designed to encourage private enterprise and outside investment. The "Velvet Revolution" was successfully completed with the departure of the last Soviet troops in May, 1991, and a free parliamentary election in June, 1992.
The new government was faced with several difficulties, including a distressed and inefficient economic system in need of drastic reform, high unemployment, widespread social discontent, and environmental pollution. Under the 1968 constitution, Czechoslovakia was a federal republic. The two component parts were the Czech Republic, with its capital in Prague, and the Slovak Republic, with its capital at Bratislava. There was a bicameral federal legislature elected every five years. The federal president, who was elected by the legislature, appointed the premier and ministers. Each republic had a council and assembly. The federal government dealt with defense, foreign affairs, and certain economic matters. A strong secessionist movement in Slovakia, however, led to the formal declaration on Aug. 26, 1992, that the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic would separate into independent states on Jan. 1, 1993, thus dissolving the 74-year-old federation. In response to the imminent breakup, the federal government was dismantled and drafts of new Czech and Slovak constitutions were begun.
See historical studies by R. J. Kerner (1940) and S. H. Thomson (2d ed. 1953, repr. 1965); M. Rechcigl, Jr., ed., Czechoslovak Contribution to World Culture (1964) and Czechoslovakia Past and Present (2 vol., 1968); Z. A. B. Zeman, Prague Spring (1969); W. Shawcross, Dubcek (1970); G. Golan, The Czechoslovak Reform Movement (1971); I. Sviták, The Czechoslovak Experiment, 1968–1969 (1971); J. Kalvoda, The Genesis of Czechoslovakia (1986); N. Stone and E. Strouh ed., Czechoslovakia: Crossroads and Crises, 1918–1988 (1989); J. Batt, Economic Reform and Political Change in Eastern Europe (1988).
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CZECHOSLOVAKIA , republic in Central Europe. Founded in 1918, it united within its political framework the Jewries of the "historic countries" (*Bohemia, *Moravia, and part of *Silesia), connected with the *Hapsburg Empire from 1526 and under its direct control from 1620, and of *Slovakia and Carpatho-Russia (see *Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia), both an integral part of *Hungary, from the tenth century. As of January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist as a separate entity and its territory became two independent nations, the *Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Jewish communities of the various regions hence differed substantially in their demographic, economic, and cultural aspects, with influences of assimilation to the Czech and German cultures prevailing in the west, and the Hungarian in conjunction with the traditional Orthodox Jewish way of life in the east.
In the western part of Czechoslovakia Jewish life was mainly regulated by Austrian legislation (of 1890) and in the eastern areas by Hungarian (of 1870). The communal leadership was initially predominantly assimilationist-oriented to German, Hungarian, or Czech culture. Czechoslovakian Jewry was distributed as shown in Table: Czechoslovakian Jewry.
By 1930, over 80% of the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia-Silesia lived in towns with over 5,000 inhabitants (60% of these in towns with over 50,000 inhabitants, i.e., *Prague, *Brno (Bruenn)). Between 1918 and 1938 the number of Jews in the small towns decreased by 20% to 50%, while the Jewish population of Prague, Brno, *Ostrava, and several industrial centers in the Sudeten area increased. In 1930, the proportion of children up to the age of 14 was 13.04% among Bohemian Jews and 14.25% among Moravian-Silesian Jews, compared with 22.63% and 26.13% respectively among the general population. The occupational structure of the Jewish population was similar to that for the rest of West European Jewry.
|1921 Absolute no.||% of Total pop.||1930 Absolute no.||% of Total pop.||% of Czech Jewry|
During the century before World War i the number of Jews in Carpatho-Russia had increased almost fivefold because of the influx from Galicia, Romania, and Russia. In 1930, 65% were living in villages, constituting the highest proportion of rural dwellers among European Jewry. The communities in western Slovakia were closer to the way of life of the Moravian communities whose members had originally founded them. *Bratislava (Pressburg) had an individual character and was closely related to *Burgenland Jewry.
The initiative to organize Czech Jewry within the new state came from Zionists. Ludwig *Singer had already suggested in November 1917 that the communities should be reorganized to provide a framework both for religious activities and toward achieving Jewish national and cultural *autonomy. On the initiative of Rudolph Kohn of the Prague *Po'alei Zion, the Jewish National Council (Národní rada Židovská) was established on Oct. 23, 1918, headed by Ludwig Singer, with the writer Max Brod and Karl Fischel as his deputies. On Oct. 28, at the proclamation of the republic, the council declared Jewish loyalty to the provisional government and put forward its principal claims: recognition of and the right to declare Jewish nationality, full civic and legal rights, democratization of the Jewish communities and expansion of their competences, establishment of a central supreme representation of the communities, cultural autonomy in Jewish education, promotion and use of Hebrew, and contact with the "center in Palestine." By November the federations of the communities of Moravia and Silesia had accepted the council's authority. On Jan. 4, 1919, a Prague conference of adherents to Jewish nationality adopted a program to convert the communities, as the "living cells of Jewish society," into the bearers of Jewish autonomy, but the program was not realized; nor could a unified communal organization be created. The conference decided to found the *Židovská Strana (Jewish party) as its instrument for electoral activities. Many communities reorganized themselves on democratic lines, granting franchise to women and to Jews from Eastern Europe who had settled there. Besides the demands urged on the authorities, as contained in the National Jewish Council's proclamation, the council also made demands on Jewish society itself, calling for a modern social policy to replace old-style philanthropy, establishment of Jewish secular schools, and provision of facilities for religious worship according to the wishes of the members of the community. The council dispatched a delegation to the peace conference in Versailles (Singer, Samuel Hugo *Bergmann, and Norbert Adler), which became part of the Jewish delegation there. Though Zionist influence predominated in the council, non-Zionists such as Alois Hilf and Salomon Hugo Lieben collaborated. The Czech assimilationist movement (see *Čechů-židů, *Svaz) and the extremist orthodox group contested the council's right to represent the whole of Czechoslovakian Jewry. The state under President Thomas Garrigue *Masaryk agreed to the council's basic claims, and the 1920 constitution expressly recognized Jewish nationality, corresponding to the conceptions of the *minority rights granted to all minorities in Czechoslovakia.
The 354,342 Jews by religion (Israelites) enumerated in 1921, and 356,830 in 1930, declared their nationality as shown in Table 2:
Adherents of the Jewish religion in 1930 represented 2.4% of the total population, and Jews by nationality 1.3% of the total. While in general mother tongue served as the criterion for nationality, Jews could declare Jewish nationality irrespective of it: 156 persons who were not Jewish by religion declared their nationality to be Jewish in 1921, and 317 in 1930. After 1918 five regional federations of communities existed in Bohemia-Moravia; in 1926 they established the Nejvyšší rada židovských náboženských obcí (Supreme Council of the Jewish Religious Communities). It was first headed by the Czech-Jewish leader Augustin Stein and then by Joseph *Popper. The chief rabbi of Prague (then Ḥayyim Heinrich *Brody) was an ex officio member. In Slovakia and Carpatho-Russia, as in Hungary, three trends of community affiliation existed. The orthodox communities of Slovakia had an autonomous organization (confirmed in 1920) which from 1923 also included those of Carpatho-Russia. Its statute limited the franchise to dues payers. The *neologist and *status-quoante communities amalgamated into the Jeshurun federation in 1928. There was no supreme communal organization or chief rabbinate. From 1926 the salary of rabbis was augmented by the Kongrua, a government fund for the upkeep of religious life.
The Jewish party succeeded in achieving representation on a number of municipal councils. However, as it did not attain the minimum quota required for the parliamentary elections in any single electoral district, it succeeded in returning two representatives only in 1929, as a result of an agreement with the Polish minority (Ludwig Singer, succeeded after his death in 1931 by Angelo *Goldstein, and Julius Reisz) and in 1935, after an arrangement with the Czechoslovak Social Democrats (Goldstein and Ḥayyim *Kugel). The party was opposed by Czech, Slovak, German, and Hungarian assimilationists, as well as by the extreme Orthodox, who gave their votes to the strongest Czech party, the Agrarians. Jews, however, also attained leading positions in other political parties: Alfred Meissner and Lev Winter in the Czechoslovak Social Democrats, Ludwig *Czech and Siegfried Taub in the German, and Gabor Streiner in the Hungarian, Bruno Kafka in the Deutsche Arbeits-und Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft, and Rudolf Slánský and Viktor Stern in the Communist party. Jews were also active in political journalism. There were several Jewish weeklies, the Zionist Židovské zprávy, *Selbstwehr, and Medinah Ivrith in Prague, Max *Hickl's Juedische Volksstimme in Brno, the Juedische Volkszeitung in Bratislava, and the Juedische Stimme in Mukačevo
|Nationality||1921 (%)||1930 (%)|
In Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia Jewish children attended general schools on all levels: Prague and Ostrava both had a Jewish elementary school, while the only Jewish secondary school was in Brno. In most towns of Slovakia there were Jewish elementary schools where the language of instruction was Hungarian, most adopting the Slovak language subsequently. In Carpatho-Russia, Jewish education was substantially based on the traditional ḥeder and yeshivah. Government records of 1931 listed five yeshivot as institutions of higher education, in Bratislava, *Komarno, *Prešov, *Košice, and *Mukačevo; but there were others, as in *Galanta, *Dunajska Streda, and *Huncovce. A network of Hebrew schools developed; the first school was opened in Torun, and then, supported by the *Tarbut organization, expanded to nine elementary schools and two secondary, in Mukačevo (1925) and *Uzhgorod (1934). In 1934 the Supreme Council of the Jewish Religious Communities established a course for cantors and teachers of religion. A large number of Jewish children in Carpatho-Russia attended the Czech schools established for the children of civil servants and police officers. Many Jews attended universities and technical colleges, which also attracted numbers of students from countries where there was a numerus clausus. A number of Jews were appointed to professorships in Prague at the Czech and the German universities.
Jews played an important role in the economy and were among the pioneers of its development, notably in the textile, foodstuffs, and wood and paper industries. (It was estimated that 30%–40% of the total capital invested in Czechoslovakian industry in the 1930s was Jewish-owned.) The firm of *Petschek and Weimann was instrumental in the development of mining in north Bohemia, and Jewish enterprise was prominent in the steel industry and mining of the Ostrava area (see Wilhelm *Guttmann), insurance, and private banking. Jews were also instrumental in the Slovak wood industry. Later the concentration of capital in the national banks, agrarian reform, the development of agricultural and consumers' cooperatives, and the preference given to enterprises set up by veterans of the Czechoslovakian army tended to limit the extent and importance of Jewish economic activity, and the number of Jews in industry and commerce declined. The slump of 1929–30 affected many Jewish businessmen. After this crisis many Jews emigrated from Slovakia and Carpatho-Russia to the West; on the other hand, after 1918 Czechoslovakia received several thousand refugees from Eastern Europe, most of them in transit. They were supported through the Židovská ústředna socialní péče (Juedische Fuersorge-Zentrale), founded in 1921. After the Nazi advent to power in Germany in 1933, several thousand Jewish refugees, of whom 4,000 held Czechoslovakian citizenship, entered Czechoslovakia. A special committee was founded for their support. A particular problem was the provision of legal aid for the many Jewish stateless persons, who were permanently in danger of losing their permits of domicile and work. Prominent in social welfare work in the 1930s were Joseph Popper, and the *wizo leaders Marie Schmolka, Hanna Steiner, and Gisi *Fleischmann.
Jews contributed to all spheres of cultural activity, whether Czech, German, or Hungarian oriented. Many were outstanding authors in the Czech language (see *Czechoslovak literature). Gifted German-language authors were Adolf Donath, Friedrich Adler, and Hugo *Salus of the elder generation, and Franz *Kafka, Max *Brod, Franz *Werfel, Ludwig Winder, F.C. Weisskopf, and Egon Erwin *Kisch, among others (see *German Literature). Authors who wrote in German did not necessarily consider themselves German nationals, and some, like Max Brod, were active Zionists. Many Jews were intermediaries between the cultures, such as Otakar *Fischer in translating from German to Czech, and Kamil *Hoffmann, Max Brod, and Pavel Eisner in presenting Czech culture to the German-reading public. Jews prominent in music included the composer Jaromir *Weinberger and on the Czech stage the actors Hugo *Haas and Jiři Voskovec. Jewish journalists were on the staff of many newspapers, excepting those of the extreme right, and in all languages. Jews were active in all types of sports, within Jewish organizations as well as clubs of the other nationalities, notably the swimmers and water-ball teams of the Hagibor association in Prague and Bar Kochba in Bratislava. The refusal of the Jewish champions to represent Czechoslovakia at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936 was a subject of heated public discussion. Jewish youth was organized in the numerous Zionist youth and student organizations, as well as in many organizations of the other nationalities.
Antisemitism among all the nationalities of the republic was of old standing. At the time of the establishment of the republic in 1918 there were antisemitic riots in Prague and *Holešov (Moravia). In Slovakia, serious antisemitic violence continued until summer 1919. Among the Czech elements it was less noticeable, mainly because of the personal example of Thomas Masaryk and Eduard Beneš, and the democratic political philosophy as expounded by them, the author Karel Čapek, and other leaders of public opinion, including the head of the Czechoslovak Church Hromádka, and the writers Milena Jesenská, Emanuel Rada, and Pavla Moudrá. However, right-wing groups such as the Národni sjednoceni (National Union, founded by Jíří Stribrný in 1927), the Česká obec fašistická (Czech Fascist Community), headed by the former general of the Czech army Radola Gajda, and the Vlajka (Flag) group explicitly supported antisemitism in their platforms. Andrej Hlinka's Slovenská L'udová strana (Slovak People's Party) adopted an increasingly aggressive antisemitic policy. The Sudeten, where most of the Germans lived, was already a stronghold of racial antisemitism under the Hapsburg monarchy, and antisemitism grew even more violent, influenced by the rise of Nazism in Germany, the advent of Hitler to power, and the founding of Konrad Henlein's Sudetendeutsche Partei (1935). Antisemitism in Czechoslovakia was strongly associated with the general conflicts among the nationalities there: the Czechs would not forgive the adherence of many Jews to German language and culture and their support of the German liberal parties, and regarded them as a Germanizing factor. In Slovakia and Carpatho-Russia they were considered the bearers of Magyarization, and later, supporters of the Czech establishment. All groups alleged that the Jews were supporters of Communism, while the Communists claimed that they supported reaction. After Hitler's rise to power, his growing support for German extreme nationalist demands, and the enmity he manifested to the Czechoslovak establishment, the Jews drew increasingly closer to the state, which all Jewish groups supported in its stand against Nazism. Post-World War i Czechoslovakia, which was relatively progressive and stable, was a congenial milieu for Czechoslovakian Jewry. Hence, most of them failed to see the dangers threatening them even inside the country. However, the subdued popular antisemitism was soon to be rekindled. At the beginning of 1938 antisemitism gained in strength when in Romania the Goga government came to power and Jewish refugees tried to enter Czechoslovakia. Ferdinand Peroutka, the editor of a respected liberal weekly, published a series of articles in which he called for restriction of Jewish rights. A project for a rabbinical seminary, connected with the Prague Czech University, which was to begin functioning in 1938, was not realized. The problem of Jewish refugees became even more acute with the Nazi Anschluss with Austria, when many Jewish refugees, a large number holding Czechoslovakian passports, entered the country. Manifestations of antisemitism in Slovakia and the Sudeten area increased. At the time of the Munich conference (Sept. 29, 1938) the Jews from the Sudetenland (more than 20,000), which was handed over to Germany, fled to the remaining territory of the state. Parts of Slovakia and Carpatho-Russia, with a Jewish population of about 80,000, were ceded to Hungary by decree of Hitler and Mussolini as "arbiters" on Nov. 2, 1938. Antisemitism gained virulence in the truncated "Second Republic" mainly in Slovakia. The Second Republic did not last long. On March 14, 1939, Slovakia declared its independence and became a vassal of Nazi Germany; the next day the remaining parts of Bohemia and Moravia were occupied by the Germans and transformed into a German "Protectorate," while Hungary occupied Carpatho-Russia.
Emigration and Exile (1938–45)
The emigration and escape of Jews from Czechoslovakia started immediately after the Munich conference (Sept. 29, 1938) and increased considerably after the German occupation (March 15, 1939). Half a million pounds sterling, part of a grant made by the British government to the Czechoslovak government, were earmarked for the financing of the emigration of 2,500 Jews to Palestine. In addition, about 12,000 Jews left with "illegal" transports for Palestine. Many others emigrated to the United States and South America or escaped to neighboring Poland, from where a number succeeded in reaching Great Britain, France, and other countries. He-Ḥalutz and Youth Aliyah transferred hundreds of children and youth to England, Denmark, and the Netherlands for agricultural training. The Anglican Church and missionary institutions succeeded in removing children. When after the outbreak of World War ii the Czechoslovak National Council in London, later recognized as the government-in-exile and an ally, called upon army reservists in allied and neutral countries to enlist, many Jews responded. Even in Palestine, where many Jews from Czechoslovakia had already put themselves at the disposal of the Yishuv's war effort, about 2,000 Czech and Slovak Jews enlisted in Czechoslovak army units within the Allied Middle East Forces, where Jews constituted the great majority in these units. After the recognition of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union in 1941, a Czechoslovak division was established in the U.S.S.R. Up to 70% of the members of some of its units were Jews, many of them from Carpatho-Russia. The high percentage of Jews in these units created some tension and antisemitic reactions. The Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London, with Eduard Beneš as president and Jan *Masaryk as foreign minister, maintained good relations with Jewish organizations and supported the Zionist cause. In the State Council, Arnošt Frischer represented the Židovská *strana (Jewish party). Other Jews on the Council were Julius Friedmann, Julius Fuerth, and Gustav Kleinberg. Imrich Rosenberg represented Slovakian Jewry.
According to the 1930 census, 135,918 Jews (4.5% of the total population) lived in Slovakia. The plight of Slovak Jewry actually began with the establishment of autonomous Slovakia (Oct. 6, 1938), when the one-party authoritarian system of the clerical Slovak People's Party of Hlinka (hsl's – Hlinkova Slovenská L'udová Strana) came to power. On March 14, 1939, Hitler made an independent state by causing the breakup of Czechoslovakia. A few days later Slovak leaders and the German Foreign Minister, von *Ribbentrop, signed the Treaty of Protection (Schutzvertrag), thus making Slovakia in effect a satellite of Germany. In the first months of Slovakia's "independence" anti-Jewish restrictions were sporadically introduced; however, fundamental changes in anti-Jewish policy occurred only after the Salzburg Conference (July 28, 1940), attended by Hitler, the Slovak leaders (Father Josef *Tiso, Vojtech Bela *Tuka, Saňo Mach) and the leader of the local German minority, the so-called Karpaten-Deutsche, Franz Karmasin. At this conference the Slovaks agreed to set up a national-socialist regime in their country.
At the end of August 1940, Dieter *Wisliceny, *Eichmann's emissary, arrived in Slovakia to act as "adviser for Jewish affairs," and with him came a score of advisers to assist the Slovak ministries. The Slovaks set up two institutes with the objective of "solving the Jewish problem": ÚhÚ – Ústredný Hospodárský Úrad (Central Office for Economy) whose task was to oust the Jews from economic and social life and "aryanize" Jewish property; the second was ÚŽ – Ústredňa Židov (Center of Jews). The úž, the Slovak equivalent of the Judenrat, was headed by the starosta ("Jewish Elder"), Heinrich Schwartz, chairman of the Orthodox-Jewish community. When Schwartz was arrested for non-cooperation, a more obedient starosta, Árpád Sebestyén, a former school director, was appointed by the authorities in April 1941. The Zionist leader Oskar Neumann replaced Sebestyén in fall 1943. The "aryanization" process was carried out by the ÚhÚ within one year: 10,025 Jewish enterprises and businesses were liquidated and 2,223 transferred to "Aryan" ownership. In order to solve the problem of employment of Jews, who were removed from economic life, the Slovak authorities ordered the erection of a number of labor centers and three large labor camps: Sered, Vyhne, and Nováky. In the fall of 1941, in an effort to clear the capital of Jews, a special ministerial order issued by Mach removed a greater part of the Bratislava Jews; some were sent to the labor camps and others to the towns of Trnava, Nitra, and to the region of Šariš-Zemplín in eastern Slovakia, where the majority of Slovak Jewry lived. Concurrently, during a visit to Hitler's headquarters, Tuka requested the assistance of the Reich in the removal of the Jews from Slovakia. News of the terrible fate of Jews in German hands filtered into Slovakia after fall 1941. At the beginning of February 1942, the German Foreign Ministry formally requested the Slovak government to furnish 20,000 "strong and able-bodied Jews." It was decided that the first transports would be composed of young men and women aged 16–35. However, on the suggestion of the Slovaks that in the "spirit of Christianity" families should not be separated, Eichmann gave his consent to deport families together. The Slovaks had to pay 500 Reichmarks "as charges for vocational training" for every deported Jew, receiving in return a guarantee that the Jews would not come back to Slovakia and that no further claims would be laid to their property. The organization of transports was performed by the Ministry of Interior, Department 14, headed by Gejza Kionka and afterward by Anton *Vašek, in collaboration with the Hlinka Guard and the Freiwillige Schutzstaffel (Voluntary Defense Squad of local Germans). The Jewish leadership, alarmed by rumors of the impending deportations, launched two appeals in the name of the Jewish communities (March 5, 1942) and in the name of the rabbis of Slovakia (March 6, 1942) warning the authorities that "the deportations mean physical extermination." On March 14, 1942, the Vatican sent a note of protest, and a few days later an oral warning was communicated on the direct instruction of Pope Pius xii by Slovakia's ambassador to Rome, Karol Sidor.
Between March 26 and October 20, 1942, about 60,000 Jews were deported as agreed with Berlin to *Auschwitz and to the *Lublin area, where they were killed. By the end of April the earliest evidence on the fate of deportees was received in Bratislava, when the first escapees from General Gouvernment of Poland arrived. Their eyewitness accounts were immediately forwarded to Jewish organizations in the free world. Thousands of Jews found refuge in neighboring Hungary (in 1944 some of them returned to Slovakia when the Hungarian Jewish community was in peril). Others sought protection through conversion to Christianity. From the end of July to the middle of September the transports were suspended for various technical reasons and perhaps also due to intercessions, mainly from religious circles.
During the interim, the underground "Working Group" (Pracovná Skupina; see also *Europa Plan) arose on the initiative of Rabbi Michael Dov *Weissmandel within the framework of ÚŽ with the objective of saving the remaining Jews of Slovakia. Led by Gisi Fleischmann, the Group was composed of Zionists, assimilated Jews, and rabbis. The Jewish underground succeeded in temporarily diverting the peril of deportation in the spring of 1943 as a result of negotiations with friendly Slovak ministers and bribes to Slovak leaders. Another achievement in 1943 was the rescue of fugitives from the ghettos of Poland, who were smuggled through Slovakia to Hungary with the help of the He-Ḥalutz underground. By that time about 25,000 Jews were left in Slovakia, some of them "submerged," so that only part of them were officially registered, mostly "economically vital" Jews who were granted "certificates of exemption." About 3–4,000 persons were engaged in productive work in the Slovak labor camps, and others lived on false "Aryan" papers or in hiding. On April 21, 1944, the first two escapees from Auschwitz reached Slovakia after a miraculous flight. Their account of the annihilation process was sent on to the head of the Orthodox Jewish community in Budapest, Rabbi Von Freudiger, to alert the world and forwarded through Switzerland to Jewish organizations in the free world with an appeal by Rabbi Weissmandel demanding the immediate bombing of the murder installations in Auschwitz. The Allies rejected the appeal.
In August 1944, an anti-Fascist uprising took place in Slovakia, and subsequently the German army invaded the country. Over 1,500 Jewish men and women enlisted in the Czechoslovak armed forces resisting the Germans. Among the enlisted Jews, a regular Jewish unit of about 250 fighters, under Jewish command and the name "Camp Novaky Unit," was active. Two hundred and sixty-nine Jewish fighters fell in the resistance.
Four parachutists from Ereẓ Israel reached Slovakia to extend help to the Jewish remnants and to organize resistance. However, the Jews had enlisted long before the arrival of the parachutists. Their cell included a woman, Ḥavivah *Reik ("Ada Robinson"). Three of the four, including Reik, were caught by the Germans, and subsequently executed. The Einsatzgruppen killed thousands of Jews during the Slovak revolt, and after its suppression (Oct. 28, 1944), about 13,500 of the remaining Jews of Slovakia were deported to concentration camps (including Auschwitz, *Sachsenhausen, and *Theresienstadt), under the pretext of reprisal for their participation in the revolt (October 1944–March 1945). On the eve of the liberation (April 30, 1945), there remained about 4,000–5,000 Jews in Slovakia hiding in the forests or with non-Jews or living clandestinely with "Aryan" papers. The losses of Slovak Jewry amount to over 100,000. In the part of Slovakia annexed by the Hungarian kingdom, there were about 45,000 Jews. Their fate was the same as the rest of Hungarian Jewry. In spring 1944, after the German occupation of Hungary, the Jews were deported to Auschwitz and most of them perished there. Some of those who eluded the deportations participated in the Slovak National Uprising. Only about 25,000 persons of the prewar community survived the Holocaust and the majority of them left Slovakia after the war, most of them for Israel.
[Livia Rothkirchen /
Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)]
PROTECTORATE OF BOHEMIA-MORAVIA
According to the 1930 census, Czechoslovakia had a Jewish population of 356,830 out of total of 14,000,000. Of these, 117,551 lived in Bohemia and Moravia and 102,542 in Carpatho-Russia. At the time of the Munich Agreement (September, 1938), the arrival of Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria increased the Jewish population in Bohemia and Moravia to approximately 122,000. In October 1938, when the German-speaking Bohemian-Moravian border areas were occupied by the Nazis, approximately 25,000 Jews fled their homes there to the unoccupied part of Czechoslovakia. On the basis of the Vienna arbitration decision of Nov. 2, 1938, the predominantly Hungarian parts of Slovakia and Carpatho-Russia were ceded to Hungary; these areas were inhabited by approximately 80,000 Jews. The remaining regions of Slovakia and Carpatho-Russia were granted autonomous status in the now federated Czecho-Slovakia. German pressure and a growing local anti-Jewish movement brought about increasing discrimination against Jews and persecution. In March 1939, when Slovakia seceded from the Republic, and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was established, the fate of the Jews in each of the two separate parts began to run its own course. In the Protectorate, the first synagogue, in Vsetin, was burned down on the day of the German occupation (March 15, 1939). At that time 118,310 persons in the Protectorate were designated as Jews according to the Nuremberg Laws; only 86,715, however, were members of the local Jewish communities. In the initial stage, the "Final Solution of the Jewish problem" proceeded, in part, on the basis of decrees issued by the Protectorate regime; in the course of time, Bohemia and Moravia came to be regarded more and more as part of the Reich, and the fate of the Jews in the two provinces was decided on directly by the *rsha (Reich Security Main Office) in Berlin. The immediate consequences were the plunder of Jewish property, pogroms, and the burning of synagogues. Many Jews who were active in the general resistance movement were caught while a few Jews survived as "illegals." On July 27, 1939, Adolf Eichmann, the rsha representative, established a branch of the Zentralstelle fuer juedische Auswanderung (Central Office for Jewish Emigration) in Prague. The Jews were forced to register for emigration, and divested of most of their property by a compulsory "Jewish emigration tax." Jewish books and periodicals were banned and the Juedisches Nachrichtenblatt was published in their place, controlled by the Zentralstelle. Jews were excluded from economic, cultural, and political life, and denied civil rights; an estimated 12,000,000,000 Kčs (about $343,000,000) in Jewish property were confiscated and, finally, an order issued on Sept. 1, 1941, forcing Jews to wear the yellow badge, resulted in their complete isolation. The Jewish communities reacted to the planned elimination of the Jews by stepping up their activities in Jewish and general education of the youth, giving foreign language instruction; retraining; and providing medical care, consulting agencies, and social welfare. These activities, which prevented the outbreak of panic and the community's dissolution, were later continued at the *Theresienstadt concentration camp. Efforts were made to promote legal and illegal Jewish emigration and, by the time emigration was totally banned (October 1941), 26,629 persons had succeeded in escaping from the country. In October 1939, the first group, comprising 1,291 Jewish men from Ostrava, was deported for the "settlement area of Nisko on the San." The Germans decided on the establishment of the Theresienstadt Ghetto on Oct. 10, 1941, in a secret meeting at the Prague Castle, chaired by Reich Protector Reinhard *Heydrich. The minutes of the meeting contain the following passage: "From this transit camp [Theresienstadt] the Jews, after a substantial reduction in their numbers, are to be deported to the East…." The Jewish communities were ordered to concentrate all the Jews living in their respective areas into a number of cities – Prague, Budweis (Budějovice), Kolín, Klatovy, Pardubice, Hradec Králové, Mladá Boleslav, Třebíč, Brno, Olomouc, Ostrava, and Uherský Brod. In October and November 1941, 6,000 Jews from Prague and Brno were deported directly to *Lodz and *Minsk. In the period Nov. 24, 1941–March 16, 1945, 73,614 Jews were dispatched to Theresienstadt in 121 transports. In this period also, 621 Jews were sent to Theresienstadt from towns in the Sudeten areas ceded to Germany. One of the leaders of Czechoslovak Jewry, Jacob *Edelstein, was appointed the "elder" of Theresienstadt. From Jan. 9, 1942, to Oct. 28, 1944, 60,399 Czech Jews were deported onward from Theresienstadt to the extermination camps in the East – Auschwitz, *Majdanek, Minsk, *Riga, *Sobibor, *Treblinka, and *Zamosc. Only 3,227 of the Jews deported from Theresienstadt survived the war. Following the assassination of Heydrich on Feb. 19, 1942, a "penal transport" of 1,000 Jews was deported from Prague to Poland, none of whom survived.
Jews joined the Czech resistance, both the pro-Western and the Communist wings. The sorely oppressed Czech population did not demonstrate exceptional courage in assisting the persecuted Jews. In the last period before liberation of the country, Jewish Mischlinge ("mixed" Jews considered Jewish under German law) were gathered to be shipped to extermination camps. Most of them survived.
In 1945, 10,090 Jews registered with the Jewish communities as returning deportees, out of a total of 80,614 who had been deported; 6,392 had died in Theresienstadt, 64,172 had been murdered in the extermination camps, and of the Jews who had not been deported, 5,201 had either been executed, committed suicide, or died a natural death. On the day of the restoration of national sovereignty in Prague, May 5, 1945, there were 2,803 Jews alive in Bohemia and Moravia, who had not been deported, most of them partners of mixed marriages.
Various estimates of the number of Jews living in Czechoslovakia in 1945 have been given, as postwar statistics do not classify the population according to religion. Many of the surviving Jews in Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia decided to leave in the brief period between its annexation to the Soviet Union (June 29, 1945) and the closing of its frontiers (September 30, 1945). They succeeded in fleeing to Bohemia, while only a few hundred moved to Slovakia. Most of the newcomers registered with the Jewish communities only later. In 1948, 19,123 Jews were registered with the communities in Bohemia and Moravia. The number of Jews in Slovakia in 1947 was estimated at about 24,500. This brings to 44,000 the number of Jews living in the whole of Czechoslovakia in early 1948, when the Communists came to power. However, this figure has to be augmented to include those who were in no way affiliated with organized Jewish communities, but in the past were classed as Jews by German authorities and registered after World War ii as victims of racial persecution. In this category there were 5,292 persons living in Bohemia and Moravia in 1948. In Slovakia their number is not known; on the other hand, about 5,500 Slovak Jews, in an effort to save their lives, agreed to pro forma baptism during the war. It can therefore be estimated that out of the 356,830 Jews living in Czechoslovakia (including Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia) in 1939, less than a sixth remained in the country in 1948. The Communist coup of February 1948, and the establishment of the State of Israel in May of that year, led to a mass migration of Jews from Czechoslovakia. Between 1948 and 1950, 18,879 Jews went from Czechoslovakia to Israel, while more than 7,000 emigrated to other countries. When emigration was barred by the Communist authorities, in 1950, the number of Jews still remaining had dropped to some 18,000, while some 5,500 of them were still registered for migration to Israel. There were sporadic instances of Jewish emigration after 1954 but only from 1965 were 2,000–3,000 Jews allowed to leave Czechoslovakia. After the Soviet invasion in August 1968, 3,400 Jews left the country, according to a spokesman of the American Joint Distribution Committee in Vienna. It may therefore be assumed that at the end of 1968 there were less than 12,000 Jews left in Czechoslovakia. In June 1968, Rudolf Iltis of the Council of Jewish Communities in Bohemia and Moravia gave their average age as 60, while in the 15–20 age group there were only 1,000 Jews left. He also added that "with the exception of a few communities in Slovakia, the demographic situation of Czechoslovak Jewry does not necessitate religious instruction, because there are not enough children of school age."
The renewed Council of Jewish Communities in Bohemia and Moravia held its first conference after World War ii, under the chairmanship of Ernst Frischer, in September 1945. Delegates of 43 communities participated. In Slovakia a similar body, the Central Union of the Jewish Communities in Slovakia, was created at the end of 1945, presided over by Armin *Frieder. With the creation of the Union, the Orthodox and the Neolog-Status Quo organizations, separate before the war, were united. Both Frischer and Frieder were Zionists. In 1947 the two organizations set up a coordinating committee. At a Council conference in November 1963 representatives from only 16 communities took part and in 1968 the editor of the Council's publications listed only seven active communities in Bohemia and Moravia (Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Plzeň, Karlovy Vary, Ústí nad Labem, and Teplice-Sanov). Ten communities in Slovakia were listed as active (Bratislava, Košice, Prešov, Nitra, Michalovce, Žilina, Galanta, Trnava, Dunajská Streda, and Ružomberok). A small number of Jews were also living in some other places where, however, Jewish life had no organizational framework. The strongest communities in June 1968 were Prague, with 3,500 members (more than 4,000 in 1945), Bratislava, with 2,000 (8,000 in 1947), and Košice with 1,800 (4,000 in 1947). Religious life was practically limited to the High Holidays. On the Sabbath few places had a minyan. One of the main problems was the lack of rabbis. Religious education was nonexistent. The budget of the pauperized communities was covered entirely by State subsidies. The State Bakery in Zlaté Moravce supplied maẓẓot from 1965. There were four Jewish old-age homes, in Bratislava, Marianské Lázně, Brno, and Poděbrady; only in the first two was kosher food prepared. Of the 800 Jewish cemeteries only those were being kept in good order where a community was still in existence. A few, like the old cemetery of Prague, had become museums. The same applied to some old synagogues. In the years preceding the Communist coup of 1948, there were still signs of Jewish political life and of contacts with Jewish bodies abroad. In Slovakia, for instance, an Organization of Victims of Racial Persecution was created under the chairmanship of Vojtech Winterstein, a leading Zionist. The Central Union of Jewish Communities in Slovakia was affiliated to the World Jewish Congress from 1946, while the Council of Jewish Communities in Bohemia and Moravia joined the wjc only at the beginning of 1948. There were organized Zionist activities, and the American Joint Distribution Committee was permitted to undertake social work among the Jews of Czechoslovakia. All this was stopped when the Communists came to power in February 1948. After the Communist coup, Action Committees composed partially of Jewish Communists took over the leadership of the Jewish communities and eliminated noncommunists from their positions. At the beginning of 1949 the Zionists still succeeded in holding a conference at Pieštany; but by the end of 1949 the ties with the World Jewish Congress were broken, and at the beginning of 1950 the "Joint" was ordered to stop all activities and its workers were expelled. The Jewish Agency closed its Prague office voluntarily the same year, after all Jewish migration from Czechoslovakia had been stopped. The organ of the Council, Věstnik židovských náboženských obcí, and a quarterly in German, Informationsbulletin, became party mouthpieces, following the official line, including the hostile attitude to Israel. Some changes for the better could be discerned after 1964. In that year the ḥevra kaddisha of Prague was permitted to celebrate its 400th anniversary. The small Jewish Museum in Prague was enlarged during World War ii by the Germans and later was taken over by the Ministry of Culture and officially reorganized. (In 1963 it was visited by 327,000 people.) In 1966 a more liberal-minded leadership, led by František Fuchs, succeeded the dogmatic Communist group in the Council of Jewish Communities, headed until then by František Ehrmann. The Prague community created a special Committee for Youth which, for the first time in a quarter of a century, organized lectures and seminars on Jewish themes, attended regularly by dozens of Jewish students. A delegation of the Council was received by the minister of culture and submitted a detailed plan for the celebrations of the millennium of Prague Jewry and the 700th anniversary of the Altneuschul, which were to have taken place in August 1968. Contacts with Jewish communities and organizations outside Czechoslovakia were renewed. In January 1967, the presidents of the Council and of the Central Union attended a World Jewish Conference in Paris and, on their invitation, Naḥum *Goldmann visited Czechoslovakia in the spring of that year. At the time, a series of stamps depicting Jewish subjects was issued. The stamps were taken out of circulation at the time of the *Six-Day War in June 1967, when Czechoslovakia, like other countries of the Soviet bloc, broke off diplomatic relations with Israel, but were reissued after the liberal community leadership of Alexander Dubček came into power in January 1968.
JEWS IN CZECHOSLOVAK PUBLIC LIFE
Thousands of Jews fought in the Czechoslovak armies formed both in the West and in the Soviet Union during World War ii and many worked in various capacities in Beneš's government-in-exile. Many of those who returned after the war continued their work in the newly formed administration. The percentage of Jewish intellectuals among the Communists was also high, and after the Communist coup of February 1948, many of them were entrusted with responsible tasks in the government machinery. Thus, in 1948 there were three Jewish deputy ministers of foreign affairs, of defense, interior, foreign trade and finance. The Party's secretary general, Rudolf Slánský, was a Jew, and Jews played an important role in the party apparatus. This led to an increase of the antisemitism which was latent especially in Slovakia. Already in 1945, a delegation of the Council of Jewish Communities led by Ernst Frischer complained to President Beneš about anti-Jewish excesses in the Slovak towns of Prešov, Bardějov, and Topolčany. In 1945, in the village of Kolbasov in eastern Slovakia, a band of Ukrainian Bendera nationalists, together with local citizens, attacked Jews who had just returned from concentration camps, raped the women, and murdered all 14. The same year two Jews were killed in Žilina, and in 1946 and 1948 there were anti-Jewish riots in Bratislava. In Slovakia, from 1949, Benjamin Eichler generally headed the Central Association of Jewish Religious Congregations. After the emigration of his children in 1969, he was forced to resign and left the country in the wake of his children. The new leadership in Slovakia was composed of men already active in the Association. They did not act independently, until being replaced after the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989. Several congregations in Slovakia continued to carry on religious activities also after 1949, and even examined the possibility of setting up a yeshivah in Košice. Antisemitism knew no party barriers, and Communists were no more immune to it than others. As soon as the anti-Jewish line became official policy in the Soviet Union (see *Antisemitism: the Soviet Bloc), Communists in Czechoslovakia followed suit. The *Slánský Trial of 1952 had a clearly anti-Jewish character: 11 of 14 accused were Jews, and eight Jews among them were executed. In subsequent trials hundreds of Jews were sentenced to long-term imprisonment, hundreds were sent to hard labor without trial, and hundreds were dismissed from their posts. Jews became in fact, if not in law, second-class citizens. De-Stalinization was slower in Czechoslovakia than elsewhere. In April 1956, Prime Minister Široký admitted that "certain manifestations of antisemitism had been wrongly introduced in the Slánský trial," but in December 1957 the minister of justice still informed foreign correspondents that no revision of the trial was necessary; a special commission had checked the sentences and found them justified. Some Jewish prisoners were gradually released and some even rehabilitated, but in 1956 there were still about 300 Jews in jails, and their number increased in 1957, after the *Sinai Campaign, when many Jews, including 27 community leaders, were arrested as "Western spies" or on charges of "Zionist activities." It was only at the beginning of the 1960s that the way was reopened for Jewish participation in Czechoslovak public life. Not many Jews returned to the State administration or to politically important positions, though there were a few exceptions, such as František Kriegel (d. 1979), who became chairman of the National Front, and Ota Šik, the chief economic planner. The contribution of Jewish university professors, scientists, writers, musicians, theater and film artists, journalists, radio and television commentators to Czechoslovak cultural life again became considerable. A Jew, Eduard *Goldstuecker, vice rector of Prague University, was elected president of the Czech Writers Union, while the work of Jewish writers and journalists received a new impetus and became even more important after January 1968, when liberal reformers led by Dubček put an end to censorship and other fetters on spiritual freedom. This period was, however, short-lived. The Soviet invasion of August 1968 put an end to it, and a new wave of antisemitism, fed by Soviet, Polish, and East German propaganda, made further Jewish participation in public life impossible. Kriegel, the only member of the Czechoslovak delegation who refused to sign the Moscow "agreement" legalizing Soviet invasion, was, at Moscow's insistence, dropped from the Politburo and dismissed from all functions. Goldstuecker, who for a few days in August was also a member of the Politburo, and Ota Šik, deputy prime minister after the fall of Novotný, sought safety abroad. So did some 3,400 other Jews, many of them intellectuals. Antisemitism became an issue in the struggle between the liberal Communists and the pro-Moscow faction.
Czechoslovakia and Israel
Czechoslovakia was among the first countries in the world to recognize the State of Israel, though it was already ruled by Gottwald's Communist regime after the February 1948 coup. Moreover, during its *War of Independence, Israel enjoyed active and effective Czechoslovak assistance, including the supply of military equipment. The two countries exchanged diplomatic representatives. These initially promising relations rapidly deteriorated, however, when Moscow reversed her attitude to Israel. This process culminated in the expulsion of the Israel minister from Prague, Aryeh *Kubovy in December 1952. After the Slánský trial diplomatic missions of the two countries remained headed on both sides by a chargé d'affaires only, and all Israel efforts to bring about a political dialogue were frustrated by Prague. Limited trade relations continued until 1956, but after the Sinai Campaign even these were broken off, although Israel's trade with other Soviet bloc countries in the period between 1956 and 1967 showed a remarkable increase. In June 1967, Czechoslovakia, together with the rest of the Warsaw Pact countries (excluding Romania), broke off relations with Israel. The one-sided attitude adopted by Czechoslovakia in the Arab-Israel conflict, and Israel's rapid victory against an overwhelming Arab majority, caused second thoughts first among the Czech and Slovak intelligentsia and then among the whole people, and ultimately became a factor in the growing opposition to the Novotný regime. With Novotný's fall in January 1968 there was hope for an improvement in the relations between Prague and Jerusalem. Writers, students, even some political figures, openly advocated a resumption of diplomatic relations. The request found expression in the press, on television, in public debates with members of the government, and finally in a collection of signatures organized by students in the streets of Prague. New hopes also arose among the remnants of Czechoslovak Jewry. On April 7, 1968, the Council of Jewish Communities in Bohemia and Moravia adopted a resolution, unprecedented in Communist countries, expressing not only their approval of the new liberalization but also their protest against the "vehement anti-Israel campaign" of the previous Novotný regime, which was based on "unobjective, one-sided reporting, often explicable only as intentionally anti-Jewish." The resolution stated: "We cannot agree and never will agree, to the liquidation of the State of Israel and to the murder of its inhabitants. In that country, the cradle of our religion, victims of persecution found a haven. Our brothers and sisters live there, those who together with us spent years in concentratiion camps, who together with us arose to take up the fight against Nazism." In conclusion the resolution requested that the government condemn the antisemitic pronouncements in the political trials of the 1950s and rehabilitate Jews wronged during that period by judicial or administrative decisions; place victims of racial persecution on the same level as those of political persecution in all welfare legislation; not impede contact between the Jews of Czechoslovakia and Jewish bodies abroad; not to obstruct the religious education of Jewish youth with administrative difficulties. A similar declaration, issued on the same day by the Central Union of Jewish Communities in Slovakia, contained an additional request: "It is a minimal human postulate, that everyone asking to be reunited with his family should be allowed to do so, wherever his family may be living." A few months later, with the Soviet invasion of August 21, 1968, these hopes were shattered.
The International Council of Jews from Czechoslovakia in 1978 published its first report on Post-War Jewry in Czechoslovakia. It revealed a steady decline in the number of Jews, estimated to be 15,000, half the number registered in the census of 1950. The number of localities in which Jews resided had also fallen from 193 in 1968 to 174.
The largest number of registered congregants was in Prague, which, however, showed only 644 at the end of 1977, compared with 934 in 1968. Other centers showed similar decline: Brno 237 (from 295), Ostrava 122 (from 154) and Bratislava 88 (from 314).
There were no rabbis and only 8 communities still maintained a nominal existence in Bohemia and Moravia: Prague, Brno, Usti nad Labem, Olomouc, Ostrava, Levice, Pizen, Pribram; while in Slovakia there existed the six communities of Bratislava, Kosice, Presov, Galanta, Nove Zamky, Nitra.
The Council of Jewish communities of Bohemia and Moravia continued to function. Its chairman, engineer Frantisek Fuchs, who was appointed in 1966, was compelled to resign in August 1974, following attacks on him in the Czech press on the grounds that he had refused to sign a condemnation of the State of Israel during the Six-Day War. However, it seems that the real reason for the forced resignation was the fact that his son had left Czechoslovakia for the West. In March 1975 he was succeeded by Dr. Bedrich Bass, who died in 1979.
The Council of Jewish Communities in Bohemia and Moravia and the Central Union of Jewish Communities in Slovakia continued to publish the quarterly Vestnik Zidovskych nabozenskych obci, as well as the German language quarterly Informationsbulletin. The famous Pinkas Synagogue was closed because the rise in the level of sewage water surrounding it covered the monumental slabs bearing the names of 78,000 Czech Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The synagogue itself was in danger of total collapse.
Antisemitic propaganda, in the guise of anti-Zionism, still continued and came prominently to the fore in the struggle of the regime against the "Charter 77 Movement," whose manifesto – it was alleged – was drawn up "under order of the general staffs of anti-Communism and Zionism." But the antisemitism of the Czech Press was not restricted to the struggle against the protest movement; it was evident in purely ideological discussions, and its political hostility towards Israel continued. Commercial ties, however, which were severed in 1953, were re-established, and in 1976 Israeli exports to Czechoslovakia amounted to $4.767 million, while imports from Czechoslovakia were only $541,000. The respective figures for 1977 were $3.8 million and $600,000. In 1981 there was virtually no trade between the two countries.
The situation of Czechoslovakia's 6,000–10,000 Jews changed dramatically following the "Velvet Revolution" of November 1989, which ousted the country's hard-line Communist leaders. Restoration of religious freedom was one of the top priorities of the new, freely elected government headed by former dissident playwright Vaclav Havel.
Under communism, the regime tightly controlled religious observance and maintained a shrill anti-Zionist policy. Participation in Jewish religious, cultural, or educational activities was either discouraged or banned, and community leaders were appointed by the regime.
In some respects, the rigidity began to be eased somewhat in the 1980s. A major event was the traveling "Precious Legacy" exhibit put together by the State Jewish Museum in Prague, which introduced Czech Jewish culture to foreign audiences. In the late 1980s, some younger members of the Prague Jewish community formulated a letter openly criticizing the community leadership. Just one week before the "Velvet Revolution," World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman paid his first official visit to Prague.
Havel's new government in February 1990 reestablished diplomatic relations with lsrael, which had been broken after the Six-Day War in 1967, and in April 1990, Havel became the first leader from former Communist Eastern Europe to visit Israel – he took a planeload of Czechoslovak Jews with him. The trip coincided with the opening of "Where Cultures Meet," a major exhibit on the Jews of Czechoslovakia at Beth Hatefutsoth, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, in Tel Aviv. The exhibit was later presented in Prague and elsewhere in Czechoslovakia.
Jewish spiritual and cultural life began to blossom in the three major communities: Prague in the Czech Republic and Bratislava and Kosice in Slovakia, each of which has about 1,000 registered members. Community administrations were reorganized to rid them of their Communist-appointed leaders. In December 1989 the well-respected Desider Galsky became president of the Jews in the Czech Republic, and was highly active in restoring numerous contacts between Czech Jews and international Jewish organizations before his death in a car accident 11 months later.
New Jewish organizations, societies, clubs, publications, and study groups ranging from the B'nai B'rith lodge to a Franz Kafka Society sprang up in the three main communities, and legislation was passed that will enable Jewish communities to regain property that had been confiscated by the communists. Numerous new books on Jewish topics were published, ranging from local Jewish guidebooks to fiction by local Jewish writers to examinations of the Holocaust in Czechoslovakia. In 1991 a museum dedicated to Franz Kafka, whose works had been suppressed under the communists, was opened in Prague focusing on Kafka's Jewish identity. In the same year, a memorial museum dedicated to the Jewish Ghetto concentration camp was inaugurated at Terezin (Theresienstadt) north of Prague, and in the summer of 1992 work began to restore the Holocaust memorial in Prague's 500-year-old Pinkas synagogue – a list of every one of the more than 77,000 Bohemian and Moravian Jews who were killed by the Nazis, hand-painted on the walls of the sanctuary. Memorials commemorating Jewish Holocaust victims were erected for the first time in many provincial towns, too.
Prague became a symbol city for the rebirth of freedom. As such, it was chosen as the site of a key meeting between Roman Catholic leaders and the International Council for Interreligious Consultations (ijcic) in September 1990, in which the Catholic leaders condemned antisemitism as a sin. The meeting issued a landmark joint statement that called for concrete measures to foster interreligious dialogue and spelled out recommendations for combating the upsurge of antisemitism in Central and Eastern Europe. In the spring of 1992, Prague hosted a major symposium on antisemitism in Eastern Europe.
One casualty of these changes was Prague-based Rabbi Daniel Mayer, the only rabbi in Czechoslovakia, who was forced to resign his post in June 1990 after he admitted he had served as a government informant for a decade under the communist regime.
In September 1992, Karol Sidon, a former dissident playwright who had been forced to leave Prague because of his views, became the new rabbi in Prague, and Australian Lazar Kleinman took up the post of rabbi in Kosice, in eastern Slovakia. Both new rabbis expressed the hope they could revive Jewish life and religious practice in the two communities. Kleinmann was later forced to resign his post because of activities which, inter alia, played into the hands of Slovak nationalists. The Jews faced many problems. Most community members were elderly. Young people, many of them just discovering or rediscovering their Jewish roots, knew little about Judaism. In the Czech Republic especially, where Jews traditionally were highly assimilated and intermarriage was common, many of the younger people who considered themselves Jews were not Jews according to halakhah.
Soon after the "Velvet Revolution" a number of antisemitic incidents were recorded in Slovakia, including the desecration of cemeteries, attacks in the Slovak nationalist press, and antisemitic slurs against Fedor Gal, the leader of the Slovak People Against Violence political movement, who was born in the Terezin ghetto concentration camp.
In addition, at one point there was a movement in Slovakia to rehabilitate Father Josef Tiso, the leader of the wartime clerico-fascist Independent Slovakia, which was allied with the Nazis. Nationalistic and antisemitic organizations celebrated a revival. This revival was accompanied by a wave of anti-Jewish publications, including the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." However, the community increased its public and religious activities and renewed ties with Jewish organizations abroad.
[Ruth E. Gruber]
For subsequent events, see *Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Slovakian Jewry was until 1918 an integral part of Magyar Jewry. Therefore, historians never paid particular attention to "Oberland Jewry" (i.e., the Jewry of Upper Hungary, as it was known), although it must have been clear that an ethnic-religious minority living within an alien population would develop special traits akin to the majority. Neither the Magyar masters nor Jews living within the Magyar nation would be willing to admit that the Jews of Upper Hungary were special and had a different life-path from the dominant Jews of Hungary.
Already during the 19th century there were Jewish figures and publicists in Upper Hungary who recognized the particularism of the Slovak nation and protested against its oppression. In several cases, this recognition was instrumental in attempts to close Jewish-Slovak ranks. This was not easy, however, given the Magyar insistence on the Magyarization of Upper Hungarian Jewry. Neither was the hostility of leading Slovak nationalists helpful.
Only the creation of the Czechoslovak Republic, and the introduction of the Slovak language into Jewish schools, spurred the development of an independent Slovakian Jewry. It was then that the Jews become cognizant of their independent tradition and existence.
The Bratislava Zionist Samuel Bettelheim was among the first to recognize the existence of an independent Jewish history in Upper Hungary, today Slovakia. He founded a historical journal, Judaica, and encouraged original historical research. Bratislava's archivist and librarian Ovidius Faust, not a Jew, joined hands with Bettelheim to promote Slovak-Jewish historiography. Faust compiled the first work telling the story of Bratislava's Jewry. The work of Jewish historiography was terminated with creation of the Slovak state in 1939. The publisher Hugo Gold also cherished the idea of recording the Jewish past in Slovakia. The manuscript he is said to have prepared has disappeared.
The trauma of the Holocaust created a desire to commemorate the tragic events. Immediately after the end of the war Friedrich Steiner started to gather historical evidence, which he eventually transferred to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The daily press published the first descriptions of the horror. However, the Communist authorities, who singled out the Jews for hostile treatment, prevented any extensive and systematic analysis of the Holocaust. Therefore, it was Jews born in Czechoslovakia and living in Israel who were moved to look into the past of their community. Livia Rothkirchen, a native of Carpatho-Russia, published the pioneering Destruction of Slovak Jewry, a Documentary History in 1961. Graduates of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yeshayahu A. Jelinek, Gila Fatran, Akiba Nir, and Yehoshua Robert Buechler, all survivors of the Holocaust, also described those bitter days. Thus Israel witnessed the foundation of modern Slovak-Jewish historiography. After the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia, local historians followed in the footsteps of the Israelis. Ivan Kanenec wrote a dissertation on the Holocaust of Slovakian Jewry, but was not permitted to publish it. It only saw print in 1991 (Po stopách tragedie, "In the Footsteps of Tragedy"). Eduard Nižnianský commenced a systematic study of the first years of Jewish persecution in Slovakia. Katarina Hradská and Peter Salmer also devoted attention to the recent post. In Slovak academia the Holocaust is a subject of instruction and study. After escaping to Switzerland a graduate of Bratislava's university, Ladislav Lipscher, published Die Juden im Slowakischen Staat 1939–1945 (1980). It is worth mentioning that most of this historical writing is devoted to Slovakian Jewry deals with the years 1938–45. Little has been published on its earlier history.
The most significant work on Czechoslovak (and naturally Slovak) Jewry is the American Jews of Czechoslovakia in three volumes (see Bibliography). It was prepared by the leading historians of Czech and Slovak Jewries living outside their native country. The most recent work on Slovakian Jewry is Yad Vashem's Pinkas Kehillot Slovakia (in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities series), edited by Yehoshua Robert Buechler and Gila Fatran (2004). Similar work has been published in Slovakia by Eugen Bárkány and Ludovit Dojč, Židovské náboženské obce na Slovensku ("The Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia"). An older book of similar content is Lanyi Menyhert and Propperné Békefi Hermin's Szlovenszkoi Zsidó Hitközsegek Törtente ("The Story of the Slovak Jewish Communities). Dozens of books devoted to individual communities have been published in Israel, Slovakia, and overseas
The director of the Jewish Museum of Prague, Pavol Meštan, publishes the yearly Acta Judaica Slovaca, devoted to Jewish history in Slovakia. Meštan has published several books on the life of the Jewish community in Slovakia since the Velvet Revolution. Works on Slovak Jewry have thus become a frequent occurrence in Israel, the Slovak and Czech republics, Germany, the United States, England, Canada, Hungary, and Austria.
[Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)
The Jews of Czechoslovakia: Historical Studies and Surveys, 3 vols. (1968–1984); F. Steiner (ed.), Tragedy of Slovak Jews (1949); O. Muneles, Bibliographical Survey of Jewish Prague (1952); H. Gold (ed.), Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden in der Tschechoslowakei 5 vols. (1930–38); V. Paleček, Die israelitische Religionsgesellschaft (1932); F. Friedmann, Einige Zahlen ueber die tschechoslowakischen Juden (1933); R. Iltis (ed.), Die Aussaeen unter Traenen mit Jubel werden sie ernten (1959); idem, in: Le Monde Juif, 24 no. 2 (1968), 37–42; A. Charim, Die toten Gemeinden (c. 1966), 13–42; J. Stanek, Zrada a pád (1958); O. Kraus and E. Kulka, Noc a mlha (1966); Ḥ. Yaḥil (Hoffmann), Devarim al ha-Ẓiyyonut ha-Tshekhoslovakit (1967); idem, in: Juedische Wohlfahrtspflege und Sozialpolitik, 6 (1936), 123–35; F. Weltsch (ed.), Prag vi-Yrushalayim (1954); L. Rothkirchen, Ḥurban Yahadut Slovakyah (1961), includes extensive English summary and bibliography; idem, in: Yad Vashem Studies, 6 (1967), 27–53; O.J. Neumann, Be-Ẓel ha-Mavet (1958); M.D. Weissmandel, Min ha-Meẓar (1960); J. Lettrich, History of Modern Slovakia (1956), ch. 2 and passim; G. Jacoby, Racial State: The German Nationalities Policy in the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia (1944), 201–64; International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War Criminals, 23 (1949), index; Institute of Jewish Affairs, New York, European Jewry Ten Years after the War (1956), 82–108; idem, Position of the Jewish Communities in Eastern Europe… (1957), 25–28; idem, The Use of Anti-Semitism against Czechoslovakia (1968); P. Meyer et al., Jews in the Soviet Satellites (1953), 49–204 (incl. bibl.); R.L. Braham, Jews in the Communist World: A Bibliography 1945–1960 (1961), 20–22; Y. Gordon, in: Algemayne Entsiklopedie – Yidn, 4 (1950), 527–52; Moskowitz, in: jsos, 4 (1942), 17–44; K. Stillschweig, in: hj, 1 (1938–49), 39–49; 6 (1944), 52–59; G. Kisch, ibid., 8 (1936), 19–32; B. Blau, ibid., 10 (1948), 147–54; Bodensieck, in: Vierteljahrshefte fuer Zeitgegeschichte, 9 no. 3 (1961), 249–61; W. Benda, in: Zeitschrift fuer die Geschichte der Juden, 3 (1966), 85–102; O.D. Kulka, in: Moreshet, 2 no. 3 (1964), 51–78; Gesher, 15 no. 2–3 (1969); B. Blau, in: Yidishe Ekonomik, 3 (1939), 27–54, 175–93; Selbstwehr, 11–31 (1918–38); jggjČ, 9 vols. (1929–38); Juedische Kultusgemeinde Prag, Wochen-, Monats-, and Vierteljahresberichte, 10 vols. (1939–42); Judenerlasse im Protektorat Boehmen und Maehren (1939–44); Juedisches Nachrichtenblatt (Prague, 1939–44); Věstnik židovských náboženských obcí v československu (1945–68); Rada židovských náboženských obcí v zemi české a moravskoslezské, Informationsbulletin (1961–68); Gesher, 59–60 (1969). For additional works, see "Slovak Historiography" above.
"Czechoslovakia." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czechoslovakia
"Czechoslovakia." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czechoslovakia
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THE SOUND FILM
TOWARD THE PRAGUE SPRING
NORMALIZATION AND AFTER
Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918 following the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. The Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia had been ruled from Vienna while Slovakia had formed part of Hungary. Despite close linguistic ties, this was the first time that the two nations had been linked for over a thousand years. Following the Munich conference of 1938, when the country was forced to cede its German-speaking areas to Germany, Hitler encouraged the secession of Slovakia, and Bohemia and Moravia were established as a Nazi protectorate following the German invasion of March 1939.
The country was reunited in 1945, and became part of the Eastern bloc after the Communist coup of 1948. In the 1960s, there was an attempt to move beyond the dogmatic Stalinism of the 1950s, culminating in the Prague Spring of 1968. This attempt to combine socialism and democracy was perceived as a threat to Soviet hegemony and resulted in the invasion of fellow Warsaw Pact countries in August of that year. This led to a repressive regime that was to last until the fall of Communism during the so-called "Velvet Revolution" of November 1989. The country split into the Czech and Slovak republics in 1993 after decisions taken within the political leaderships. It did not reflect popular opinion, which favored maintaining the union.
Despite these political turmoils, the Czech cinema became an established part of the European mainstream in the 1920s and 1930s and has maintained a significant level of feature production throughout its subsequent development. Its history pre-dates the formation of the independent state of Czechoslovakia and there were also important precursors to the cinema. J. E. Purkyně (1787–1869) wrote on persistence of vision as early as 1818 and, together with Ferdinand Durst, created the Kinesiscope in 1850. The first film producer in Austria-Hungary was the Czech photographer Jan Kříženecký (1868–1921), who made his first films in 1898. His film Smích a plč (Laughter and Tears, 1898), with the actor Josef Šváb-Malostranský miming the two emotions, could almost summarize international perceptions of the defining characteristics of Czech cinema (based on such films as the 1966 Ostře sledované vlaky [Closely Watched Trains]).
A permanent film theater was opened in Prague in 1907 by the conjuror Ponrepo and regular film production began in 1910. By the beginning of World War I, over a third of the cinemas in Austria-Hungary were based in the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia. Lucernafilm was established in Prague in 1915 by Václav Havel, grandfather of the future president Václav Havel; while other companies, including Weteb, Excelsior, Praga, and Poja, followed at the end of the war. Czech cinema's first international success was Karel Degl's Stavitel chrámu (The Builder of the Cathedral, 1919) while the first Slovak feature, Jaroslav Siakel's Jánošík, was made in grandfather of the future president Va 1921 with US financing.
The first important studio was founded by the American and Biografia company (the A-B Company) in 1921, and the actor-director Karel Lamač established the Kavalírka studios in 1926, where some of the most important films were made before 1929, when they were destroyed by fire. Despite strong competition from the German and US cinemas, feature production in the silent period averaged over twenty-six (Czech) features and was marked by both artistic and commercial success. Lamač directed a successful adaptation of Jaroslav Hašek's comic anti-war novel Dobrý voják Švejk (The Good Soldier Švejk) in 1926, which was followed by three silent sequels: Švejk na frontě (Švejk at the Front, 1926), directed by Lamač, na frontě (Švejk v ruském zajetí (Švejk in Russian Captivity, 1926), directed by Svatopluk Innemann; and S (Švejk v civilu (Švejk in Civilian Life, 1927), directed by Gustav Machatý. In partnership with his then-wife Anny Ondra (1902–1987), who appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's The Manxman and Blackmail (both 1929), Lamač formed a successful team that achieved international success in the French, Austrian, and German cinema, although they transferred their production base to Berlin in 1930.
Gustav Machatý (1901–1963) was the most ambitious "art" director of the period, and attracted attention with his Expressionist-influenced adaptation of Tolstoy's Kreutzerova sonáta (The Kreutzer Sonata, 1926). He enjoyed a big success with Erotikon (1929), which was consolidated by his first two sound films, Ze soboty na neděli (From Saturday to Sunday, 1931) and, especially, Extase (Ecstasy, 1932), winner of the Best Direction Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1934, which introduced Hedy Kiesler (Lamarr) (1913–2000) to world audiences and was sold to over twenty-six countries. The success of Ecstasy was followed by an MGM contract and film work in Italy and Austria. However, he was able to complete only one Hollywood A-feature (Jealousy, 1945), which was scripted by Dalton Trumbo, and was primarily employed on second unit work. The poetic lyricism of Machatý's style did much to establish the tradition of lyrical cinematography that continued through to the post–World War II period. One of his key collaborators was the photographer and avant-garde director Alexandr Hackenschmied (Alexander Hammid) (1907–2004), who directed the experimental Bezučelná procházka (Aimless Walk, 1930), and later, in the United States, made documentaries, and co-directed films with Herbert Kline and Maya Deren.
The introduction of sound raised the question of the viability of Czech language production for a population of only 15 million. But while only eight features were produced in 1930, the average had risen to over forty by the end of the decade. The Barrandov film studios were built in 1932–1933 with the intention of attracting international production (which finally happened in the 1990s), but developed in the 1930s mainly as a center for national production, following growth in the domestic audience.
Martin (Mac) Frič, whose career extended from the 1920s to the 1960s, made some of his most important films in the 1930s, including work with such leading comic actors as Vlasta Burian (1891–1962), Hugo Haas (1901–1968), and Oldřich Nový. Perhaps most notable was his collaboration with the theatrical team of JiříVoskovec and Jan Werich (1905–1980), whose Osvobozené divadlo (The Liberated Theatre) was a cultural phenomenon. Their musical satires and parodies, described by the eminent linguist Roman Jakobson as "pure humour and semantic clowning," took a political turn in the face of economic depression and the rise of Nazism. After appearing in Paramount's all-star revue Paramount on Parade (1930), they made four feature films, including two by Frič—Hej-Rup! (Heave Ho!, 1934) and Svět patřínám (The World Belongs to Us, 1937). The former deals with the destruction of a corrupt capitalist at the hands of a workers collective while in the latter, Voskovec and Werich (V+W) defeat a Hitler-like demagogue and his big-business supporters with the help of the workers.
Both The World Belongs to Us and the film version of Karel Čapek's anti-Fascist play Bílá nemoc (The White Sickness, 1937), directed by Haas, were the subject of Nazi protests and were suppressed following the German invasion of March 1939. Voskovec and Werich spent the war years in the United States, where Voskovec eventually settled and, as George Voskovec, became a successful Broadway actor as well as appearing in a number of Hollywood films. Hugo Haas also left for Hollywood, where he played cameo roles and directed a sequence of B features, three of them based on Czech sources.
Other Czech directors to attract attention during the 1930s included Josef Rovenský (1894–1937) (Řeka [The River, 1933]) and Otakar Vávra, who moved from experimental shorts to features in 1937. His 1938 film Cech panen kutnohorských (The Guild of Kutna Hora Maidens) won an award at Venice but was banned during the Occupation. Slovak feature film production was not to develop further until after the war, but Karel Plicka's Zem spieva (The Earth Sings, 1933), a feature-length record of Slovak folk culture edited by Alexandr Hackenschmied, attracted international attention when it was screened at Venice in 1934.
Following the Western allies' capitulation to Hitler at the Munich conference over the Sudetenland (Czechoslovakia's German-speaking areas), the Germans invaded in March 1939 and the Czech lands became the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Under "clerico-Fascist" leadership, Slovakia declared independence immediately. The Germans took a controlling stake in the Barrandov studios and issued a list of prohibited subjects, eventually extending the studios as an alternative center for German production. Although Czech production declined from forty features in 1938 to nine in 1944, a number of leading directors, including Vávra and Martin Fric, continued to make films.
The Czech star Lída Baarová, who had been signed up by the German film studio Ufa (Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft) in 1934 and had a well-known affair with Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, saw all of her films banned in Germany due to Hitler's anger at the scandal, but continued to work in Czech films. She finally returned to Czechoslovakia in 1938, making some of her best films in the late 1930s, including four for Vávra, who directed her in Panenství (Virginity, 1937) and Dívka v modrém (The Girl in Blue, 1939). The Nazis expelled her from the Czech studios in 1941 and she continued her career in Italy. A group including Vávra planned the nationalization of the film industry after the war, a goal achieved in 1945, along with the establishment of the Koliba studios in Bratislava (Slovakia), and the foundation of the Prague Film School (FAMU) in 1946. Czech films again attracted international attention when Karel Steklý's (1903–1987) Siréna (The Strike, 1947) and JiříTrnka's feature-length puppet film Špalíček (The Czech Year, 1947) won awards at Venice.
Following the Communist takeover in 1948, there was a fairly swift adherence to the moribund formulae of Stalinist cinema, particularly in the period 1951–1955, combined with another decline in production. However, as the novelist Josef Škvorecký (b. 1924) once put it, artistic common sense always gnawed at the formulae of Socialist Realism, and filmmakers sought ways of expanding beyond official limitations. It was at this time that the Czech cinema achieved international reputation in the field of animation. JiříTrnka, Karel Zeman (1910–1989), Hermina Týrlová, Břetislav Pojar, Jiří Brdečka, and many others led the way, with features from Trnka (Staré pověsti české [Old Czech Legends, 1953], Sen noci svatoja Brdećnske [A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1959]) and from Zeman (Cesta do pravěku / A Journey to Primeval Times, 1955, Vynález zkázy /, An Invention for Destruction, 1958), who eventually made nine feature animation films. Many early films with an explicit Left orientation were clearly honest and committed, particularly before 1948. The Strike, a collective statement by the pre-war Left avant-garde, was one example and Vávra's Němá barikáda (Silent Barricade, 1949) about the Prague uprising, although simplified, was another. Vstanou novíbojovníci (New Heroes Will Arise, 1950), by JiříWeiss, gave a committed account of the early years of the labor movement.
Weiss had started to make documentaries before the war and had spent the war years in Britain where, besides working with the British documentary school, he made his first fiction films. On his return, he made an impressive film about the Munich crisis, Uloupená hranice (The Stolen Frontier, 1947) and won international awards with Vlčíjáma (The Wolf Trap, 1957) and Romeo, Julie a tma (Romeo, Juliet, and Darkness, 1960), notable for their psychological depth and dramatic visual style. Another director who began in pre-war documentary was Elmar Klos (1910–1993), who began a long-term collaboration with the Slovak Ján Kadár in 1952. A sequence of challenging films culminated in the first Czech (and Slovak) Oscar® -winner, Obchod na korze (The Shop on Main Street, 1965). After the Soviet invasion of 1968, Kadár emigrated to the United States, where his films included an adaptation of Bernard Malamud's The Angel Levine (1970) and the award-winning Canadian film Lies My Father Told Me (1975). Weiss also emigrated to the United States but made no films until the German-produced Martha und Ich (Martha and I, 1990).
In the late 1950s, a number of new feature directors made their debuts, including František Vláčil, and early FAMU graduates such as Vojtěch Jasný, Karel Kachyňa and the Slovak, Štefan Uher. In a world in which criticism of Stalinism was forbidden, they found their inspiration in the visual traditions of Czech lyricism and in broad humanist subject matter. Although little known to international audiences, they were to make some of the most significant films of the 1960s. In the 1990s, Czech critics voted Vláčil's historical epic Marketa Lazarova (1967) the best Czech film ever made and Jasný'śs dobři rodáci (All My Good Countrymen, 1968), which dealt with the collectivization of agriculture, was to prove one of the most politically controversial films of the Prague Spring. In 1990, Kachyňa's Ucho (The Ear, 1970) still impressed at the Cannes Film Festival when it premiered after a twenty-year ban.
Slovak cinema, which enjoyed a separate—if interactive—existence after 1945, saw the development of a number of significant talents after the production of Palo Bielik's film Vlčie diery (Wolves' Lairs, 1948), about the Slovak National Uprising of 1944. The most notable were probably Peter Solan (b. 1929) and Stanislav Barabáš. Uher, who began his career in 1961, paved the way for the innovative developments of the 1960s with his Slnko v sieti (Sunshine in a Net, (1962), which combined lyricism with significant narrative innovation.
It was against the lyrical humanist background of the late 1950s–early 1960s that the Czech New Wave made its debut in 1963 with Miloš Forman's Černý Petr (Black petter), Věra Chytilová's O něčem jiném (Something Different), and Jaromil Jireš's Křik (The Cry). All three films addressed the problems of everyday life, with cinéma-vérité a key influence on Forman and Chytilová. While the emphasis on the look of everyday life heralded movement in a new direction, the New Wave rapidly escaped any particular stylistic form in favor of a diversity of output that also comprised lyricism, critical realism, and the avant-garde. Other directors who emerged in the mid- to late-1960s have been seen as "New Wave," including Jan Němec (Démanty noci [Diamonds of the Night, 1964], O slavnosti a hostech [Report on the Party and the Guests, 1966]); Pavel Juráček and Jan Schmidt (b. 1934) (Postava k podpírání [Josef Kilián, 1963]); Evald Schorm (Kaźdý den odvahu [Everyday Courage, 1964], Návrat ztraceného syna [Return of the Prodigal Son
b. Č áslav, Czechoslovakia, 2 February 1932
Miloš Forman is one of the major directors of the Czech New Wave. He studied screenwriting at the Prague Film School (FAMU), and made his debut as writer/director with Konkurs (Talent Competition) and Černý Petr (Black Peter) in 1963. In collaboration with his colleagues Ivan Passer and Jaroslav Papoušek, who subsequently became directors themselves, he developed a style of semi-improvised film making that used non-professional actors and focused on everyday life. This apparently accidental discovery of reality—a world of dance halls, canteens, and run-down flats—was, he argued, a reaction against the false and idealized images promoted by the official cinema.
His next two films, Lásky jedné plavovlásky (Loves of a Blonde, 1965) and Hoří, má panenko (The Firemen's Ball, 1967), were both Oscar® -nominated. The Firemen's Ball, the comic story of how a local fire brigade fails in its attempts to organize both a raffle and a beauty competition, was interpreted, even at script stage, as a satire on the Communist Party. In 1973, following the Soviet invasion of 1968, it was listed as one of the four Czech films to be banned "forever."
It was his last Czech film, and Forman was working on the script of his first American film in Paris in 1968 when the Soviet invasion took place. He remained abroad and became a US citizen in 1977. Taking Off (1971) continued the improvised, group-centered approach of his Czech films but, despite festival success, did not succeed with American audiences. He subsequently chose to work with preexisting themes from his adopted culture and not to write his own original screenplays.
His subsequent American films—frequently compared adversely with his Czech ones, although they won him two Best Director Oscars®—reveal, in fact, a decidedly off-center portrait of American life. They include adaptations of Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1975); E. L. Doctorow (Ragtime, 1981); the James Rado–Gerome Ragni–Galt McDermott musical Hair (1979); and, more recently, collaborations with screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski in their continuing gallery of American eccentrics (The People vs. Larry Flynt, 1996; Man on the Moon, 1999). Forman based himself in New York rather than Hollywood and his subjects always have had an intrinsic interest and have been treated in sophisticated ways. His two "European" projects, the multiple Academy Award® -winner Amadeus (1984), from the play by Peter Schaffer, which was made in Prague, and Valmont (1989), an adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos's Les Liaisons Dangereuses, made in France, were also his most elaborate. In both, he treated his heroes—Mozart and his wife and the sexual predators of Valmont—pretty much like the young innocents of his early Czech films.
Black Peter (1963), Loves of a Blonde (1965), The Firemen's Ball (1967), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Amadeus (1984), Valmont (1989)
Forman, Miloš, and Jan Novák. Turnaround: A Memoir. New York: Villard Books, 1994.
Hames, Peter. "Forman." In Five Filmmakers: Tarkovsky, Forman, Polanski, Szabó, Makavejev, editedbyDanielJ. Goulding. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.
Liehm, Antonín J. The Miloš Forman Stories. White Plains, NY: International Arts and Sciences Press, 1975.
——. "Miloš Forman: the Style and the Man." In Politics, Art, and Commitment in the East European Cinema, edited by David W. Paul. London: Macmillan, and New York, St. Martin's, 1983.
1966]); Ivan Passer (b. 1933) (Intimníosvětlení [Intimate Lighting, 1965]); Hynek Bočan (Nikdo se nebude sma [No Laughing Matter, 1965], Soukromát́ vichřice [Private Hurricane, 1967]); and JiříMenzel (Closely Watched Trains, 1966], Rozmarné léto [Capricious Summer, 1967], Skřivánci na niti [Skylarks on a String, 1969]). Closely Watched Trains was to prove the second Czech Oscar® -winner in 1967.
Criticism of the system tended to be oblique prior to 1968, when the reform Communism of the Prague Spring effectively abolished censorship but continued to fund its filmmakers. Nonetheless, there were some powerful works even before this. A director of the older generation, Ladislav Helge (b. 1927), made some strong internal criticisms with his film Škola otců (School for Fathers, 1957), about a teacher fighting a battle against hypocrisy masked by ideological correctness. Evald Schorm's (1931–1988) debut feature Everyday Courage focused on a Party activist who sees his image of certainty collapsing around him, while in Return of the Prodigal Son he examined the case of an attempted suicide, linking it explicitly to issues of conscience and compromise.
The realist and humorous approach of directors like Forman and Passer was supplemented by Juráček's and Schmidt's Kafkaesque analysis of bureaucracy in Josef Kilián, Němec's absurdist portrait of power in Report on the Party and the Guests, and Forman's farce, Hoří, má panenko (The Firemen's Ball, 1967), in which his aging firemen's inability to organize anything was inevitably interpreted as a somewhat broader parable. Avant-garde and experimental traditions began to emerge in the late 1960s with the influence of Poetism (Němec's Mučedníci lásky [Martyrs of Love, 1966]); Dadaism (Chytilová's Sedmikrásky [Daisies, 1966]); and Surrealism (Jireš's Valerie a týden divů [Valerie and her Week of Wonders, 1970]).
The Slovak Wave of the late 1960s shared a similarly radical approach to form. Dušan Hanák's 322 (1969) was a bleak and powerful allegory of contemporary life while directors such as Juraj Jakubisko (b. 1938) (Zbehovia a pútnici [The Deserter and the Nomads, 1968]) and Elo Havetta (1938–1975) (Slávnosť v botáhrade [The Party in the Botanical Garden, 1969]) used folk inspiration in a way that looked forward to the work of Emir Kusturica, who graduated from FAMU ten years later.
The Czech and Slovak New Waves undoubtedly contributed to the political reform movement of the 1960s, and formed part of the Prague Spring attempts to combine democracy and Socialism—in effect, glasnost twenty years before Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev initiated the reforms that led to the end of the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact invasion and suppression of these earlier reforms led, perhaps inevitably, to the banning of writers, artists, and filmmakers. Over 100 films were banned, and Forman, Passer, Kadár, Weiss, Jasný, Němec, and Barabáš went into exile. Helge, Schorm, and Juráček found their film careers at an end while others were forced into compromises with the regime.
The period between 1970 and 1989, that of so-called "normalization," was, despite substantial production, a relative lowpoint in the history of Czech and Slovak film, as it was in cultural life in general. Following the invasion, it has been estimated that over 170,000 people left the country and that 70,000 were expelled from the Communist Party. The heads of the Barrandov and Koliba studios were sacked and the films of the "wave" were condemned as expressions of petty bourgeois egoism.
The new films of the 1970s were almost devoid of substantive content. Simplified moral tales and teenage love stories were the order of the day. Nonetheless, directors such as Kachyňa, Jireš, Vláčil, and Uher walked the tightrope with a certain measure of success. Menzel, who returned to filmmaking in 1975, and Chytilová, who returned in 1976, kept alive some of the qualities of the New Wave—Menzel with his adaptations from Hrabal, which included Postřižiny (Cutting it Short, 1980), and Chytilová with a number of critically abrasive films such as Hra o jablko (The Apple Game, 1976) and Panelstory (Prefab Story, 1979). Menzel even gained an Oscar® nomination for Vesničko má středisková (My Sweet Little Village, 1985). But the regime was not interested in promoting its more interesting projects, preferring to champion propagandistic epics to an uninterested world film community.
It was against this background that the striking animated films of the surrealist Jan Švankmajer made their appearance (although he had been making films since the early 1960s). Largely suppressed by the authorities, his work finally emerged at the Annecy Animation Festival in 1983 and he was subsequently to make his first feature, Něco z Alenky (Alice, 1987), as a Swiss-British-German co-production. By the end of the 1980s, it was often alleged that the problems for cinema were less those of censorship than an absence of good scripts, the talent needed for their creation having been lost through years of both enforced and semi-voluntary compromise. Nonetheless, prior to the Velvet Revolution of November 1989 and the fall of Communism, it had been decided to release the banned films (although only a few, including The Shop on Main Street and The Firemen's Ball, had appeared before November) and more challenging work had began to appear from directors such as Zdeněk Tyc (b. 1956) (Vojtěch, řečený sirotek [Vojtěch, Called Orphan, 1989]) and Irena Pavla (b. 1960) (Čas sluhů [The Time of the Servants, 1989]).
The fall of Communism did not lead to a sudden cinematic rebirth. The nationalized industry was dismantled in 1993 (although the process had begun earlier) and the Barrandov studios have been largely given over to American and other foreign producers, with domestic producers excluded by cost. Government subsidy was virtually removed (unlike the subsidies in Poland and Hungary) and, until 2004, the burden of production fell mainly upon the public service Česká televize (Czech Television), with a consequent emphasis on low budget production. The New Wave did not bounce back, although Němec returned from exile and has made some interesting low budget films (notably Nočníhovory s matkou [Late Night Talks with Mother, 2001]) and Drahomíra Vihanová made her second feature film, Pevnost (The Fortress, 1994), after a twenty-year hiatus. Menzel withdrew to theater for ten years rather than face the problems of production in an underfunded industry.
But, despite everything, the Czech industry survived and, in the mid- to late-1990s, a number of younger directors again attracted international attention. They included Jan Svěrák, who won an Oscar® with his Kolya (Kolja, 1996), Petr Zelenka (Knoflíkáři [Buttoners, 1997]), Saša Gedeon (Návrat idiota [Return of the Idiot, 1999]), David Ondříček (Samotáři [Loners, 2000]), and Alice Nellis (Ene bene [Eeny meeny, 2000]). Jan Hřebejk's Musíme si pomáhat (Divided We Fall, 2000) and Ondřej Trojan' Želary (2004) were also Oscar® -nominated, and Trojan's Źr Švankmajer produced a sequence of four features, including Lekce Faust (Faust, 1994) and Otesánek (Little Otik, 2001). Kolya's bittersweet story of an unemployed musician and his relationship with a 5-year-old Russian enjoyed an international box office success and many of the films, echoing the "new wave," focussed on the "small" events of everyday life. Švankmajer pursued his course of "militant surrealism" while Zelenka exhibited an original line in black humor. Both Divided We Fall and Želary were set during World War II. Hřebejk's film told the ironic story of a Czech man who hides a Jewish refugee during the war. He arranges for the Jewish man to make his wife pregnant in order to avoid sharing his flat with a Nazi bureaucrat. The existence of a strong film culture and tradition seemed to have transcended the government's post-Communist view of film culture-as-commodity.
The breakup of Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovak republics in 1992–1993 has favored Slovakia somewhat less. Compared with Czech production of fifteen to twenty films a year (thirty-two in 1990), Slovak production dropped to an average of two films a year in the late 1990s (compared with twelve in 1990). A number of directors made their debuts, but only one, Martin Šulík, was able to establish a body of work, with a sequence of five films including Záhrada (The Garden, 1995) and Krajinka (Landscape, 2000). Like those of other Slovak directors, they showed a folk inspiration, but their mood is reflective and exhibits a subdued melancholy. He is arguably the sole "auteur" to have established himself in the Czech and Slovak cinemas since 1989.
SEE ALSO National Cinema
——. The Czechoslovak New Wave. 2nd ed. London, Wallflower Press, 2005.
——, ed. The Cinema of Central Europe. London: Wallflower Press, 2004.
——, ed. Dark Alchemy: The Films of Jan Švankmajer. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press/Praeger, 1995.
Iordanova, Dina. Cinema of the Other Europe: The Industry and Artistry of East Central European Film. London: Wallflower Press, 2003.
Liehm, Antonín J. Closely Watched Films: The Czechoslovak Experience. White Plains, NY: International Arts and Sciences Press, 1974.
Liehm, Mira, and Antonín J. Liehm, The Most Important Art: East European Film After 1945. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.
Škvorecký, Josef. All the Bright Young Men and Women: A Personal History of the Czech Cinema. Toronto: Peter Martin Associates, 1971.
"Czechoslovakia." Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czechoslovakia
"Czechoslovakia." Schirmer Encyclopedia of Film. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czechoslovakia
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CZECHOSLOVAKIA.THE INTERWAR PERIOD
WORLD WAR II
THE RISE OF COMMUNISM
THE PRAGUE SPRING
THE VELVET REVOLUTION AND THE VELVET DIVORCE
Czechoslovakia was a small country in central Europe that declared its independence on 28 October 1918 and dissolved into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993. Czechoslovakia was formally created at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 through the joining of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown (Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia), several counties of Upper Hungary inhabited largely by Slovak speakers, and Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia. All these territories had belonged to the Habsburg Empire, with the Bohemian Crownlands having been part of the post-1867 Austrian half of the empire, and the others having been part of the Hungarian half. Partly as a result of these territorial origins, partly for historical reasons stretching back into the medieval period, and partly because of the Czechoslovak leadership's successful lobbying at the Peace Conference, the state emerged with substantial German and Hungarian minorities, which represented 22 and 5 percent of the state's population in 1930, respectively.
Despite the potential for ethnic conflict, the inter-war Czechoslovak Republic was, by all accounts, a successful state. Initial secessionist urges among ethnic Germans living in the border regions waned when Czechoslovakia's economic success and political stability encouraged them to adopt a more positive attitude toward the republic. During the interwar period Czechoslovakia maintained a more steadfast commitment to democracy than any of its neighbors or any of the states of eastern Europe. Under the guidance of its most visible personage, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk (president from 1918 to 1935), Czechoslovakia enacted several pieces of progressive legislation, including social and unemployment insurance schemes, institution of the eight-hour workday, and housing and agrarian reform. Legislation was shepherded through the parliament by an institution known as the pětka, composed of members of the leaderships of the major political parties, and, if they reached an impasse, by caretaker governments. After initial deflationary hardships, the economy embarked on almost a decade of strong growth, bringing a generalized prosperity, although there were significant regional differences in the standard of living, with western regions faring better than those to the east. Internationally, Czechoslovakia was a supporter of the Versailles system, having alliance treaties with France, the Soviet Union, and Romania and Yugoslavia (in the Little Entente), and was a pillar of support for the League of Nations.
The years of economic growth and political calm came to an end with the onset of the Great Depression in Europe in 1931 and the rise of Nazi Germany. Czechoslovakia's German population increasingly came to support Konrad Henlein's (1898–1945) Sudeten German Party, which received financial and other support from the Nazi regime and won almost two-thirds of the German vote in the local elections of 1935. Similarly, tensions rose among the state's Hungarian population. These led to a series of international discussions aimed at resolving the Czech-German conflict that culminated in the Munich Accords, signed by the leaders of Nazi Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and France on 30 September 1938. Its terms forced Masaryk's successor, Edvard Beneš (president from 1935 to 1948) to cede eleven thousand square miles of Czechoslovak territory inhabited largely by ethnic Germans to the Nazi state. Similarly, the first Vienna Award (2 November 1938) gave some four thousand six hundred square miles in Slovakia and Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia to Germany's ally, Hungary.
The "Munich betrayal," as Czechs still see it, by the western powers, effectively meant the end of the democratic interwar Czechoslovak state. A nominally independent Slovak state under Nazi tutelage came into existence on 14 March 1939 and the following day, as German troops entered that territory, the remaining Czech lands became the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. President Beneš, who had fled to London, successfully organized a government-in-exile, gaining recognition from the Allies during the course of 1941 and 1942. Although the war years were not as difficult for inhabitants of the Protectorate or Slovakia as for those other areas of eastern Europe, the hardships eventually provoked domestic resistance movements. In the Protectorate, Czechoslovak parachutists assassinated Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich (1904–1942) in 1942, while in Slovakia a large-scale uprising began on 29 August 1944, mobilizing sixty thousand troops and lasting two months. Finally, the citizens of Prague rose up on 5 May 1945, as Soviet and, in southwestern Bohemia, American troops were completing the liberation of the country.
The immediate postwar years were filled with political, social, and economic turmoil as the state sought to reintegrate its Czech and Slovak halves and to reestablish itself. Following approval by the Allies at the Potsdam Conference (17 July–2 August 1945), President Beneš issued a decree revoking the citizenship of close to three million ethnic German citizens of prewar Czechoslovakia, resulting in their sometimes-violent expulsion. This decree also affected ethnic Hungarian citizens, whose expulsion was halted by the Communist Party's assumption of power. The expulsions were the source of continuing tension between Czechoslovakia (and, later, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) and their neighbors. The property of the expelled populations became the basis for a wide-ranging land reform. Czechoslovakia also experienced a reorientation in foreign policy after Beneš signed a twenty-year alliance treaty with the Soviet Union in December 1943. The ceding of Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia to the Soviet Union followed in June 1945.
Domestically, a leftward political shift was evident in a number of measures, including the nationalization of key sectors of the economy and larger individual enterprises, resulting in 62 percent of the workforce being employed in the public sector. It was also evident in the political makeup of the National Front government, in which the right wing, whose parties had been banned, was absent. In this constellation, the Communist Party was by far the dominant force, winning 38 percent of the vote in the elections of May 1946 and installing its chairman, Klement Gottwald (1896–1953), as prime minister. Tensions between the Communists and their opponents worsened markedly in late 1947 and a political crisis erupted in February 1948 when several noncommunist ministers resigned. The crisis was resolved when Beneš approved Gottwald's government reorganization plan on 25 February 1948, a plan that included only Communist ministers and fellow travelers from the other parties, effectively making Czechoslovakia a communist state. Following the highly suspicious suicide of the noncommunist foreign minister, Jan Masaryk (son of the former president), on 10 March 1948, an ill President Beneš refused to sign the new Communist constitution and abdicated on 7 June 1948. He died on 3 September of that year, leaving the presidency to Gottwald.
The first years of Communist rule brought enormous change and considerable suffering. Beginning in 1948 the Communists deepened the nationalization program and embarked on the collectivization of agriculture, while internationally the state was a founding member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Treaty Organization. The regime also quickly began a purge of (often only suspected) political enemies in the state apparatus, the military, and leading roles in the economy. These purges were followed by the trials, imprisonments, and occasionally executions of those deemed opposed to the new regime. The victims included many religious leaders, members of noncommunist political parties, Slovak nationalists, and army personnel who had served in the west during World War II. Finally, these pseudo-judicial proceedings came to be directed against party members themselves, culminating in a show trial with strong anti-Semitic overtones involving the General Secretary of the CPCz, Rudolf Slánský(1901–1952), and thirteen other important communists in November of 1952, in which Slánskýandtenof his codefendants were executed. President Gottwald died on 14 March 1953 and was succeeded by Antonín Zápotocký (president from 1953 to1957), who was succeeded in turn by Antonín Novotný (president from 1957 to 1968).
Developments in the Czechoslovak economy also had political consequences. Growth was impressive in the 1950s, although the economy was increasingly centralized and growth was concentrated in heavy industry. A currency reform was carried out in 1953, despite the fact that it triggered protests across the country, most notably in the industrial city of Plzeň (Pilsen). The reform, coupled with Gottwald's death before the onset of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's initial destalinization push, allowed the regime to weather 1956. By improving the standard of living Czechoslovakia avoided the political turmoil experienced in neighboring Poland and Hungary. It was against this backdrop of general quiescence and the absence of destalinization that President Novotný promulgated a new constitution in 1960. It further centralized decision-making and declared that socialism had been achieved, formally changing the state's name to the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic to reflect this.
Shortly after the introduction of the 1960 constitution Prague's Stalinist leaders encountered difficulties. Initially, these were economic, with growth slowing in the early 1960s and actually declining in 1963. Here, in the wake of Khrushchev's intensification of the destalinization campaign in 1961, the regime began to encourage limited reforms. Dissatisfactions spread, however, in the mid-1960s, as ferment began among intellectuals, students, and the released victims of the show trials of the 1950s. During the course of the decade, Novotný, who occupied both the presidency and the Communist Party chairmanship, managed to alienate most of the important constituencies in the polity and was forced to relinquish his party position on 5 January 1968.
His replacement as party secretary, Alexander Dubček, was a Slovak who actively encouraged reform in the early months of 1968, producing the flowering known as the "Prague Spring." Czechoslovak society became involved in wide-ranging discussions about democratization, federalization, and economic reform and formed new civic associations to support what became called "socialism with a human face." Censorship began to break down, and the public began to express reformist opinions that went far beyond those the regime was willing to consider, given that the leadership was split among reformers, centrists, and conservatives who had been weakened by the replacement of Novotný as president by Ludvík Svoboda (president from 1968 to 1975) in late March. Further, over the course of the months leading into the summer, Czechoslovakia's communist allies expressed increasing concern over developments in the state, fearing that the reform process had escaped the party's control and demanding the reinstitution of censorship and other changes designed to stifle reform. Tensions began to peak in late July when Leonid Brezhnev and much of the Soviet leadership met personally with Dubček and the Czechoslovak leadership and demanded a set of changes. When these changes were not enacted to the Soviet leadership's satisfaction, and a looming party congress was expected to result in the sweeping victory of reformers, Czechoslovakia was invaded by troops from the USSR, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria on the night of 20–21 August 1968. The invasion was the source of the Brezhnev Doctrine, which, although never explicitly acknowledged as such, required socialist states to militarily intervene in any state where socialism was perceived as under threat.
Although the invasion was a success militarily, it failed politically, as conservative forces had not prepared the way for the replacement of the reformers, the feared party congress met in secret and condemned the invasion, and the public rallied in support of the leadership. In such conditions, the Soviet leadership was forced to negotiate with its Czechoslovak counterpart. Dubček and his associates, who had been taken to Moscow, were forced to sign the Moscow Protocol, which bound them to carry out a list of demands. Only when these steps were taken would the Soviet Union consider the situation in Czechoslovakia "normalized" and begin withdrawing its troops. Over the course of the months after the invasion Dubček sacrificed virtually all of the reforms he had championed. By the time of his resignation as Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (CPCz) head, on 17 April 1969, the only major reform that remained standing was the federalization of the state into Czech and Slovak halves, adopted by the parliament on 28 October 1968.
Dubček's successor as CPCz leader was another Slovak, Gustáv Husák (1913–1991), who also succeeded Svoboda as president, ruling from 1975 until 1989. The final two decades of Communist rule, known as the period of "normalization," after the term from the Moscow Protocol, are closely associated with his name. The period is notable for five features. First, the regime undertook a wide-ranging purge of the party and institutions of economic and public life. Second, the era was exemplified by political changelessness and a general sense of dreariness. Third, the regime's strategy for gaining the acquiescence of an initially hostile citizenry was to encourage consumerism and a withdrawal into private life. This proved quite successful while the economy grew through the mid-1970s, but by 1977 the economy began a slide into the stagnation that characterized the 1980s, sapping the approach's viability, although living standards remained higher than almost anywhere else in the Eastern bloc. Fourth, a large and active secret police force and networks of informers made Czechoslovakia one of the most restrictive societies in Eastern Europe. Finally, the strictness of the regime inhibited the founding and growth of dissident movements. The most important of these was Charter 77, whose most notable figure was the playwright Václav Havel (b. 1936). It was founded in 1977 and had more than one thousand two hundred signatories by the mid-1980s.
On 17 November 1989, after many Czechs and Slovaks had become aware of the changes taking place elsewhere and other organizations had begun to spring up alongside Charter 77, a government-sponsored student parade turned into a demonstration calling for freedom and democracy. The movement rapidly gained support and, after days of massive demonstrations across the country and a highly successful nationwide general strike on 27 November, the CPCz entered into negotiations with opposition leaders. These culminated on 10 December, when Husák announced the formation of a largely noncommunist government and resigned his post. Havel succeeded him as president, while Dubček returned to serve as speaker of the parliament. That this took place without violence has led to it being called the "Velvet Revolution."
After elections in June 1990 the country began the difficult process of postcommunist transition. In addition to the difficulties of reforming all spheres of public and economic life, the nature of the relationship between the two republics needed to be addressed. With an eye to this, the state changed its official name to "The Czech and Slovak Federative Republic." More importantly, however, differences between the two republics in approaches toward fiscal and privatization issues, among others, and the desire for more autonomy or even independence among many Slovaks caused political tensions. These peaked after the June 1992 elections, which brought a party advocating closer relations between the republics to power in the Czech lands, whereas in Slovakia the victorious party favored a much looser, essentially confederal, arrangement. These two parties began meeting shortly after the elections and, after much intense negotiation, the decision was reached to divide the country. Despite the fact that a majority of Czechs and Slovaks opposed the end of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia came into existence on 1 January 1993, with this "Velvet Divorce" mirroring the "Velvet Revolution" in its lack of violence.
See alsoBeneš, Eduard; Charter 77; Czech Republic; Dubček, Alexander; Eastern Bloc; Gottwald, Klement; Havel, Václav; Hungary; Masaryk, Tomáš Garrigue; Prague; Prague Spring; Slánský Trial; Slovakia; Sudetenland; Velvet Revolution; Warsaw Pact.
Abrams, Bradley F. The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation: Czech Culture and the Rise of Communism. Lanham, Md., 2004.
Leff, Carol Skalnik. National Conflict in Czechoslovakia: The Making and Remaking of a State, 1918–1987. Princeton, N.J., 1988.
Lukes, Igor. Czechoslovakia between Stalin and Hitler: The Diplomacy of Edvard Beneš in the 1930s. New York, 1996.
Mamatey, Victor S., and Radomír Luža, eds. A History of the Czechoslovak Republic, 1918–1948. Princeton, N.J., 1973.
Musil, Jiří, ed. The End of Czechoslovakia. Budapest and New York, 1995.
Renner, Hans. A History of Czechoslovakia since 1945. London and New York, 1989.
Skilling, H. Gordon. Charter 77 and Human Rights in Czechoslovakia. London and Boston, 1981.
Suda, Zdeněk. Zealots and Rebels: A History of the Ruling Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Stanford, Calif., 1980.
Williams, Kieran. The Prague Spring and Its Aftermath: Czechoslovak Politics 1968–1970. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1997.
"Czechoslovakia." Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 10, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czechoslovakia
"Czechoslovakia." Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction. . Retrieved September 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/czechoslovakia