Czechs, Germans, Jews

Czechs, Germans, Jews: National Identity and the Jews of Bohemia

Kateřina Čapková
Marzia Paton
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 298
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  • Book Info
    Czechs, Germans, Jews
    Book Description:

    The phenomenon of national identities, always a key issue in the modern history of Bohemian Jewry, was particularly complex because of the marginal differences that existed between the available choices. Considerable overlap was evident in the programs of the various national movements and it was possible to change one's national identity or even to opt for more than one such identity without necessarily experiencing any far-reaching consequences in everyday life. Based on many hitherto unknown archival sources from the Czech Republic, Israel and Austria, the author's research reveals the inner dynamic of each of the national movements and maps out the three most important constructions of national identity within Bohemian Jewry - the German-Jewish, the Czech-Jewish and the Zionist. This book provides a needed framework for understanding the rich history of German- and Czech-Jewish politics and culture in Bohemia and is a notable contribution to the historiography of Bohemian, Czechoslovak and central European Jewry.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-475-1
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. A Note on Personal and Place Names
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xv)
  7. Map of Czechoslovakia and the Bohemian Lands
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    In the modern history of the Jews of central Europe the question of identity holds a key position. The debate about the character of Jewishness runs throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries like a red thread. Are Jews an ethnicity, a nation, aSchicksalsgemeinschaft(community formed by fate) or a ‘mere’ confession? Various answers to this question have divided Jews, and continue to divide them, into several often antagonistic groups.

    One finds this variety of assessment of the character of Judaism in the scholarly literature as well. Historians disagree over whether Jewish religious tradition also contains nationalist elements.² Interpretations vary...

  9. Chapter 1 The Basic Features of the Jewish Community in Prague and in Bohemia
    (pp. 14-25)

    Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the Prague Jewish community was one of the numerously most important communities in central Europe. Before the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Prague had the largest Jewish community in Cisleithania, the Austrian part of the Habsburg Monarchy. There were more Jews in Prague than in Berlin even in the 1830s.¹ At the end of the nineteenth century, however, Prague was, in comparison with Berlin, Vienna, Budapest and Warsaw, only a provincial city and its Jewish community was insignificant in size. Even more striking are the figures from the interwar period, when the...

  10. Chapter 2 Jews as a National Minority in the New Republic
    (pp. 26-55)

    In the census, Jews were given different criteria than the other citizens of Czechoslovakia. Czechs and Slovaks (as Czechoslovaks), Germans, Poles, Hungarians and members of other nationalities in the 1921 and 1930 censuses each had to declare their nationality based on the language that they considered their mother tongue and were fluent in. Their decisions could be checked by the authorities, and in some cases were. Apart from choosing a nationality according to language, the Jews were the only group of Czechoslovak citizens who could also declare themselves to be of Jewish nationality yet did not have to demonstrate proficiency...

  11. Chapter 3 German Jews
    (pp. 56-91)

    In the first half of the nineteenth century, the period of Jewish emancipation, by far most Bohemian Jews used German as the language of everyday communication and adopted German culture in general. Almost no work on the topic fails to mention that the rapid integration of the Bohemian Jews into the German cultural community was brought about by the reforms of Emperor Joseph II. His decree establishing, in particular, Jewish schools with German as the language of instruction had far-reaching influence on the cultural orientation of the Jewish population. An examination in German-language proficiency also became a condition for many...

  12. Chapter 4 Czech-Jews
    (pp. 92-168)

    In 1918 Czechoslovakia was largely established as a nation-state in which the Czechs and Slovaks were each given priority in terms of rights.¹ Most Jews in the Bohemian Lands (with the exception of the Communists) were completely loyal to the Czechoslovak state. Still, it was only the Czech-Jewish movement which could at the same time emphasize its own membership of the ruling nation. Representatives of the Association of Czech-Jews (Svaz Čechů židů), the umbrella organisation of the Czech-Jewish movement, endeavoured, sometimes even anxiously, to guess the tactics of Czech politicians on a wide range of questions in order to adapt...

  13. Chapter 5 Zionists
    (pp. 169-240)

    Some historians make a clear distinction between Jewish nationalism and Zionism in Czechoslovakia.¹ The former may be understood as a superior category that includes all the movements whose exponents declared Jewish as a nationality. The Zionists endeavoured, in addition, to achieve the foundation of a Jewish state. Other times the concept Jewish nationalism is understood as being in opposition to Zionism; unlike Zionists, Jewish nationalists never intended to leave the countries of their birth. Their chief aim was to ensure, and guard, the rights of the Jewish national minority in the country in which they lived.

    A strict distinction between...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 241-253)

    The Jews of Bohemia have often been seen as a community between Czechs and Germans.¹ This widespread conception is clearly an oversimplification of a complex situation and can easily lead to misinterpretation. First, it presupposes distinct groups of people with assumed clear lines between each other. This notion is inaccurate since bilingualism and indifference to nationality were common among the inhabitants of Bohemia, particularly in Prague, and were not specific to Jews.² Second, it assumes that Jews stood apart from the debates about national narratives, that they were only passive bystanders and mostly victims in the Czech-German conflict.³ But many...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 254-270)
  16. Index
    (pp. 271-281)