About

Prague, the capital of Bohemia, and Mikulov (Nikolsburg), a town in south Moravia, were each once called ‘ir va-em be-yisrael’, the City and Mother in Israel. Prague received this honorific title, which was given to towns in the galut (exile), in the late Middle Ages and in the Early Modern period, when it was home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe and was an important centre of Jewish religion, arts, and science. In the same years, Mikulov became the second largest Jewish community in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown and a refuge for many Jews who had been expelled from Vienna and the Moravian royal boroughs. As the centre of the Moravian rabbinate, Mikulov had a renowned yeshiva. Both places, however, lost their central position in the Jewish topography of Europe in the course of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century. Without considerable east European Jewish immigration, the Jewish Community of Prague grew mainly with the influx of Jews from the countryside. In contrast to Prague, the Jewish population of Mikulov notably diminished as a result of migration, mainly to Vienna.

The histories of Prague and Mikulov are representative of the Bohemian Lands as a whole. Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia were and are a major crossing point of various central, eastern and western European Jewish and also non-Jewish peoples. Paradoxically, the cultural encounter increased in times of crisis, in modern times for instance when several towns of the region, large and small, became temporary homes for east European Jewish refugees during the First World War and for Jewish refugees from Germany in the 1930s.

The often fragile and conflict-ridden history of the Jews of the Bohemian Lands and later of Czechoslovakia, in an atmosphere of multiethnicity and modern nationalism, has in the past few years become part of extensive scholarly research. The aim of our website is to provide information on current research projects and activity related to this field. All the projects and activities have at least one thing in common – namely, an effort to put Bohemian and Czechoslovak Jewish history into the European context and to emphasize a transnational and interdisciplinary methodology.

 

Kateřina Čapková                                            Michal Frankl                                Ines Koeltzsch

Institute for Contemporary History            Jewish Museum, Prague           Masaryk Institute and Archive

 

Prague, September 2014