Colloquia on Modern Jewish History

Organized by the Institute for Contemporary History (Czech Academy of Sciences), the Masaryk Institute and Archives (Czech Academy of Sciences) and CEFRES in partnership with the Jewish Museum in Prague

The colloquia are intended to provide a platform for academic discussion about the latest research on Jewish history especially of the last three centuries. Though primarily focused on the Jews of central and east central Europe, the colloquia also include topics related to the Jews of other regions. The colloquia will be further enriched by including topics not directly concerned with Jews, but enabling one to see Jewish history from other perspectives (for instance, the perspective of other ʻminoritiesʼ).

Despite our preference for the methods of historical research, the organizers welcome multidisciplinary approaches to the topics, including those of sociology, political science, religious studies, and art history.

Among the people leading the colloquia are scholars from institutions in the Czech Republic and abroad, senior scholars as well as PhD students.

The colloquia are held in the library of CEFRES, Na Florenci 3, Prague 1 always at 5 p.m. The language of the colloquia is Czech and Slovak in fall and English in spring. The colloquia are organized by Kateřina Čapková ( and Michal Frankl (


17 October 2017 – 5 PM
Large Scale Use of Oral History Accounts in the Historiography of the Shoah: The Case of the Hungarian-Jewish Slave Labourers in Vienna (1944-45)

Éva Kovacs (Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies)

In the past two decades, thanks to the opening of the digital collections in the United States, Israel, and Europe, the usage of oral history sources became attractive in historical research. These archives hold an enormous number of testimonies, which makes the research easier and faster, but, on the other hand, raises serious methodological questions. Meanwhile, the last survivors who can still give testimonies are passing away – the oral history sources are turning into „normal” archival sources soon. These new developments are challenging the history-writing on the Shoah.

Our case study deals with the everyday life of approximately 15 thousand Hungarian-Jewish deportees who were forced to work in Vienna and its vicinity in 1944-45. The presentation will focus on the Quellenkritik (source criticism) and methodology of using large oral history archives to explore insufficiently documented historical subjects.

In English.

14 November 2017 – 5 PM
Concerning Retribution: The Holocaust on Trial in Slovakia, 1945–48

Michala Lônčíková (Comenius University, Bratislava)

Similarly to other European countries that, immediately after the war, were facing the aftermath of German occupation and collaboration, a system of retributive justice was established in the restored Czechoslovakia as well. Even though anti-Jewish atrocities did not represent an exclusionary question in the lawsuits in the newly established People’s Courts, racially motivated crimes in general were covered in various paragraphs of the main retributive regulation, no. 33/1945 Sb. n. SNR. Analysing the trails of the main political representatives of the wartime Slovak State, which were held in the National Court, partly enables one to trace out the official anti-Jewish policy and its mechanisms at the state level. On the other hand, regional cases, which were in the jurisdiction of the District People’s Courts, also raise the question of the responsibility of local aggressors, co-perpetrators, and eye-witnesses amongst the Slovak majority. This microhistorical perspective is crucial for analysing the Jewish-Gentile relationships in their wider social context in the years of persecution and partly in its aftermath. Using the collections of the District People’s Court in Banská Bystrica, this presentation explores the struggle of Holocaust survivors in Slovakia for justice and the ways in which these crimes were judged in the early years after the Liberation.

28 November 2017 – 5 PM
Solving the Housing Crisis: The Eviction and Resettlement of Jews in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, 1939-1942

Benjamin Frommer (Northwestern University, Evanston)

By the time the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia boarded transport trains for the Nazi ghettos in Theresienstadt and occupied Eastern Europe, many, if not most, of them had already been forced to leave their homes and even their home towns. Starting with flight from the occupied Sudetenland in the fall of 1938, the region’s Jews frequently and repeatedly moved over the following half decade. Sometimes they did so voluntarily in an attempt to facilitate emigration or to escape areas with particularly intense persecution. Increasingly, however, Jews found themselves subjected to orders of eviction and resettlement that aimed to make buildings, districts, and even whole towns /Judenfrei /in the name of Nazi policy and to address an alleged “housing crisis.” Scholars have focused on the seizure of the most valuable properties and their redistribution to Germans, but the proponents and beneficiaries of evictions and resettlement throughout the Protectorate included far more than just the occupiers. For the victims, forced migration contributed to their impoverishment and their isolation and, thus, to their ultimate deportation from the Protectorate altogether.

12 December 2017 – 5 PM
Publishing Books in Early Modern Jewish Prague

Olga Sixtová (Charles University, Prague)

What factors and who determined the literature to be published in early modern Jewish Prague? Like their readers, the publishers of Jewish literature (often not the same people as the printers) were “children of their time” and though they sometimes introduced new authors, new ideas, new genres or new knowledge, they always published what interested them and what they expected their readers to appreciate and buy. After all, though a “holy” business, publishing was first and foremost a business. But publishers and printers also had to accommodate the ideological positions of the chief rabbinate whose interventions in the publishing business become more visible upon closer study of the paratexts and sequence of the titles published over time.

The content of the vast majority of the books in this period is religious. The publishers expressly hoped to bestow the spiritual merit of the texts on the public and thus to accelerate Redemption. What remains individual is the choice of the text that was to contribute to this ultimate aim. Here, one can discern different inclinations among different publishers, diverse interests of various strata of Jewish society, and also changes in spiritual and intellectual trends throughout the period.

The colloquia are held in the library of CEFRES, Na Florenci 3, Prague 1.