Mapping Jewish Loyalties in Interwar Slovakia

Mapping Jewish Loyalties in Interwar Slovakia

Mapping Jewish Loyalties in Interwar Slovakia

Mapping Jewish Loyalties in Interwar Slovakia

Synopsis

In the aftermath of World War I, the largely Hungarian-speaking Jews in Slovakia faced the challenge of reorienting their political loyalties from defeated Hungary to newly established Czechoslovakia. Rebekah Klein-Pejsova; examines the challenges Slovak Jews faced as government officials, demographers, and police investigators continuously tested their loyalty. Focusing on "Jewish nationality" as a category of national identity, Klein-Pejsova shows how Jews recast themselves as loyal citizens of Czechoslovakia. Mapping Jewish Loyalties in Interwar Slovakia traces how the interwar state saw and understood minority loyalty and underscores how loyalty preceded identity in the redrawn map of east central Europe.

Excerpt

Borders change. Lives are remade. When the First World War ended, the four empires that long determined the shape of state and social relations within and beyond their borders—the Habsburg, the German, the Russian, and the Ottoman—had dissolved. a state system based on the principle of national selfdetermination took their place in east central Europe, in which citizenship and state belonging were seen through a national lens. the map was complicated. in the movement from empire to nation-state, the entirely new country of Czechoslovakia was born, arising from the successful wartime argument made by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Edvard Beneš, and Milan Štefánik in exile abroad that the Czechs and Slovaks comprised two branches of the same Slavic nation. Yet Czechoslovakia was in fact a multinational state, with significant German and Hungarian national minorities who challenged the state’s legitimacy and whose kin states threatened its borders.

Czechoslovakia consisted not only of Bohemia, Moravia, and part of Silesia, established political units that had been constituent lands within “Austria” in the prewar Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, but also of Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia, neither of which had previously existed as distinct entities. Both emerged as separate bounded territories created from the former northern counties of the prewar Kingdom of Hungary with the establishment of Czechoslovakia. Slovakia was fiercely contested from the outset, being crucial to the creation and existence of independent Czechoslovakia and, at the same time, an object of interwar rump Hungary’s irredentist obsessions. Not so Subcarpathian Ruthenia, considered “one of the most backward regions in all Europe,” which the Entente powers granted to Czechoslovakia in September 1919 largely because “no one else was interested,” giving the state a common border with Romania. the military struggle for Slovakia drew to a close with the signing of the Treaty of Trianon between Hungary and the Entente powers in early June . . .

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