Zionists in Interwar Czechoslovakia: Minority Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging

Zionists in Interwar Czechoslovakia: Minority Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging

Zionists in Interwar Czechoslovakia: Minority Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging

Zionists in Interwar Czechoslovakia: Minority Nationalism and the Politics of Belonging

Synopsis

This book presents an unconventional history of minority nationalism in interwar Eastern Europe. Focusing on an influential group of grassroots activists, Tatjana Lichtenstein uncovers Zionist projects intended to sustain the flourishing Jewish national life in Czechoslovakia.The book shows that Zionism was not an exit strategy for Jews, but as a ticket of admission to the societies they already called home.It explores how and why Zionists envisioned minority nationalism as a way to construct Jews' belonging and civic equality in Czechoslovakia.By giving voice to the diversity of aspirations within interwar Zionism, the book offers a fresh view of minority nationalism and state building in Eastern Europe.

Excerpt

In today's Prague, tourists and locals eager to explore the city’s Jewish past trek through the streets of the old Jewish quarter, Josefov, in the inner city. Here a handful of synagogues, a sixteenthcentury town hall, and a mysterious old cemetery wedged in between towering fin-de-siècle apartment buildings and glossy luxury stores embody what most visitors experience as Jewish Prague. Some also venture further afield to the Strašnice neighborhood to visit Franz Kafka’s grave in the New Jewish Cemetery. Across from the cemetery is an area known as Hagibor. It houses several tennis courts, the sports club tj Bohemians, and the headquarters of Radio Free Europe. Besides a Jewish seniors’ home, little remains to suggest to the visitor that this was once a Jewish space.

The name Hagibor has insinuated itself into the city’s topography, all but divested of its Jewish origins. the fact that Hagibor is Hebrew for “the hero” escapes most, as does the Jewish history of the area. Toward the end of the Second World War, the sporting ground served as an internment camp and forced labor site for people of mixed ancestry, for Jews married to so-called “Aryans,” and for some non-Jews who resisted the pressures to divorce their Jewish spouses. Earlier in the war, it was used as a playground for Jewish children and youths excluded from the city’s public spaces by German racial laws. Yet, its origin as a Jewish space dates back before the war to the mid-1920s, when Hagibor was synonymous with the well-known Jewish sports club Hagibor Praha/ Prag. the club was part of a network of Zionist institutions that emerged across Czechoslovakia, a testament to the significance of Zionism as a . . .

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