A Czech 'Vergangenheitsbewältigung' Cover Image
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"Vergangenheitsbewältigung" po česku
A Czech 'Vergangenheitsbewältigung'

The Holocaust in Czech Samizdat

Author(s): Peter Hallama
Contributor(s): Petr Dvořáček (Translator)
Subject(s): History, Jewish studies, Recent History (1900 till today), WW II and following years (1940 - 1949), Post-War period (1950 - 1989), History of the Holocaust, Politics of History/Memory
Published by: Ústav pro soudobé dějiny AV ČR
Keywords: Jews;Holocaust;Czech Republic;Dissent;Samizdat;Memory

Summary/Abstract: This is a Czech translation of ‘“Vergangenheitsbewältigung” auf Tschechisch: Der Holocaust im tschechischen Samizdat’, which is published in Peter Hallama and Stephan Stach (eds), Gegengeschichte: Zweiter Weltkrieg und Holocaust im ostmitteleuropäischen Dissens (Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag 2015, pp. 237–60). The author analyses representations of the Holocaust in Czech dissident literature published as samizdat in the 1970s and 1980s. He concentrates on historical writings, but also considers journalistic contributions, memoirs, and works of belles-lettres, as well as translations of publications. In particular, the article considers two aspects that highlight the difficulties one faced and continues to face when trying to fully integrate the Holocaust into Czech national history. First, the Holocaust was often understood by the dissidents as evidence of the inhuman nature of totalitarian regimes. This interpretation, however, led to placing the persecution of the Jews by the Nazi regime on the same level as the persecution of the Czechs by the Nazi and Communist regimes. Second, if there was a reassessment or questioning of the Czech national master narrative, then topics such as home-grown antisemitism or the Holocaust were not addressed. The dissidents admitted that Czechoslovakia also had its question of guilt, but they related it to the expulsion of the German minority after the Second World War. The Holocaust, by contrast, did not generate any similar debate among the dissidents. The behaviour of Czechs during the Second World War, the attitude towards Jews, and domestic antisemitism were thus not questioned at all. The Holocaust has, according to the author, therefore tended to be overlooked or, at best, mentioned only incidentally in writing about twentieth-century Czech history – whether the authors published their texts in state-owned publishing houses or in samizdat.

  • Issue Year: XXIII/2016
  • Issue No: 3
  • Page Range: 371-390
  • Page Count: 20
  • Language: Czech