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The Socio-Historical Contexts of Czech Anti-Semitism and Anti-German Sentiments Following the Establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic and their Reflection in Contemporary Caricatures

Abstract

The Czechoslovak Republic was created as the national state of the Czechs and Slovaks. Although it was based on the ethnic principle, the new state simultaneously assured relatively extensive rights for its national and religious minorities; in the Czech lands primarily for Czech Germans and the structured Jewish minority (in the new state, Jews could claim Jewish nationality and religion, or only Jewish religion). Although the Jewish minority was ideologically and politically heterogeneous and absolutely loyal to the state, it repeatedly became, not for the first time historically, the target of largely socially and ethnically motivated attacks after the foundation of the Republic. However, their nature was escalated even more by the difficult social conditions following World War I and the generally traumatic experience of the unexpected world war. Contemporary journalism helped disseminate the image of Jews as the main culprits who had caused the world war and were responsible for the general post-war destabilisation and shortages, Jews as non-state building residents of the republic, disloyal, pro-German orientated asocial elements, intensified by the image of Jewish refugees from Galicia and Bukovina, justly or unjustly accused of operating chain businesses. Contemporary journalism also emphasised the traditional image of Czech Germans as the ancient enemy of the Czech nation, currently accused of starting World War I. The fact that most Czech Germans were truly disloyal citizens of the new state after the foundation of the republic (and again in the 1930s) was balanced by the efforts of the Czechoslovak government to “win the Germans over for the new state” and therefore controlled the suppression of anti-German sentiments which were often linked to anti-Jewish sentiments. The text questions the significance of the image of the national enemy at a time in history that saw the destabilisation of existing socio-political relations, undoubtedly represented by the dissolution of the monarchy and the rise of new national states in Central Europe and their contemporary visualisation.

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