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Course, academic year 2023/2024
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History of Jewish Communities in Central Europe - OBZO09
Title: History of Jewish Communities in Central Europe
Guaranteed by: Děkanát (41-DEKAN)
Faculty: Faculty of Education
Actual: from 2011
Semester: both
E-Credits: 4
Hours per week, examination: 1/1, Ex [HT]
Capacity: winter:unknown / unknown (unknown)
summer:unknown / unknown (unknown)
Min. number of students: unlimited
4EU+: no
Virtual mobility / capacity: no
State of the course: not taught
Language: English
Teaching methods: full-time
Teaching methods: full-time
Note: course can be enrolled in outside the study plan
priority enrollment if the course is part of the study plan
you can enroll for the course in winter and in summer semester
Guarantor: doc. RNDr. Miroslava Černochová, CSc.
Class: Volitelné předměty pro PS
The course will provide the participants with information on the Jewish presence in the history of Central European countries: Bohemia and Moravia, Austria, Germany and Poland. Students will learn to know the ambigious character of the Jewish experience in these countries throughout the centuries, fated not only by prejudice, contempt, and suffering, which culminated in the worst tragedy of Jewish people in history - the Holocaust, but also rich in the undeniable contribution of Jews to the life and culture of these countries. The course will focuse too on the Jewish experience in Prague, once the most flourishing centre of Jewish life. Students will profit from trip to Prague's Jewish city, its synagogues, the famous Jewish cemetery in the Jewish Town, the new Jewish cemetery (where Franz Kafka is buried) and the Museum of Franz Kafka. This course will only partly deal with history of Jews in Eastern Europe, as some parts of this region, Ukraina ect. shared the same history with Poland in particular periods. The course will deal also with some Jewish ideas and traditions. It may be of interest for US students, as the United States now harbour the largest Jewish community worldwide, with most being of Central or Eastern European descent.
Last update: CERNOCHO/PEDF.CUNI.CZ (11.02.2011)
Aim of the course

At the end of the course the student will:

  • orientate him/herself in Jewish history in Central Europe from Middle Ages until the postwar era;
  • understand the Jewish experience in the Bohemian lands due to the fact that Prague belonged to the most important centres for Jewish life throughout centuries;
  • have a deeper knowledge of coexistence of Jewish population with the nations of Central Europe;
  • gain a deeper experience in Jewish existence before Auschwitz, i.e., the way the Jewish people used to live in their centres in Europe before the Holocaust
Last update: CERNOCHO/PEDF.CUNI.CZ (11.02.2011)
Requirements to the exam

Attendence policy: Attendance is mandatory, and so is consistent class preparation and active participation. A single absence will not adversely affect the grade but more than that will automatically lower it.

Writing assignments: the student will write a 6 page essay on Jewish history, i.e., an essay of historicity combined with his or her own evaluation of the historical facts such as persecution, racism, violence. For this purpose, the student may profit from the books deposited in the office of ISA:

Heiko Haumann, A History of East European Jews, Budapest, New York, 2002 or Paul Kriwaczek, Yidish Civilisation, New York 2005 (more interesting and easy to read than the first one)


Students will sit for three small written exams scheduled for 15 March, 19 April and 13 May.


Participation 30 %

Personal activity 10 %

Essay 30 %

Exams- 30 %

Last update: CERNOCHO/PEDF.CUNI.CZ (11.02.2011)

Session 1

Introduction to the political and culture contexts of Central European countries in the Middle Ages. The Holy Roman Empire. The leadership of the German language and culture until the first half of the 20th century. The beginnings of Ashkenazi settlement in Rhineland and other parts of the Empire through the 9th -11th centuries.The identity and religious values of the Ashkenazi Jews in comparison to the social and spiritual world of the Jewish settlement in Muslim Spain of this period.

Session 2

The history of Prague Jewish community from the beginnings till 1782. Rabbinical and other Jewish personalities of the medieval period, synagogues and other buildings, institutions, relations with non-Jewish neighbours. Film: The House of Life: The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague.

Session 3

Basics of the Jewish religion. Judaism as the religion of the Halakha. The Talmud and other religious writings. Jewish religious philosophy and mysticism. Film: The Jews - A People`s history, Part I and II

Session 4

Seesight tour to the Jewish Museum and places in the Old Town related to Franz Kafka. Meeting "under the Horse" at the Wenceslaw Square at 8.50

Session 5

Judaism and Christianity. The difference between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. Christian medieval anti-Judaism - its historical and theological basis. The blood libel and other defamations - origin and history. The attitude of Judaism to Christianity. Film: The Jews - A People`s history, Part III

Monday 15 March: SMALL EXAM 1

Session 6

Jews of Poland and Eastern Europe in the 17-18 centuries. The messianic ferment of Shabetai Zvi. The birth of the Hassidism and its spirituality.

Film: The Jews: A People History, Part IV

Session 7

The Haskalah: Jewish Enlightment - between the general Enlightment philosophy and Jewish accents. Moses Mendelssohn - his life and philosophy. The beginnigs of the emancipation of Jews in the Austrian Empire and Prussia. The French revolution and Jews.

Film: The Jews: A People History part V

Session 8

Jewish emancipation in the 19th century. Orthodox and Reform Judaism. Assimilation. Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and their attitude to Judaism. The turn from liberalism to nationalism: J. G. Herder as the trendsetter of the idea of nationalism in Germany and Central Europe. The rise of the anti-Semitism in Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in the second part of the 19th century. Leopold Hilsner`s affair.


The Zionism: from Theodor Herzl to the raise of the State of Israel.

Central Europe after the IWW. Jews in Czechoslovakia. Thomas Garique Masaryk and his attitude to Jews and Judaism. The rise of Nazism and its ideology. Hitler`s ascention to power in 1933 and his anti-Semitic policy in pre-war Germany.

Film: Auschwitz, part I-III


Session 10

Visit to the Museum of Franz Kafka, his grave and other sites.

Session 11

IIWW. The Nazi anti-Jewish policy and extermination of Jews in the occupied territories in Central and Eastern Europe. The conference in Wannsee 1942 and "the final solution of the Jewish question".

Film: Auschwitz, part IV-VI

Session 12

The tragic legacy of the Holocaust and its reflexion in the thought of the post-war Jewish and non-Jewish intellectuals. The Antisemitism and Antizionism in the Communist Block.


Last update: CERNOCHO/PEDF.CUNI.CZ (11.02.2011)
Registration requirements

Tento předmět vyučují odborníci z ÚJOP.

Bližší informace včetně rozvrhu a kontaktů na vyučující najdete na〈=en.

V případě, že máte zájem o zápis do předmětu, kontaktujte vyučujícího předmětu (Dr. David Biernot email: a požádejte ho o zařazení do předmětu.

Last update: CERNOCHO/PEDF.CUNI.CZ (11.02.2011)
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