For Jews, who survived the Holocaust, the first months of liberation brought freedom but were also a time of hardship. The survivors found themselves without home, family, friends and belongings. For many, Europe became a place associated with memories of great suffering. Moreover, antisemitism was still omnipresent in Europe. As ... (Show more)
For Jews, who survived the Holocaust, the first months of liberation brought freedom but were also a time of hardship. The survivors found themselves without home, family, friends and belongings. For many, Europe became a place associated with memories of great suffering. Moreover, antisemitism was still omnipresent in Europe. As a result, the majority of them decided to leave their countries of origin and start life over and build a new national homeland in Eretz Yisrael. However, legal opportunities for leaving Europe were not very bright at that time. Palestine was the Mandate territory of Great Britain, whose authorities were resistant to the influx of migrants. Despite this restrictive immigration policy, many of the survivors chose to emigrate illegally. Czechoslovakia became one of the first stops on their difficult journey to their desired destination. The Czechoslovak government tolerated the transit of Jewish refugees through its territory to a certain extent. It is evident that there were different opinions within the Czechoslovak authorities on how to approach Jewish refugees. Especially, the lower officials perceived the Jews as an unwelcome element. There were fears that Jews might settle permanently in Czechoslovakia.
After the tragic anti-Jewish pogrom in the Polish city of Kielce in the summer of 1946, in which more than 40 people died, Czechoslovakia was, however, willing to give a helping hands to fleeing Jews. More than 100,000 Jews decided to leave Poland. The Czechoslovak government opened its borders and provided Jewish refugees with assistance and temporary accommodation. For this purpose, refugee camps were set up in several places. It is not generally known that such camps for Jews existed in the area of former Czechoslovakia, and if so, only the camp in Náchod is usually mentioned in this context. Historical publications are almost silent about the camps located directly in Prague, namely in Dablice and Hloubetin.
Methodologically, my contribution is based mainly on content analysis of primary documents stored in Czech and Polish archives. Polish archival materials describe how the refugees crossed the Czechoslovak-Polish border and reveal the attitude of the local authorities towards the Jews. The collections of Czech archives contain documents which play an important role in describing the assistance provided to Jewish refugees by Czechoslovakia. Among the shocking findings is the information that due to the lack of qualified staff, the Ministry of Social Welfare employed a number of (former Czechoslovak) Germans who were at that time interned in camps Lesany and Hagibor and were waiting for expulsion from Czechoslovakia. It is a great irony that Polish Jewish refugees who just came out of the Nazi genocide had to obey German stuff members in the Jewish refugee camps in postwar Czechoslovakia. (Show less)