Jan 20, 2012 7:00 PM
Between a Star and a Crescent
FILM CLUB. The Culture of Theresienstadt. Free Admission.
Between a Star and a Crescent: Bricha
Directed by Petr Bok, 2003, 58 min., documentary film
In Czech with English subtitles
Q&A with author Martin Smok, moderated by Hanna Arie-Gaifman Director of 92Y Tisch Center for the Arts
„Bricha“ is a Hebrew name given to Jewish undergound movement which after the WWII was attempting to move to Palestine as many of the displaced Jews as possible.
Czechoslovakia actively supported this Zionist movement, even at a time when the country was already under Soviet rule.
The Communist support for the Jewish state was abolished only when it became clear that Israel will not become a foothold for the further Bolshevik expansion in the Middle East.
To enable the Communist empire to switch sides, it was necessary to eliminate all those involved in the failed project of support of the Zionists, and the history of birth of Israel had to be rewritten.
Already in the spring of 1946 Czechoslovak president Benes spoke to the members of Anglo-American Committee on Palestine about his support of Zionist endeavors. However, his speech also carried traces of Benes's effort to create post-war Czechoslovakia as a country without national minorities. One of his statements was: "All Jews who will ask for it should be allowed to emigrate to Palestine. Those who will refuse must assimilate with the host nation, the Czech nation. If they will not assimilate, they would continue living as unwanted foreigners. The creation of a Jewish state is the only solution of the international Jewish problem."
On February 25th, 1948 the Communist party seized power in Czechoslovakia. The only immediate change to the Zionist activities was the necessary addition of "thanks to the Soviet Union and marshall Stalin for making the re-establishment of the Jewish homeland in Palestine come true." Following the Communist coup, there were even instances of groups of former chalutzim, emigres to Palestine, returning back to Czechoslovakia to help with the building of a better, Communist society there.
In the second half of the 1940s, Czechoslovakia was a key ally of Zionists in their struggle against "colonialist Great Britain and the Imperialist Arab armies". Some say that without the Czechoslovak arms, ammunition and military training the new State of Israel would never survive the first month of its existence. One crucial form of Czechoslovak assistance was the transfer, performed by the Bricha movement despite numerous British (and Arab) protests, of roughly 250.000 Jewish homeless refugees from Poland, Hungary and Romania through Czechoslovak territory to the Western occupation zones, from where they continued on to Israel.
Such a mass movement, which had to be kept secret from the British and others, would never have been possible without the help of government figures, such as Vlado Clementis or Jan Masaryk. For most of them the involvement with the Zionists turned into a deadly trap after 1949.
One of the key personalities negotiating with the Zionists was Zdenek Toman, a Communist in charge of the Security Department of the Ministry of Interior. Toman virtually opened the Czechoslovak borders to the Jewish refugees, and allowed the Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC, a US humanitarian organization) to build transfer camps in Nachod and Broumov, so that nothing would interfere with the smooth transit of the refugees.
The secret training of 1.500 soldiers of the Jewish army, dressed up into Czechoslovak uniforms to maintain secrecy, was being conducted on Libava training grounds until the end of 1949. The man in charge, Antonin Sochor, hero of the Soviet Union, who became an ardent Zionist despite the fact that he was not Jewish, died in 1950 under mysterious circumstances.
The first Czechoslovak ambassador to the State of Israel, Eduard Goldstucker, arrived to Tel Aviv only in 1950. In his first public speech he reiterated the position of the Czechoslovak government: „The main principle of our new friendship must be based on a clear understanding of the fact that this is a friendship with a new, peopleęs Czechoslovakia. The capitalist and bourgeois Masaryk Czechoslovakia of the past is gone, and will never come back.“ After returning to Czechoslovakia Goldstucker was arrested and tried as one of the „Zionist“ conspirators and traitors. The era of the Czechoslovak friendship with the Zionists had ended.
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Jan 20, 2012 7:00 PM