Remembering the Forgotten Czech Zionist Who Helped Save Hundreds of Jewish Children from Hitler

Oct. 18 2017

In December 1938, a British stockbroker of Jewish origins named Nicholas Winton devised a plan to bring Jewish children from Czechoslovakia to England; he succeeded in getting over 600 to safety. But the rescue might never have taken place without the efforts of local Jewish leaders in Prague, among them Marie Schmolka. Anna Hájková and Martin Šmok write:

It was Marie Schmolka’s appeal for help in December 1938 that brought the young Nicholas Winton to Prague. . . . Born to an assimilated Prague Jewish family, Schmolka married late and was widowed early. Quiet, warm, and with immense organizational talent, she became an avid Zionist following a trip to Palestine.

A lifelong social democrat involved in social work and high-level politics, she coordinated assistance to refugees from the Nazi regime. Schmolka was the sole Czech representative on the League of Nations Commission for Refugees.

Originally, Jewish refugees from Germany were welcomed in Czechoslovakia, but were gradually viewed as Nazi agents. Other countries refused to offer asylum: Schmolka knew this first hand as the Czech delegate at the 1938 Evian conference. After the 1938 Munich agreement and the following annexation of Czech borderlands, the relief organizations were unable to cope with the influx of over 100,000 refugees, both Jews and political opponents of Nazism. . . .

Repeatedly warned by her friends and offered asylum while abroad, Schmolka insisted she must return home to do the work at hand. When Germany occupied the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Marie Schmolka and her co-workers from the Committee for Refugees were among the first arrested. . . . Schmolka was imprisoned for two months in Pankrác prison, while the Gestapo subjected her, a diabetic, to eight-hour interrogations. In August, Adolf Eichmann sent her to Paris to demand more efficient Jewish emigration [from Germany]; stranded by the outbreak of war, Schmolka moved to London. Six months later she was dead at age forty-six, having worked herself to a heart attack.

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More about: British Jewry, Czechoslovakia, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Kindertransport, Refugees

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat