Venue: Library of CEFRES, Na Florenci 3, Praha 1
Organized by Institute of Contemporary History (Czech Academy of Sciences), CEFRES in Prague, Masaryk Institute and Archives (Czech Academy of Sciences) and in partnership with the Jewish Museum in Prague
- 13 March 2018 – 5 PM
Enrico Lucca (Simon Dubnow Institute, Leipzig): Friend, Writer, Zionist: the Quest for Kafka’s Judaism in Hugo Bergman’s Writings
Franz Kafka (1883-1924) and Hugo Bergman (1883-1975) have been classmates and very close friends until their first years of university. Yet, Bergman started to write on Kafka only very late in his life, dedicating to him a number of essays–both in Hebrew and in German–scattered in small journals and published in the last years of his life. By analyzing both the story and the vicissitudes of their friendship as well as Bergman’s later insights into Kafka’s work, the talk will try to get a sense of the meaning of Kafka and his figure in Bergman’s intellectual biography.
- 27 March 2018 – 5 PM
Lisa Peschel (University of York): Staging Plays from the Terezin Ghetto Today: Incorporating Historical Context into the Performance
During the 40-month project Performing the Jewish Archive, we experimented with type of performance, which we called co-textual performance, to try to generate more intense audience engagement. That is, when we attempt to re-stage scripts written by Jewish authors during World War II, the historical context is one of the most important aspects of the plays. We argued that present-day spectators would be more engaged if they knew the historical background, but how to best present it? We proposed that performed scenes regarding the history, which would be presented as ‘co-texts’ – that is, incorporated into, and just as important as, the script itself – would be more effective than more traditional pre-show talks or program notes that treat the historical information as context. In this talk I describe how we created co-textual performances and how we tested their effect on the audience.
- 10 April 2018 – 5 PM
Jan Láníček (University of New South Wales, Sydney): Airing dirty laundry in public? Post-war retribution trials and the Jewish community in Bohemia and Moravia
Shortly after the end of the war, European societies attempted to come to terms with the legacies of the genocides committed by Nazi Germany with the help of local collaborators. Judicial retribution played a key role in this societal reconciliation. Among those accused of previous collaboration was also a relatively small group of those considered Jewish or Roma by the Nazi regime. Former members of the Jewish self-administration and the so-called privileged camp prisoners faced a long list of allegations coming from their communities as well as the state prosecutors. The lecture will analyse selected retribution trials and show how the reconstituted minority societies coped with the cases of alleged collaborators among their midst.
- 17 April 2018 – 5 PM
Karolina Szymaniak (Wroclaw University): Clusters and Cuts. Conceptual Framework(s) for the Study of Yiddish Polish cultural contact in the 20th century
When in 1988 poet Marcin Świetlicki formulated in the now famous poem his sharp criticism of the rhetorics of cultural opposition and its possession by history, he wrote: „Instead of saying: I have a toothache, I’m/ hungry, I’m lonely (…)/ they say quietly: Wanda/ Wasilewska, Cyprian Kamil Norwid,/ Józef Piłsudski, the Ukraine, Lithuania/ Thomas Mann, the Bible, and at the end a little something/ in Yiddish” (trans. W. Martin). As Eugenia Prokop-Janiec has shown, in the 1980s Yiddish came to be treated as a part of the code of independent culture, and investment with it became a form of resistance. But what was this undefined „little something” and what tradition was underlying its presence in the Polish discourse? What meaning and content was it endowed with? How does this tradition bear on contemporary representations of the Jewish Polish past and the way we write the history of culture in Poland?
The talk is a discussion of existing and possible approaches to the study of Yiddish Polish cultural contacts in the 20th century, their limits, and ramifications. It is a working presentation of an on-going project. By turning to the history of Yiddish Polish cultural relations and their discourse, and interpreting them through a different lens of cultural studies, the study also seeks to think other ways of conceptualizing history of culture in Poland. An approach that includes the minority perspectives and respects their independence, and create a space where the „little something” turns into a complex polyphonic phenomenon in its own rights.
- 29 May 2018 – 5 PM
Joanna Michlic (UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, London): “At the Cross-Roads”: Jedwabne and the Polish Historiography of the Holocaust
In this talk I will examine the current memory wars over Jedwabne in Polish press and historiography. I will discuss the key centres of amnesia and resistance to the difficult past related to the treatment of Polish Jewish community in Nazi-occupied Poland. My main argument is that in the current political climate, we observe an intensified campaign defined by its chief disseminators as “a total war” against the archeology of the difficult past in relations to the Holocaust. Suppression, omission, obfuscation, skillful manipulation of the difficult past with an emphasis on one’s own suffering (of one own ethnic collective) and aggressive attempts using a wide variety of social medias and new laws at silencing the difficult past are the key strategies of returning to or rather rewriting new terms of amnesia. Right-wing, ethno-nationalistic conservative politicians, clergy, journalists and writers, are the driving force behind this process.
- 19 June 2018 – 5 PM
Peter Hallama (Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris): Holocaust Memory, Jewish Life, and Generational Dimensions. Czechoslovakia in the 1980s
This lecture will reconsider the growing interest in Jewish culture, religion, and history in the last decade of State Socialism in Czechoslovakia. It will focus on three aspects: generational conflicts within the Jewish community and the younger generation’s questioning of their families’ pasts and religiousness; the dissident appropriations of Jewish history and culture; and the beginning of nostalgia for “Mitteleuropa”, idealizing its cultural, national, and religious heterogeneity as opposed to the homogenizing tendencies of the Communist régime. One of the starting points of the analysis is the first meeting of the so-called « Terezín children » in September 1986 (see photo, taken from the film Terezín Diary).