Letter from the President, Eva Derman, PhD
The Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews was founded in New York 65 years ago. From its inception, the Society’s goals were to preserve the unique history of Czech and Slovak Jews and commemorate those who perished in the Holocaust. It is my intention as the new president to continue to pursue the Society’s original goals.
The history and culture of Czech and Slovak Jews is rich and multi-faceted. Our culture is an amalgam of the culture of observant Jews with the culture of the people among whom our ancestors lived—the Slovaks, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Poles, Roma and Ruthenians. This culture is rich, unique, and needs to be preserved.
While the Nazis did not succeed in wiping the Jews from the face of the earth, the majority of Czech and Slovak Jews did perish in the Holocaust. The postwar years were not conducive to the renewal of productive Jewish lives, and the majority of those who survived the Holocaust left their native lands. Those who did not leave became a tiny minority. Uncertain of their future, they often kept their Jewish heritage a dark secret, sometimes not revealed even to their own children. In recent decades, the political climate in our former lands has changed, and many Czech and Slovak Jews want to know more about their history.
There is still a generation that grew up in what remained of Jewish culture after the Holocaust. As a child of Holocaust survivors, I belong to this generation. This generation has an intimate connection to our native lands and is the last living repository of our heritage, the last repository of our historical memory. It is my hope as the new president of this Society to preserve this memory.
My priority is to let the world know that this Society exists and that it continues in its efforts to preserve the history of Czech and Slovak Jews.
Many of the original members of the Society are no longer alive, and many who are alive are not well. One of my first aims is to recruit new members—those living in the US and abroad, including in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. I hope to actively engage in the life of our Society all those who are interested in our culture and our history and have the desire to keep our memory alive, such as the various Jewish historical societies and museums, academic departments at universities, writers, filmmakers and artists.
Communist Czechoslovakia was not the place to preserve the history of our people. The Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews was the only venue through which the history of Czech and Slovak Jews was kept alive for many decades after World War II. Even today, most scholarly work on the history of Czech and Slovak Jews cites publications of this Society—the three-volume History of the Czechoslovak Jews and articles published in the Society’s Review. The last issue of the Review, volume VI, was published 15 years ago. Manuscripts have been submitted for volume VII, but preparation of this volume ceased.
One of the tasks ahead of us is to continue with the publication of the Review, in electronic form, printed matter or both. I hope to form a publication committee whose aim will be to publish volume VII of the Review, initially in electronic form. I hope we will be able to raise funds that would allow for the publication of Volume VII in printed form as well. It is my hope, too, that we will identify individuals who would be interested in preparing and publishing subsequent volumes of the Review. I am grateful that Dr. Curt Beck, one of the original founders of the Society, has kindly volunteered to oversee the publication committee.
The history of Czech and Slovak Jews is preserved in literature, art, music, synagogues and cemeteries. I would like to see this Society to be actively engaged in familiarizing a wider audience with our history by sponsoring translations of works written in Czech and Slovak which depict Jewish life in the Czech lands and in Slovakia. I also hope that this Society will collaborate with Czech and Slovak institutions to preserve Jewish monuments, which are still there, but are in dire need of care.
Due to the extraordinary efforts of the former presidents of this Society, such as Amira Trattner-Kohn and Rabbi Patz, the Society for the History of the Czechoslovak Jews is still alive, 65 years since its inception. I feel very privileged that I was given the honor to continue in the footsteps of the former presidents, and I am most grateful for their trust and their support . I am also most grateful for all the support that I am receiving from Susan Viuker Lieberman, the widow of the former president of the Society Dr. Thomas Reiner.
Eva (Sivakova) Derman, PhD
Society President since 2010