Helaine Blumenthal, Cahnman Fellow at CJH, 2009, PhD candidate at University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Melissa Feinberg , Rutgers University, responding. Dr. Nancy Sinkoff, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University, conducting.
In 1952, Communist Czechoslovakia staged one of the post-World War II era’s most blatant acts of state-sponsored anti-Semitism. The Slansky trial, as the event came to be known, falsely charged 14 leading government officials with crimes of high treason. Eleven of the 14 defendants were of Jewish origin, a fact which took on unprecedented prominence in what was otherwise a “typical” Soviet-like show trial. Eleven of the defendants were sentenced to death, while the remaining three received life imprisonment.
This paper demonstrates how the Czechoslovak show trial of 1952 greatly influenced the political lives of post-WWII Jewry. Taking a transnational approach, it illustrates how the Slansky Trial brought to the fore questions of Jewish loyalty, internally, to Judaism and the Jewish people and externally, to the countries in which they dwelled. It also examines how the trial reshaped the relationship between Jews and communism as well as the role and position of Jews in the Cold War.
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