Flight from Prague

In the 1930’s the Jewish community in Prague was flourishing. Following Hilter’s rise to power in Germany, many refugees arrived in Prague, increasing the Jewish population to about 56,000. From the beginning, Germany demanded the return of the Sudetenland, a border area of Czechoslovakia containing a majority ethnic German population, to the German Reich. In late summer 1938, when Hitler threatened to unleash a European war unless the Sudetenland and its German population was ceded to Germany, the leaders of Britain, France, Italy, and Germany held a conference in Munich on September 29-30, 1938. In what became known as the Munich Pact, they agreed to the German annexation of the Sudetenland by Germany in exchange for a pledge of peace from Hitler.

On March 15, 1939, Nazi Germany, in flagrant violation of the Munich Pact, invaded and occupied the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, and turned them into a German Protectorate. In trying to escape from German occupation, some Jews tried to cross to Poland, which was still independent. Six months after the German occupation of the Czech Lands, Nazi Germany attacked Poland, World War II broke out and escape through Poland, as well as other routes were blocked. Between October 1941 and March 1945 46,067 Jews were deported from Prague mostly to Theresienstadt – a ghetto where Czech Jews were concentrated. For most of these Jews, however, Theresienstadt was only a transit camp and from there they were transported to their death in Auschwitz.