Languages of loyalty. Revocation of Jewish citizenship in Poland and Czechoslovakia, 1938-1939

26 October 2021 - 5 PM

About Location / Accom.

Michal Frankl (Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences)

By the end of the 1930s, tens of thousands of Polish and Czechoslovak Jews received notices informing them in a bureaucratic language about the revocation of their citizenship. The presentation compares and analyses the revisions of citizenship in both increasingly authoritarian, nationalist and antisemitic countries. Poland in 1938 and Czechoslovakia in 1939 modified the parameters of membership in the state in reaction to influx of Jewish refugees who were their own citizens. These only partially researched histories of denaturalisation remain mostly relegated to the history of the Holocaust. Yet, as I will argue, they also marked a more general shift towards ethnonational citizenship, reopening the legal and social foundations on which these Central European nation states were constructed after the First World War. In contrast to the existing research, this paper will analyze this re-drawing of the border around citizenship from below, closely reading revision case files and paying attention to the examinations and declarations of loyalty. Building on developing methodologies that examine making claims towards higher authorities (“writing upwards”) and the reconstruction of the voices of refugees from government or NGO documentation, the paper will explore the agency and strategies adopted by Jews who appealed against such decisions.
In cooperation with the “Unlikely refuge?” project

Venue: Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences – Conference Hall, Gabčíkova 10, Prague 8 –

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