Out of Silence – educational resources


 Take a Journey in Images: Three Generations across Five Continents 

PLACES in Out of Silence

Locate the places on the map

Auschwitz                   Kathmandu                                                  Bratislava                    Leh     Brno                            Galanta                        Myjava             Takthok    Karlovy Vary             Prague              Terezin                      Vrbovce             The Tiger’s Nest


GENERATIONS in Out of Silence (indexed alphabetically)


“The Moravian-born Edmund Husserl was, like Kafka, a German–speaking and writing Jew and is known as the founder of modern phenomenology. Husserl switched from math to philosophy for his doctoral studies under the influence of his Czech friend, Tomáš Garigue Masaryk, who became the first modern Czechoslovak president after the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy fell apart” (OoS, p. 126).

“Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk earned his PhD in philosophy in Vienna after the end of World War I and became a revered politician and influential theorist of democracy in Central Europe. A biographical-historical line binds two modern Czechoslovak president-philosophers, President Masaryk and President Havel, with philosopher Patočka as their intellectual middle term” (OoS, p. 126).

 Foreign Minister Jan MasarykForeign Minister Jan Masaryk. “Walking home in that night’s fullness, the man of honor looked up from the Loreta Monastery in the direction of the foreign ministry at Černín Palace and wondered whether the KGB had pushed the foreign minister, Jan Masaryk, from the window or whether he had jumped all by himself in those dramatic events that anticipated the Communist takeover in 1948″ (OoS, pp. 177-118).

Jan OpletalJan Opletal  “In 1989 students from Charles University marched to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Jan Opletal’s death. The underground spiritual stream of their predecessors in struggle gave a purchase on life to the atrophied cultural roots, and it yielded to the Velvet Revolution with Václav Havel as its spokesperson and then Czechoslovak president” (OoS, p. 130).





The Holocaust in Slovakia and Bohemia


… and the Eichmann trial  “In 1942, two days after my future April birthday, Reinhard Heydrich showed up in Bratislava; he was followed by Eichmann on May 25. Both Aryans promised in Bratislava that they would treat the Jews humanly. Heydrich was one of the chief architects of the Shoah and Heinrich Himmler’s right hand in Prague. Heydrich stood at the origin of the project for the Jewish Central Museum in Prague, which would have documented and celebrated the extermination of the Jewish race had Hitler won the war” (OoS, p. 54).

Radical Evil and the Scarcity of Hope: Postsecular Meditations (Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion)Chapter 5 in Radical Evil discusses the Nazi plan for the Prague Museum of the extermination of the Jewish race

The Working Group (The Slovak Shadow Government)   “In the 1940s Gisi, Andrej, and Reb Dov, the leaders of the Slovak Working Group, were bribing the Nazis in order to save the Slovak Jews. Although they didn’t manage to save all European Jews, their bribes most likely stopped deportations from Slovakia for two years. Without this lull in deportations, my family might not have survived in Kúty from the end of 1942 until the partisan uprising in late 1944” (OoS, p. 268).

  • The Europa Plan (a large scale rescue plan to exchange all European Jews for money, $2 per person, developed in the autumn of 1942 by the “Working Group” in Slovakia)

Giphotozi Fleischmann

  •  Joan Campion, In the Lion’s Mouth: Gisi Fleischmann & The Jewish Fight for Survival (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987).
  • Katarína Hradská, Gizi Fleischmannová. Návrat nežiaduci (Bratislava, Slovakia: Albert Marenčin, 2012).
  • Anna Grusková, Rabínka (A Woman’s Rabbi), documentary film about Gisi Fleischmann (Bratislava, Slovakia: K2 Production, 2012).

 AnASteinerdrej Steiner 

Weissmandl Rabbi Weissmandel

  •  Abraham Fuchs, The Unheeded Cry (Tel Aviv: Mesorah Publications, 1983, 1986, 1998).


“Potato pancakes were called by many names throughout Eastern and Central Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltic region, and Russia: deruny, draniki, placki kartoflan, oladyi, bulviniai blynai, reiberdatschi, kartoffelpuffer, raggmunk; in Czech they were known as bramborák and in Slovak zemiaková placka” (OoS, p. 5).

Potato pancakes were called by many names throughout Eastern and Central Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltic region, and Russia: deruny, draniki, placki kartoflan, oladyi, bulviniai blynai, reiberdatschi, kartoffelpuffer, raggmunk; in Czech they were known as bramborák and in Slovak zemiaková placka.

Bramborák – potato pancake

latkes at Hannukah

Bramborák – latkes at Hanukah

“As I was born with an urgency for words and foods whose origin I didn’t learn with my native grammar, my bramborák dripped of a greasy nostalgia for Prague. … Separated from the cradle by multiple veils, I didn’t recognize until my forties that our home cooking was Jewish; biblically I didn’t know this food’s lovemaking. I drank Mother’s ancient love at my first US Hanukah when my childhood potato pancakes acquired the texture of latkes’ native Yiddish and Hebrew” (OoS, p. 5).

“Once Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev came twenty years later with pretty much the same idea as Dubček—now under glasnost and perestroika—it was late to make it work. No one saved patience for experiments with a human face of socialism. The only socialism to be reckoned with, after Prague Spring was crushed in 1968, was Ronald Reagan’s imaginary ‘evil empire'” (OoS , p. 68).

Václav Havel’s essay “The Power of the Powerless” narrates a greengrocer’s refusal to celebrate May Day by not displaying the proletarian-unity mantra in his shop window. How I wanted to play a different tune in my youth! I dreamed of showing up at school one day, wearing underwear that wasn’t red” (OoS, p. 29). Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless” empowered East-Central European dissidents in 1978.

 1978. Václav Havel a František Kriegel – dva významní signatáři Charty 77 na chalupě u spisovatele Pavla Kohouta.Charta 77″ – Manifesto for Human Rights in Czechoslovakia. 1978. Václav Havel and František Kriegel – at the country house of Pavel Kohout.   Signatories of the Manifesto:  242 people signed Charta 77 in 1977 in the first wave,  only 1656 more persons signed the Manifesto before the fall of the regime in 1989.


China’s Charter 08 was inspired by the Czechoslovak Charta 77. Dissident writer Liu Xiaobo was one of the first signers of Charter 08.


Milan Kundera. “Jaromil (the lover of spring), from Milan Kundera’s novel Life Is Elsewhere, is a pathetic, young, socialist poet with romantic longings for the party, mother figures, and female bodies he never can possess. I was a bit of a failed Jaromil who rejected the early advances of the party and whose poetic pathos was suffused with antiauthoritarian sentiments” (OoS, p. 118).

lustrace law “The one ambiguous revolutionary outcome [of Velvet Revolution] was the new law, lustrace, which prohibited politically compromised and secret-service characters from occupying key political posts for a number of years. The law, several times extended, was flawed, since it relied on the police files of the past regime. Yet what other records were there than those collected by the omnipresent StB (or Stasi in East Germany or KGB in the Soviet Union)? Perhaps other dossiers were “prepared” to discredit the prominent dissident figures? The hated files became pawns in the game” (OoS, p. 233).


the New Wave in Czech film

JAN-PALACH-BY-MATUSTIK-SEDMICK-1836628864-O “On August 21, 1968, I wake up to the Soviet invasion of Prague. One year later I’m shocked by Jan Palach’s self-immolation in protest of the normalization regime” (OoS, p. 59).      JAN+PALACH+BY+MATUSTIK-SEDMICK-1836577043-O


Jan Palach

Jan Patočka, click hereJan Patočkainfluenced by both philosophers, learned from Edmund Husserl as much as from Martin Heidegger, the latter’s momentary political infatuation with the Nazi regime notwithstanding. Patočka created a unique Czech brand of phenomenology—a form of philosophy with ethical interest. The Czech reception of Heidegger found in Patočka and his students a humanistic stamp. On behalf of the Prague Linguistic Circle, Patočka invited Husserl in 1935 to Prague to give his famous lecture ‘Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man.’ … Patočka’s last public political act occurred when he showed his support of the prosecuted Czech rock band The Plastic People of the Universe and ultimately became the intellectual founder of Charta 77, the manifesto and movement for human rights in Czechoslovakia. The text of the manifesto was influenced by phenomenology from Husserl to Emmanuel Lévinas yet written largely by Patočka” (OoS, p. 127).

Plastic People of the Universe 

“Prague Spring.” “My parents’ postwar dream received a brief purchase on its postmortem during the Prague Spring, and the invasion accelerated Soviet Communism’s rigor mortis” (OoS, p. 60). 

 “During the 1950s the notorious Czech Communist leader and former partisan Rudolf Slánský, whose Jewish origins were unacceptable to Stalin, was executed. Faithful Communists were pursued by their anti-Semitic comrades in the entire Eastern Bloc. Anti-Semitism in postwar US culture and its various political and academic institutions barred Jews from professional advancement through rank and tenure, blocked others from memberships in country clubs, and forced still others from their jobs during the McCarthy era. The Communist revolution began to eat its creators and their children during the Stalinist purges, and even if my parents didn’t actively or directly devour others, they were bystanders in danger of being consumed themselves. Mother met both Slánský and his comrade Jan Šverma in the Tatra Mountains during the Slovak National Uprising in 1944. Given her Jewish roots and Communist-intellectual prominence, she easily could have shared Slánský’s destiny” (OoS, p. 85).

The Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia. “I went to the kitchen situated at the courtyard side of our apartment. From the tenement on the other side of the courtyard, I heard a loudspeaker announce from a neighbor’s balcony, ‘At midnight [of August 20, 1968] we were invaded by the five Warsaw Pact armies'” (OoS, p. 60).

Traiskirchen refugee camp.  “[In 1977] I asked for political asylum from the Austrian police authorities at the gates of the refugee camp in Traiskirchen, located about one hour from Vienna by local train” (OoS, p. 170).

Velvet Revolution    ith Juergen Habermas in Dionysos pub, Franfkurt, Germany, fall 1989With Habermas in Dionysos pub, Franfkurt, Germany, fall 1989. I arrive in Frankfurt in autumn 1989 as a Fulbright student of Jűrgen Habermas; the Berlin Wall comes down; and the Velvet Revolution takes place in Czechoslovakia. After eleven years in exile, I return to Prague to witness Havel’s ascent to the Prague Castle. I complete my PhD studies in philosophy in 1991″ (OoS, p. 210).

Habermas“[In fall 1989]I submitted to Habermas’s Monday seminar a paper titled, “Havel and Habermas: On Identity and Revolution.” By that time the Velvet Revolution and Havel’s first presidency in Prague changed the landscape for my writing, as if history had rushed ahead of me. I was the only Czech American in the seminar, and my writings were received by different sets of eyes. As Germans climbed both sides of the Berlin Wall, we sat with Habermas at the Greek German pub Dionysos. This was our Monday-night tradition” (OoS, p. 231).


Caruth | Danieli | Epstein | Etkind | Feldman | Figlio | Goodhart | Gordon | Hirsch | JanMohamed | Lang | Langer | Matuštík | Nissim-Sabat | Ortiz | Pessin | Schwab |Spitzer

Mmemory_poster_rev9-22-11.inddemory and Countermemory (iTunes presentations)

 Conversation with Gabriele M. Schwab regarding Haunting Legacies: Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma (Columbia UP, 2010): an interview on Gabriele M. Schwab’s work is conducted by Martin Beck Matuštík.


Abraham and Samu Beck

Genealogy archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  “The Holocaust marked the first earthquake in my maternal genealogy … The total collapse of Soviet moral authority in 1968 punctuated the second quake.  … Mother’s Jewish genealogy remained hidden to me under its socialist-secular veneer. … Oswiencim, Auschwitz, Birkenau—Mother never connected these names to our family names” (OoS, pp. 243-44).


Sexual Violence against Jewish Women during the Holocaust

  • Sonja M. Hedgepeth and Rochelle G. Saidel, eds. Sexual Violence against Jewish Women during the Holocaust, edited by (Waltham, MA: Brandeis UP, 2010).
  • _____. “US Holocaust Museum Studies Rape of Jewish women in the Holocaust,” Jewish Journal (June 4, 2011).
  • Cynthia L. Cooper, “Holocaust Women’s Rape Reports Break Decades of Taboo,” Jewish Journal (June 3, 2011).


Gottwaldova stokoruna  – the 100 Czechoslovak crown note features the hated first communist president, Klement Gottwald. It appeared and was withdrawn in early 1989, after the hated Gottwald banknotes were routinely defaced with horns and scars scratched onto them. This is today one of the very rare banknotes.


JUDr. Milada Horáková (source: ABS)Milada Horakova

Jan Hus

 Franz Kafka Portrait“An existentially earnest Franz Kafka depicts the tragic and weighty side of history. When he runs into the limits of metamorphosis, tragic Kafka meets the comic Good Soldier Švejk” (OoS, p. 61). 

 Jan Amos Komenský. “After the [second world] war Patočka taught at Charles University until 1948, when the Communist regime took over, then briefly during the Prague Spring until the normalization years put an end to his career. For the rest of his working life, he did research in archives on the pedagogical writings of Jan Ámos Komenský (Comenius) and directed private seminars” (OoS, p. 127).

Marta Kubišová, 1989Marta Kubišová, 1989. “On November 2, 1970, in the eighth grade, I started a class monthly called Všežravec (Omnivore). It came typed, bound with thread and needle, with pencil illustrations, and in five homemade yet proudly official Samizdat copies. The journal’s aim was to record the stories of the class and to publish their essays. The first issue had twenty pages of essays, jokes, cartoons, puzzles, songs, games, horoscopes, and ads. For all its appearance of fun, the journal exhibited more insolence than innocence. It caricatured some classroom and school situations, and these stories ran in a column called, “Gossip from the School Benches.” … More obliquely, the journal had a political subtext written all over it. This provocation came in two forms: what the journal presented in terms of content and by virtue of its spontaneous existence. The second issue appeared on December 1. Manifestly it wished and illustrated holiday greetings on its front cover, but implied in the chosen greeting was the famous chanson by Marta Kubišová, who sang in December 1968, “Ať mír dál zůstává s touto krajinou [Let peace remain with this land]” (OoS, p. 82).



Private Tour: Prague’s WWII and Communist History Walking TourJewish Cemetery in Prague

PionýrThe Socialist children & youth in Czechoslovakia “The Communist state—that great Platonic parent of us, we the pioneer children—paid for it all, and I was a happy child with a red scarf around my neck” (OoS, p. 105).
Structure of the communist security forces in the 1970 and 1980s STB= Czechoslovak Secret Service.  “Before I learned about strategies of confronting fear, I used to imagine the Communists or secret service agents sitting in a public WC. I later would quote to my students in existentialism the famous claim made by Michel de Montaigne that ‘no matter that we may mount on stilts, we still must walk on our own legs. And on the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.’ Whether this toilet training of fear is part of the Jewish midrash or humor, it nonetheless empowers the powerless” (OoS, p. 86).

ZizkaJan Zizka

Music credits for the book trailer  

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