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International Student Day – November 17

Posted on: October 14th, 2019

The period from 1918 onwards was pioneering dawn for the region we now call Europe. The masses had gained freedom from the tenacious British rule. Females over the age of 30 were allowed to vote for the first time in 1918 in the UK. Benito Mussolini came into power as the fascist Prime Minister of Italy in 1922. The Vatican City State was established by the Lateran Treaty between fascist Italy and Pope Pius XI.
The economic conditions in Germany were dreadful. Everybody was looking for answers.  An assembly of factory workers and coal miners in the UK came out on a General Strike protesting against the wage cuts in 1926. In the UK, females over the age of 21 got the right to vote in 1928. On October 24, 1929, the Great Depression began on a Black Thursday.

Student Day- 17th November

Events in Europe 1930-1935


Germany had suffered a defeat in World War I, which ended on November 11, 1918. Hitler had become a part of the Deutsche Arbeiterspartei party. He was an excellent orator. Using his public speaking skills and power of persuasion, he worked his way up the political party to become their leader. The party soon became known as the Nazi Party.
The Nazi Party would not hesitate to use force to enhance the learning skills of the general public. In 1932 the Nazis suffered a loss of approximately two million votes. They were the party with the most significant majority, with 33% of the total vote. Unfortunately, it was not enough to gain power. To convince Paul von Hindenburg, the holder of the next most substantial majority, Hitler surrounded him and threatened him with war.

Circumstances Leading to 1939


In 1934 Hitler became the Fuhrer (Dictator) of Germany and believed he was a part of a super race. He began exploiting the civil liberties of gays, blacks, Jews, and other minorities. Hitler initiated a genocide, the likes of which, the modern world has never seen before. The holocaust, according to Hitler, was retribution for the defeat he suffered in World War I.
In October 1936, a gathering of 200 men began to walk from Jarrow to London. They would march 300 miles towards London to bring attention to the conditions of their residence. Ellen Wilkinson would lead them to highlight that they were amiable citizens who no longer had control over the circumstances of their habitation. Armed with a petition with the signatures of over 11,000 people, they failed to make a difference.

The Significance of Charles University in Prague


The University of Prague, also known as Charles University, was established in 1348. Charles IV was a Holy Roman Emperor and the founder of the first university in Central Europe. The Carolinum is one of the oldest buildings of the institute, and it is possibly one of the oldest educational structures in the world. In the 18th Century, it was transformed into a state institution.
The University of Prague classifies in the top 1.5% of the best institutes of higher education in the world. Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka, and Max Brod were students here. The institute is one of the first institutes in the world to pursue medical, clinical, surgical, and therapeutic pursuits. The institute has connections with all reputable educational organizations internationally.

Atrocities Committed by Dictators


Paul von Hindenburg did not have faith in democracy. Von Hindenburg was 85 when he handed power over to Hitler, who at that time was 44 years old. Hitler murdered over six million Jews in what would be known as the modern holocaust. These Jews were the victims of Hitler’s gas chambers. His party, The Nazis, was not afraid to use power to get their way.
We see the rise of Hitler’s new personality after he comes to power. In 1938 Hitler began work on the implementation of his scheme for world domination. Austria was the first annexation in 1938. Hitler seized Czechoslovakia entirely in 1939. France finally challenged Germany to war, when Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Italy had been an ally of Germany while France became a rival.

The Plight of Students


With these circumstances in mind, October 28, 1939, students at The University of Prague were celebrating to mark the 21st Anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. As the demonstrations were taking place on that day, one of the students, Jan Opletal, became the victim of a gunshot from the Nazis. He succumbed to his injuries on November 11, 1939.
On November 15, 1939, Jan Opletal’s body was transported to Moravia, his home town. His classmates sought authorization for a funeral demonstration on the insides of Prague City, which was granted. Thousands of students attended the funeral procession, which soon evolved into an exhibition against the Nazis. It soon became apparent that the demonstration was authorized because the Czech government wanted to warn the students of the consequences of their actions practically.

Conditions in Concentration Camps


Jan Opletal’s funeral evoked over 3,000 students at the Institute of Pathology at The University of Prague to follow him. Thousands of students followed his casket to Moravia, Opletal’s home town. As they followed him, they chanted the Czech anthem, Kde domov můj. Their spirits were high as they approached Charles Square as they began to confront the Czech police.
The students began to withdraw into the Technical University. They could leave the building only in small numbers at a time. Hitler found out about the situation, and he was frantically enraged. He began to use declarations which included the statements, “drowning in blood,” “imprisoning,” “I will not shy away from setting up cannons in the streets,” “to shoot in every crowd with machine guns” and “I will make Prague equal to the ground.”

The Execution of Students in Prague


On midnight of November 16, 1939, the Nazis invaded the accommodations of the student union. With intelligence from reliable sources, they raided a student committee meeting, which had created an organized learning space, and was taking place after midnight. Nine members of the student union, one professor and eight students, were arrested without reason.
The nine individuals were shot in the wee hours of the night. The next morning, institutes were shut down, and the Nazis committed many atrocities. From a total of 15,000 students, about 1,200 to 1,300 pupils were brought back to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin without following any legal proceedings. The educational institutes in Czech remained closed for three years, including Czech universities and colleges. In Brno and Prague, the German academic institutes remained open.

November 17, 2014, International Students’ Day Commemorations Across the World


The people responsible for these acts of injustice were Reichsprotektor Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath and Karl Hermann Frank. These two were the individuals communicating with Adolf Hitler and acting on his behalf. November 17, is celebrated as a national holiday known as Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day in the Czech Republic.

On November 17, 1989, students were demonstrating the mark of the 50th anniversary of the death of Jan Opletal. The procession was a peaceful one until it slowly turned into a rally against the rampant communist dictatorship. The residents began a peaceful non-cooperation strike, which lasted until November 28, 1989. In June 1990, Vaclav Havel became the first elected president of Czechoslovakia.


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