Central Europeans reflect on life before the fall of the Berlin Wall
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Peter Salner

More and more though, people are feeling that they can be open

Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 2009
Slovak English

Peter Salner, Ethnologist, Scholar, Author

After the Second World War the Zionists went to Israel, Orthodox Jews left the country for anywhere else, and many secular Jews remained thinking that under the communists they would be free and have a good life. As long as you did not talk about being Jewish, or try to organize in any way, you could live your life as much as anyone else.  

You had two circles of people in your life. The first, most inner circle was your family and maybe some close friends. They knew that you were Jewish. You could say anything and be yourself in this circle. In the second circle, friends and colleagues from work, these people did not even know that I was Jewish. You just didn’t talk about it.

We could not meet in any organized way. It was also the same for Christians. They could go to church and the priest could deliver his sermon, but he could not organize them into any groups, such as for seniors or children. Nothing was community oriented. The only collective activity was labor and membership in the party.

Since the revolution, we can openly be Jews, but many people still don’t talk about being Jewish out of fear that they will experience Antisemitism. More and more though, people are feeling that they can be open. As the leader of the Jewish community, I spend a lot of time uniting people into one stream. This is the most important thing, now that we have this freedom, to be a community of people who, despite individual differences, communicate and live together in harmony.

This interview was in Slovak with the aid of a translator
Photo by Magda Stanová 

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