Open Access

T. G. Masaryk’s involvement in the Jewish issue


T. G. Masaryk’s thought is famous for his concept of the Czech nation as well as his ideals of humanity. As a philosopher, sociologist, and politician, he was confronted with Czech anti-Semitism, and after Czechoslovakia was founded, with issues of the Jewish national minority. He tried to solve all the questions with respect to his ethical conviction and the ideals of democracy and equality. The most difficult personal situation for Masaryk emerged with the ‘Hilsner affair’, when his brave stance against anti-Semitism caused animosity and even hatred from the public. As a consequence of that Masaryk had to abandon his public activities including lecturing at university for some time. The philosopher Jan Patočka analysed Masaryk’s involvement in this case and the following events in his study Masaryk’s struggle against anti-Semitism. Patočka pointed out that there is an interconnection between Masaryk’s involvement in this affair and his engagement in the question of Czech nationality, as Masaryk intended to improve the ethical level of the nation by disposing of bias and namely the ritual murder myth. The second part of the present contribution is focused on Masaryk’s views on Zionism and the assimilation movement and his ambiguity in relation to the issue. It seems that Masaryk’s concept of the Czech nation, formed for the struggle against the Habsburg monarchy, became inadequate in the new republic, as it was not inclusive of the many minorities, the Jewish one included. On the other hand, Masaryk’s ideals of humanity provide a certain solution on the level of ethics.