International Students' Day is an international observance of the student community, held annually on November 17. Originally commemorating the Nazi storming of Czech universities in 1939 and the subsequent killing and sending of students to concentration camps, it is now marked by a number of universities, sometimes on a day other than November 17, as a nonpolitical celebration of the multiculturalism of their international students.
The date commemorates the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague after demonstrations against the German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the killings of Jan Opletal and worker Václav Sedláček. The Nazis rounded up the students, murdered nine student leaders and sent over 1,200 students to concentration camps, mainly Sachsenhausen. They subsequently closed all Czech universities and colleges. By this time Czechoslovakia no longer existed, as it had been divided into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the Slovak Republic under a fascist puppet government.
In late 1939 the Nazi authorities in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia suppressed a demonstration in Prague held by students of the Medical Faculty of Charles University. The demonstration was held on 28 October to commemorate the anniversary of the independence of the Czechoslovak Republic (1918). During this demonstration the student Jan Opletal was shot, and later died from his injuries on 11 November. On 15 November his body was supposed to be transported from Prague to his home in Moravia. His funeral procession consisted of thousands of students, who turned the event into an anti-Nazi demonstration. However, the Nazi authorities took drastic measures in response, closing all Czech higher education institutions, arresting more than 1,200 students, who were then sent to concentration camps, executing nine students and professors without trial on 17 November. Historians speculate that the Nazis granted permission for the funeral procession already expecting a violent outcome, in order to use that as a pretext for closing down universities and purging anti-fascist dissidents.
The nine students and professors executed on 17 November in Prague were:
An initial idea to commemorate the atrocities inflicted on students in German-occupied Czechoslovakia was discussed among Czechoslovak Army troops in England in 1940. A small group of soldiers, former elected student officials, decided to renew the Central Association of Czechoslovak Students (USCS) which had been disbanded by the German Protectorate in Czechoslovakia. The idea of commemorating the November 17 tragedy was discussed with the British National Union of Students of England and Wales and other foreign students fighting the Nazis from England. With the support of Edvard Beneš, President-in-Exile of Czechoslovakia, the USCS was reestablished in London on 17 November 1940, one year after the events at the Czech universities, with the following members:
Throughout 1941 efforts were made to convince students of other nations to acknowledge November 17 as a day of commemoration, celebrating and encouraging resistance against the Nazis and the fight for freedom and democracy in all nations. These negotiating efforts were mostly carried out by Zink, Paleček, Kavan and Lena Chivers, Vice President of the NUS. Fourteen countries eventually agreed and signed the following proclamation:
"We, students of Great Britain and its territories and India, North and South America, the USSR, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, China, Holland, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia and all free nations, to honour and commemorate the tortured and executed students who were the first to raise their voices to reject Nazi oppression and condemn the occupation of 1939, proclaim November 17 as International Students' Day."
The inaugural meeting was held in London's Caxton Hall on 16 November 1941, with support from President Beneš. The proclamation was read and accepted by all attendees, among them representatives of all governments who were in exile in London. The meeting was presided over by USCS Chairman Paleček; the key speakers were Sergej Ingr, Czechoslovak Secretary of Defence; Lena Chivers and Elizabeth Shields-Collins of the UK; Olav Rytter of Norway; Claude Guy of France, A. Vlajčić representing Yugoslavia.
On 17 November 1941, members of the USCS Executive Committee had a long audience with President Beneš, and similar meetings with the President took place annually on November 17 throughout WWII. The BBC's Czechoslovakian department prepared a special report for November 17 which was broadcast to occupied Czechoslovakia. Many British universities interrupted their schedule to commemorate the events in Prague two years earlier, by reading the proclamation of November 17. Among them were Manchester, Reading, Exeter, Bristol, Aberystwyth, Leicester, London, Holloway College, Bournemouth, Sheffield, King's College London, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Bangor, Cardiff, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. During the war Oxford University extended assistance to the closed Charles University, allowing dozens of Czechoslovak students in exile to graduate.
In 1989 independent student leaders together with the Socialist Union of Youth (SSM/SZM) organized a mass demonstration to commemorate International Students’ Day. The students used this 50th-anniversary event to express their dissatisfaction with the ruling Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. By nightfall, what had begun as a peaceful commemorative event turned violent, with many participants brutally beaten by riot police, red berets, and other members of law enforcement agencies. About 15,000 people took part in this demonstration. The only person left lying where the beatings took place was thought to be the body of a student, but in fact turned out to be an undercover agent. The rumour that a student had died due to the police brutality triggered further actions; the same night, students and theatre actors agreed to go on strike. The events linked to the International Students' Day of 17 November 1989 helped spark the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day is today observed as an official holiday in both the Czech Republic (since 2000, following a campaign by the Czech Student Chamber of the Council of Higher Education Institutions) and Slovakia.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the resulting crisis within the International Union of Students, celebrations for 17 November were held in only a few countries without any international coordination. During the World Social Forum held in Mumbai, India, in 2004, some international student unions such as the Organization of Caribbean and Latin American Students (OCLAE) and some national unions such as the Italian Unione degli Studenti decided to re-launch the date and to call for a global demonstration on 17 November 2004. Student movements in many countries mobilised again that year and continued observing International Students' Day in following years with the support of the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU) and the European Students' Union (ESU).
In 2009, on the 70th anniversary of 17 November 1939, OBESSU and ESU promoted a number of initiatives throughout Europe to commemorate the date. An event was held from 16 to 18 November at the University of Brussels, focusing on the history of the students' movement and its role in promoting active citizenship against authoritarian regimes, and followed by an assembly discussing the role of student unions today and the need for the recognition of a European Student Rights Charter. The conference gathered around 100 students representing national students and student unions from over 30 European countries, as well as some international delegations.
Monday 17 November 2014 saw hundreds of thousands of students participate in demonstrations around the world on the occasion of International Students' Day. On 17 November, students mobilised in more than 40 countries to demand free education. In addition, commemorations were held for the anniversaries of Nazi repression of student activists in Prague of 1939, the Athens Polytechnic Uprising of 1973 and the Velvet Revolution of 1989.1939
was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1939th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 939th year of the 2nd millennium, the 39th year of the 20th century, and the 10th and last year of the 1930s decade. This year also marks the start of the Second World War, the largest and deadliest conflict in human history.Brno University of Technology
Brno University of Technology (abbreviated: BUT; in Czech: Vysoké učení technické v Brně – Czech abbreviation: VUT) is a university located in Brno, Czech Republic. Being founded in 1899 and initially offering a single course in civil engineering, it grew to become a major Czech university with over 24,000 students enrolled at 8 faculties and 2 university institutes.Charles University
Charles University, known also as Charles University in Prague (Czech: Univerzita Karlova; Latin: Universitas Carolina; German: Karls-Universität) or historically as the University of Prague (Latin: Universitas Pragensis), is the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic. Founded in 1348, it was the first university in Central Europe. It is one of the oldest universities in Europe in continuous operation. Today, the university consists of 17 faculties located in Prague, Hradec Králové and Pilsen. Its academic publishing house is Karolinum Press. The university also operates several museums and two botanical gardens.
Its seal shows its protector Emperor Charles IV, with his coats of arms as King of the Romans and King of Bohemia, kneeling in front of Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. It is surrounded by the inscription, Sigillum Universitatis Scolarium Studii Pragensis (English: Seal of the Prague academia).Freedom Lecture
The Freedom Lecture is a public debate on a current social topic with outstanding personalities that has been held annually at the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic on the occasion of International Students´ Day (Student Seventeen). The tradition of the debates was established in 2014, in the year of the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Prague in November 1989. The Freedom Lecture is organized in remembrance of students and professors around the world whose lives were extinguished by aggressors. The main aim of the Freedom Lecture is to inspire creativity and promote active citizenship while helping students realize their dreams and encourage their efforts for a better and more peaceful world. Founders of the Charta 77 Foundation František Janouch and Ada Kolman or the German activist Rainer Höss with the Israeli journalist Tal Bashan have participated in the debates. The Freedom Lecture is organized by the Masaryk University and the Alumni and Friends of Masaryk University in the University Cinema Scala in Brno.German occupation of Czechoslovakia
The German occupation of Czechoslovakia (1938–1945) began with the German annexation of Czechoslovakia's border regions known collectively as the Sudetenland, under terms outlined by the Munich Agreement. German leader Adolf Hitler's pretext for this action was the alleged privations suffered by the ethnic German population living in those regions. New and extensive Czechoslovak border fortifications were also located in the same area.
Following the Anschluss of Austria to Nazi Germany, in March 1938, the conquest and breakup of Czechoslovakia became Hitler's next ambition. The incorporation of the Sudetenland into Germany that began on 1 October 1938 left the rest of Czechoslovakia weak, and it became powerless to resist subsequent occupation. Moreover, small northeastern part of the borderland region known as Zaolzie was occupied and annexed to Poland due to protection of local ethnic Polish community and as a result of previous territorial claims (Czech-Polish disputes in the years of 1918–20).
On 15 March 1939, one day after the proclamation of the Slovak State the German Wehrmacht moved into the remainder of Czechoslovakia and from the Prague Castle, Hitler proclaimed the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia after the negotiations with Emil Hácha, who remained remained as technical head of state with the title of State President. However, he was rendered all but powerless; real power was vested in the Reichsprotektor, who served as Hitler's personal representative. The occupation ended with the surrender of Germany following World War II.International Union of Students
The International Union of Students (IUS) is a worldwide nonpartisan association of university student organizations.The IUS is the umbrella organization for 155 such students' organizations across 112 countries and territories representing approximately 25 million students. This is recognised by the United Nations Organization granting the IUS a consultative status in UNESCO. The primary aim of the IUS is to defend the rights and interests of students to promote improvement in their welfare and standard of education and to prepare them for their tasks as democratic citizens.International student
International students are those students who chose to undertake all or part of their tertiary education in a country other than their own and move to that country for the purpose of studying. In 2016, there were nearly 5.1 million internationally mobile students (i.e. 2.3% of all tertiary students), up from 2.1 million in 2000. The United States and United Kingdom attracted one-third of all international students in 2000, falling to 28% in 2016.Jan Opletal
Jan Opletal (1 January 1915 – 11 November 1939) was a student of the Medical Faculty of the Charles University in Prague, who was shot at a Czechoslovak Independence Day rally on 28 October 1939. He was severely injured at this anti-Nazi demonstration against the German occupation of Czechoslovakia and died two weeks later.
Jan Opletal is seen as a symbolic figure of the Czech resistance against Nazism.Jiří Dienstbier Jr.
Jiří Dienstbier Jr. (born 27 May 1969) is a Czech politician and lawyer, who has been the Senator for Kladno since 2011, representing the Social Democratic Party (ČSSD). He previously served as Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation in Bohuslav Sobotka's cabinet, and at various points he has been Deputy Leader of ČSSD, a member of the Chamber of Deputies, and shadow minister of Justice. He was also the ČSSD candidate for the first direct presidential elections in the Czech Republic in 2013.He is the son of Jiří Dienstbier Sr., a well-known Czech dissident and politician.Masaryk University
Masaryk University (Czech: Masarykova univerzita; Latin: Universitas Masarykiana Brunensis) is the second largest university in the Czech Republic, a member of the Compostela Group and the Utrecht Network. Founded in 1919 in Brno as the second Czech university (after Charles University established in 1348 and Palacký University existent in 1573–1860), it now consists of nine faculties and 35,115 students. It is named after Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of an independent Czechoslovakia as well as the leader of the movement for a second Czech university.In 1960 the university was renamed Jan Evangelista Purkyně University after Jan Evangelista Purkyně, a Czech biologist. In 1990, following the Velvet Revolution it regained its original name. Since 1922, over 171,000 students have graduated from the university.November 17
November 17 is the 321st day of the year (322nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 44 days remain until the end of the year.Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions
The Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions (OBESSU) is the European platform for cooperation between the national school student unions in Europe, active in general secondary and secondary vocational education. All member organisations are independent, national, representative and democratic school student unions. The platform currently unites 31 national school student unions from 24 European countries.
OBESSU is a stakeholder formally recognized by the Council of Europe and the European Union and a regular interlocutor with the European Commission, European Parliament, Council of Europe and UNESCO. OBESSU aims to establish partnership and cooperation between all educational stakeholders. It is a full member of the Lifelong Learning Platform (LLLP) and the European Youth Forum (YFJ), and an associate member of the European Students' Union.Rami Fortis
Ram Ephraim "Rami" Fortis (Hebrew: רם אפרים (רמי) פורטיס, [ˈrami ˈfɔʁtis], born July 7, 1954), or simply Fortis, is an Israeli rock singer. Born in Tel Aviv, Fortis became known as a pioneer of Israeli punk rock. His debut album Plonter, released in 1978, was not a commercial success at the time, though today it is considered an influential cult album. His fame in Israel came with the release of a Hebrew language album, Sipurim Me'hakufsa (Tales from the Box), in 1988. Due to his behaviour on stage he was nicknamed The Madman (HaMeshuga).
Apart from his work in music, Rami Fortis served as a judge for the first season of The X Factor Israel.Student
A student is primarily a person enrolled in a school or other educational institution who attends classes in a course to attain the appropriate level of mastery of a subject under the guidance of an instructor and who devotes time outside class to do whatever activities the instructor assigns that are necessary either for class preparation or to submit evidence of progress towards that mastery. In the broader sense, a student is anyone who applies themselves to the intensive intellectual engagement with some matter necessary to master it as part of some practical affair in which such mastery is basic or decisive.
In the United Kingdom and India, the term "student" denotes those enrolled in secondary schools and higher (e.g., college or university); those enrolled in primary/elementary schools are called "pupils."Student activism
Student activism or campus activism is work by students to cause political, environmental, economic, or social change. Although often focused on schools, curriculum, and educational funding, student groups have influenced greater political events.Modern student activist movements vary widely in subject, size, and success, with all kinds of students in all kinds of educational settings participating, including public and private school students; elementary, middle, senior, undergraduate, and graduate students; and all races, socio-economic backgrounds, and political perspectives. Some student protests focus on the internal affairs of a specific institution; others focus on broader issues such as a war or dictatorship. Likewise, some student protests focus on an institution's impact on the world, such as a disinvestment campaign, while others may focus on a regional or national policy's impact on the institution, such as a campaign against government education policy. Although student activism is commonly associated with left-wing politics, right-wing student movements are not uncommon; for example, large student movements fought on both sides of the apartheid struggle in South Africa.Student activism at the university level is nearly as old as the university itself. Students in Paris and Bologna staged collective actions as early as the 13th century, chiefly over town and gown issues. Student protests over broader political issues also have a long pedigree. In Joseon Dynasty Korea, 150 Sungkyunkwan students staged an unprecedented remonstration against the king in 1519 over the Kimyo purge.Extreme forms of student activism include suicide such as the case of Jan Palach's, and Jan Zajíc's protests against the end of the Prague Spring and Kostas Georgakis' protest against the Greek military junta of 1967–1974.Velvet Revolution
The Velvet Revolution (Czech: sametová revoluce) or Gentle Revolution (Slovak: nežná revolúcia) was a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia, occurring from 17 November to 29 December 1989. Popular demonstrations against the one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia included students and older dissidents. The result was the end of 41 years of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia, and the subsequent dismantling of the command economy and conversion to a parliamentary republic.On 17 November 1989 (International Students' Day), riot police suppressed a student demonstration in Prague. The event marked the 50th anniversary of a violently suppressed demonstration against the Nazi storming of Prague University in 1939 where 1,200 students were arrested and 9 killed. (See Origin of International Students' Day for more information.) The 1989 event sparked a series of demonstrations from 17 November to late December and turned into an anti-communist demonstration. On 20 November, the number of protesters assembled in Prague grew from 200,000 the previous day to an estimated 500,000. The entire top leadership of the Communist Party, including General Secretary Miloš Jakeš, resigned on 24 November. On 27 November, a two-hour general strike involving all citizens of Czechoslovakia was held.
In response to the collapse of other Warsaw Pact governments and the increasing street protests, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia announced on 28 November that it would relinquish power and end the one-party state. Two days later, the federal parliament formally deleted the sections of the Constitution giving the Communist Party a monopoly of power. Barbed wire and other obstructions were removed from the border with West Germany and Austria in early December. On 10 December, President Gustáv Husák appointed the first largely non-communist government in Czechoslovakia since 1948, and resigned. Alexander Dubček was elected speaker of the federal parliament on 28 December and Václav Havel the President of Czechoslovakia on 29 December 1989.
In June 1990, Czechoslovakia held its first democratic elections since 1946. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two countries—the Czech Republic and Slovakia.