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Donath, Oskar

(1882–1940), literary historian and teacher. Oskar Donath was a proponent of coexistence for Czechs, Germans, and Jews in the Czech lands (and later in Czechoslovakia). Born in Újezd, near Přeřov (Prerau) in the Habsburg province of Moravia, Donath studied Slavic languages and philology at the University of Vienna, where he earned his doctorate. He taught the Czech language at the German gymnasium in Hodonín (Göding) from 1907 to 1913, then in Brno (Brünn) from 1913 to 1930, and finally in Prague from 1930 to 1940. While in Brno, he also was an adjunct instructor at the Jewish gymnasium, which opened in 1920.

In the 1920s, Donath was the coauthor of a number of Czech-language textbooks for the country’s German gymnasiums, but he is best known for his scholarly works on the literary history of Jews in the Czech lands. At age 16, Donath had published an essay on Siegfried Kapper (1821–1879), a Czech Jewish poet and founder of the Czech–Jewish movement of the 1840s (“Siegfried Kappers Leben u. Wirken”; 1898). Donath’s scholarly fascination with Kapper continued over the next decades, culminating in a biographical essay about this symbol of Czech–Jewish coexistence (“Siegfried Kapper”; 1935).

Donath’s most important work, Židé a židovstvi v české literature 19. století (Jews and Judaism in Czech Literature of the Nineteenth Century; 1923–1930), remains the standard work on this topic (a German translation was published in 1931). In Böhmische Dorfjuden (Bohemian Village Jews; 1926), he examined the literary genre of “ghetto tales” made famous by Leopold Kompert (1822–1886). Donath also wrote and contributed to several works on Tomáš Masaryk (1850–1937), the first president of Czechoslovakia; he explored Masaryk’s attitude toward Jews. Donath was also a regular contributor to Jewish periodicals, including Dr. Blochs oesterreichische Wochenschrift (Vienna), Jüdische Volksstimme (Brno), Hickls illustrierter jüdischer Volkskalendar (Brno), Židovský Kalendář (Prague), and B’nai Brith. Monatsblätter (Prague).

Suggested Reading

Wilma Iggers, ed., The Jews of Bohemia and Moravia: A Historical Reader (Detroit, 1992), pp. 95–101; Otto Muneles, Bibliographical Survey of Jewish Prague (Prague, 1952); Salomon Wininger, Grosse jüdische National-Biographie, mit mehr als 8000 Lebensbeschreibungen namhafter jüdischer Männer und Frauen aller Zeiten und Länder (Cernăuți, 1925–1936), vol. 2, pp. 67–68; Rudolf Wlaschek, Biographia Judaica Bohemiae (Dortmund, Ger., 1995), p. 37.