On This Day
1939 – Nine Czech students are executed as a response to anti-Nazi demonstrations prompted by the death of Jan Opletal. All Czech universities are shut down and more than 1,200 students sent to concentration camps. Since this event, International Students’ Day is celebrated in many countries, especially in the Czech Republic.
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:
Josef Matoušek (historian and associate professor; participated in the organisation of Opletal’s funeral)
Jaroslav Klíma (student of law; Chairman of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia, requested the release of students arrested by the Gestapo during Opletal’s funeral)
Jan Weinert (student of Bohemistics and Germanistics; requested the release of students arrested by the Gestapo during Opletal’s funeral)
Josef Adamec (student of law; secretary of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia)
Jan Černý (student of medicine; requested the release of students arrested by the Gestapo during Opletal’s funeral)
Marek Frauwirth (student of economics; as an employee of the Slovak embassy in Prague, he was issuing false passports to Jews trying to flee from the Nazis)
Bedřich Koula (student of law; secretary of the Association of Czech students in Bohemia)
Václav Šafránek (student of architecture; record-keeper of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia)
František Skorkovský (student of law; Director of a Committee of the Confédération Internationale des Étudiants, Chairman of the Foreign Department of the National Association of Czech Students in Bohemia and Moravia)
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:
Václav Paleček, Chairman
Čeněk Adamec, Vice Chairman
Karel Macháček, Vice Chairman
Bohuslav Šulc, Secretary General
Božetěch Dubový, Treasurer
Pavel Kavan, Chairman of the Foreign Section
Lubor Zink, Chairman of the Cultural Section
Leopold Rozbořil, Chairman of the Organization Section
Jiří Bleier, Chairman of the Social Section
Milan Smutný, Chairman of the High School Section
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.
Born On This Day
1749 – Nicolas Appert, French chef, invented canning (d. 1841)
Nicolas Appert (17 November 1749 Châlons-sur-Marne (present Châlons-en-Champagne), present Marne – 1 June 1841 Massy) was the French inventor of airtight food preservation. Appert, known as the “father of canning”, was a confectioner. Appert described his invention as a way “of conserving all kinds of food substances in containers”.
Appert was a confectioner and chef in Paris from 1784 to 1795. In 1795, he began experimenting with ways to preserve foodstuffs, succeeding with soups, vegetables, juices, dairy products, jellies, jams, and syrups. He placed the food in glass jars, sealed them with cork and sealing wax and placed them in boiling water.
In 1800 Napoleon offered a prize of 12,000 francs for a new method to preserve food. In 1806 Appert presented a selection of bottled fruits and vegetables from his manufacture at the Exposition des produits de l’industrie française, but did not win any reward. In 1810 the Bureau of Arts and Manufactures of the Ministry of the Interior gave Appert an ex gratia payment of 12,000 francs on condition that he make his process public. Appert accepted and published a book describing his process that year. Appert’s treatise was entitled L’Art de conserver les substances animales et végétales (The Art of Preserving Animal and Vegetable Substances). 200 copies were printed in 1810. This was the first cookbook of its kind on modern food preservation methods.
La Maison Appert (English: The House of Appert), in the town of Massy, near Paris, became the first food bottling factory in the world, years before Louis Pasteur proved that heat killed bacteria. Appert patented his invention and established a business to preserve a variety of food in sealed bottles. Appert’s method was to fill thick, large-mouthed glass bottles with produce of every description, ranging from beef, fowl, eggs, milk, and prepared dishes (according to sources). Appert deliberately avoided using tinplate in his early manufacture because the quality of French tinplate was poor. His greatest success for publicity was an entire sheep. He left air space at the top of the bottle, and the cork would then be sealed firmly in the jar by using a vise. The bottle was then wrapped in canvas to protect it, while it was dunked into boiling water and then boiled for as much time as Appert deemed appropriate for cooking the contents thoroughly.
In honor of Appert, canning is sometimes called “appertisation”, but should be distinguished from pasteurization. Appert’s early attempts at food preservation by boiling involved cooking the food to a temperature far in excess of what is used in pasteurization (70 °C (158 °F)), and can destroy some of the flavour of the preserved food.
Appert’s method was so simple and workable that it quickly became widespread. In 1810, British inventor and merchant Peter Durand patented his own method, but this time in a tin can, so creating the modern-day process of canning foods. In 1812 Englishmen Bryan Donkin and John Hall purchased both patents and began producing preserves. Just a decade later, the Appert method of canning had made its way to America. Tin can mass production was, however, not common until the beginning of the 20th century, partly because a hammer and chisel were needed to open cans until the invention of a can opener by an Englishman named Robert Yeates in 1855.
In 1991, a monumental statue of Appert, a work in bronze by the artist Jean-Robert Ipousteguy, was erected in Châlons-en-Champagne. A plaque was affixed to his birthplace in 1986.
In 1999, busts of Appert by Richard Bruyère were erected in Institute of Food Technologists I.F.T. Chicago (USA), Massy, and Museum of Fine Arts in Châlons-en-Champagne.
In 2010, a statue of Appert by Roger Marion was erected in Malataverne (France).
A room in the Museum of Fine Arts and Archeology of Châlons-en-Champagne was dedicated to him, (collection Jean Paul Barbier and AINA detail objects on the site of the international association Nicolas Appert.
There are 72 streets named after Nicolas Appert in France, and one in Canada.
There is a high school named after Nicolas Appert in Orvault, France.
In 1955 a French postal stamp commemorated him.
2010 was declared Nicolas Appert Year, a national celebration, by the French ministry of culture. The Principality of Monaco issued a postage stamp featuring Appert. An exhibition entitled “Mise en boîte” was held at the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie de Châlons-en-Champagne.
Nicolas Appert Award
Since 1942, each year the Chicago Section of the Institute of Food Technologists awards the Nicolas Appert Award, recognizing lifetime achievement in food technology.
The student association of the Food Technology education at Wageningen University is called Nicolas Appert. Since 1972 this association has focused on improving the courses related to food technology education and organises several events each year for students and alumni. Currently almost 800 bachelor and master students are members. In 2017 the association celebrated its 11th lustrum.
By Scott Myers: R.I.P: William Goldman
William Goldman (August 12, 1931 – November 16, 2018) was an American novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. He first came to prominence in the 1950s as a novelist, before turning to screenwriting. He won two Academy Awards for his screenplays, first for the western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and again for All the President’s Men (1976). Both films starred Robert Redford.
His other works include his thriller novel Marathon Man and comedy-fantasy novel The Princess Bride, both of which Goldman adapted for the film versions.
Author Sean Egan has described Goldman as “one of the late twentieth century’s most popular storytellers.”
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