Out of 360,000 Jews who lived in the Czechoslovakian Republic in 1936, almost 260,000 were murdered during the Holocaust. The vast majority of those who survived fled Czechoslovakia immediately before or during the war.
In 1945 the Jewish population of Czechoslovakia consisted of about 25,000 survivors and further 10,000 of refugees from Poland, Hungary, Romania and Russia. Most of them left the country after 1948, when the power in Czechoslovakia was taken over by the communists; the country became a satellite state of the Soviet Union and its government started introducing Soviet-style policy. Czechoslovakia was quickly industrialized and private capital was nationalized.
ORT operated in Czechoslovakia between April 1947 and 1 July 1949. During that period it set up a total of thirty-two vocational courses and training workshops. They were attended by altogether 649 students of whom 229 graduated. The first ORT establishment in the country was a workshop for dressmaking in Teplice. Not much later schools were set up in Usti, Podmokly and Karlovy Vary. In October 1947, there were new courses operating in Prague, Liberec and Litomierzec. In 1948 a course was opened in Bratislava.
ORT’s post-war mission in Czechoslovakia was particularly difficult. ‘From the first day of its existence, our organization was forced to fight against difficulties hardly arising anywhere else’- reported ORT in 1949. And indeed, the vocational school organizers faced constant struggle to attract students to the courses and ensure that they complete them before emigration from Czechoslovakia. Difficult living conditions of refugees in post-war Czechoslovakia meant that most of potential ORT students were forced to take any job offered in order to make a living and could not spare time to attend vocational courses. According to an ORT report, a large percentage of the refugees to whom the courses were addressed ‘required to earn their living chiefly by illicit employment, were unable, despite their willingness, to afford the reduction in earnings occasioned by the hours lost in ORT training workshops.’