International Students Day

The 17th of November is the International Students’ Day, an international observance of student activism. The date commemorates the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague after demonstrations against the killing of Jan Opletal and the occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the execution of nine student leaders, over 1200 students sent to concentration camps, and the closing of all Czech universities and colleges.

World Student Day is a celebration of multiculturalism, diversity and cooperation among students across the globe. World Student Day has become an occasion for universities the world over to boast their masses of international students, and the good they do for the local community.

The day was first marked in 1941 in London by the International Students’ Council (which had many refugee members) in accord with the Allies, and the tradition has been kept up by the successor International Union of Students, which has been pressing with National Unions of Students in Europe and other groups to make the day an official United Nations observance.

The Athens Polytechnic uprising against the Greek military junta of 1973 came to a climax on November 17, with a violent crackdown and a tank crushing the gates of the university. The Day of the Greek Students is today among the official student holidays in Greece.The 1989 Prague demonstrations for International Students Day helped spark the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day is today marked among both the official holidays in the Czech Republic (since 2000, thanks to the efforts of the Czech Student Chamber of the Council of Higher Education Institutions) and the holidays in Slovakia.

During late 1939 the Nazi occupants of the Czechoslovakia (at that time it was called the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia), in Prague, suppressed a demonstration held by students of the Medical Faculty of the Charles University. The demonstration was held to commemorate the creation of an independent Czechoslovak Republic.

This demonstration resulted in Jan Opletal’s death. 15th November is the date when he was meant to be transported from Prague back to his home in Moravia. His funeral procession consisted of thousands of students, who turned this event to yet another anti – Nazi demonstration. This however resulted in drastic measures being taken by the Nazi’s. All Czech higher education institutions were closed down; more then 1200 students were taken and sent to concentration camps; and the most hideous crime of all: nine students / professors were executed without trial on the 17th of November. Due to this the date of 17th November has been chosen to be the International Students’ Day.

The following is the full list of the nine students / professors executed on the 17/11/1939 in Prague – Ruzyne:
• Josef Matoušek
• Jaroslav Klíma
• Jan Weinert
• Josef Adamec
• Jan Černý
• Marek Frauwirt
• Bedřich Koukala
• Václav Šafránek
• František Skorkovský

Students display and celebrate their acts of social responsibility and have gatherings on campus to showcase the causes they volunteer for, take part in gleeful competitions, indulge in student food, gossip about the student unions and complain about their student fees. Although decidedly not as elevated or as relevant to mankind as the activities of the forefathers of World Student Day, these gatherings attract a good deal of involvement, donations and attention for organisations and charities.

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