International Students' Day

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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.[1]

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.[2][3]

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 Benes, 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, Palecek, 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 Benes. 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 Palecek; 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. Vlajcic representing Yugoslavia.

On 17 November 1941, members of the USCS Executive Committee had a long audience with President Benes, 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.[4]

. 17 November, International Students Day (II) Annesha Chatterjee , Ex Coordinator, Voices , The Statesman Kol. India (2014 – 18) Student- Class XII,Kalyani University Experimental High School, Kalyani , Nadia

We just came to cross the Indian Teacher’s day (5 Sep.), at the very birthday of our second president, Bharat Ratna, Dr. Sarvepally Radhakrishnan. However, what could be the matter of discussion of a special day mentioned for students? According to English literature, a teacher is considered as an instructor or demonstrator of knowledge. While a student means a person engaged in or fond of study by his own or following a direction of any person or an institution. In ancient India, just before and at the end of study of a lesson, students used to pray to the ever creator in favour of betterment and long life of both the students and teachers. Simply ,all were stepped forward to carry on the unheard order of the God. In our (student) life, the essentiality of a teacher cannot be expressed through any expressions, languages, or eulogies at all. Now, we the students, have to pledge our tenacious devotion and dedication to them, and promise to cooperate with them in their endless efforts and never to let them humiliate. As I learned from my school, and more during the study of ‘voices’ of The Statesman, ‘every day’ we must rethink to activate the principles and duties of a student as below :- 1. Honour to the teachers: - First, we have to follow strictly the advices of parents, adults. The same respect we have to offer to our teachers. They give us the life and light. Everything we do for them, so everything we have to done in favour of them. 2. Truthfulness: - It is one of the basic qualities of a student to succeed in future life. If a student would never be a lie, then automatically he/she would be free from jealousy, impurities thus honest and candid. 3. To generate the power of confidence: - A student can practice his self-control processes as more thinking to all educational matters. Never allow any negative thought, inferiority complex, always carry some positive thought, as our teachers teaches. Then only then, student can motivate, determine, persevere and full of patience to carry on his/her studies. 4. Purification :- The sacrament of purification or reclamation are different types as cleaning of hair, and dress, reformation/repair of room/ school, study room, amendment of own misconception, revision of studies ,modification of prejudice, irrational belief of notion. 5. The school is the temple of education:- So, we should maintain the neatness, noiselessness, gardening as teachers’ advices. We have to maintain our personal hygiene, as well as maintain the tidiness of home, school and roads. We shouldn’t through our wastes to the here and there, 6. Devotion: - To make us a real man first, we must grow the habit of learning the life histories of great men, their dedication as well as sacrifice. 7. Excuse to others: - A student must generate the quality to help the others according to ability. We know the stories of Billey (Narandranath, early name of Swami Vivekananda). Billey used to donate the cloths to the poor’s from window. During the social calamity, a student can perform his best by begging material from home to home, porting materials etc. 8. Self- confidence: - Student life is the time of development of confidence to fight against all evil circumstances; antagonism etc .Literary education is related with psycho-and physiology of a student. Therefore, with the physical exercise, we have to practice the extra curricular activities. That helps us to be accustomed with global modifications. Some of these success of the above thoughts, which we had seen in the Festival of Vibes, Najrul Manch, July 19, 20, and 2016. Learning is a continuous process. It could never be ended in a life, and the teaching also. We had so, so many great teachers like the Tiger of Bengal, Sir Ashutosh Mukhopadhayay, Acharya J.C.Bose, Meghnath Saha, Vidyasagar etc. Though physically, they are absent within us, but their writings, dedications, inspirations are unforgettable. Some more teachings I have received later: 1. Acharya Satyandra Nath Bose translated General Relativity from German to English language. Later Bose sent a thesis of Physics to Einstein with a letter (on forth June 1924), honouring him as his teacher. Einstein translated the thesis in German language and then published it in a journal of physics in Germany. Later SatyandraNath received the coveted place to the world of science. The total period of this change of languages and publication took three years. 2. Socrates in prison was ordered to drink Hemlock by sunset. Pluto sat facing him. Socrates was continuing his session. Eventually, the sunray started to fate. Socrates took off the pot of Hemlock, Pluto cried. Sources:-*Chakraborty M. The Statesman, 20th August, 2015, Article =Teaching the Teacher. **Guha Pathic, Anandabazar, 30th July 1995, 03.12.2006,& Editorial, Anandabazar, 03.12.2006.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ustredni svaz ceskoslovenskeho studenstva v exilu za valky 1940-45, by Bohuslav Sulc, Rozmluvy, Praha 1990 (Central Association of Czechoslovak students in exile during the war 1940-45)
  2. ^ 17 November: International Students’ Day, Study.EU. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  3. ^ "The 17th of November: Remembering Jan Opletal, martyr of an occupied nation", Radio Praha. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  4. ^ "17th of November and its historical meaning", OBESSU. Retrieved 2017-11-05.