The Jirásek Library

The basis of the library, founded shortly before World War I, of the Czech Social Democratic Party was derived from libraries of Czech workers and union members resident at Vienna since the end of the 19th century. In 1928 the library, housed until then at the premises of a restaurant (Gaststätte Vyberal), was moved to a council house at Kreitnergasse 34, and after two years to yet another location at Ganglbauergasse 10. Here the rooms were large enough to hold meetings and other events. On 11 February 1934 the first assembly of Bibliotheksverein Jirásek took place, an association founded by the Czech Social Democratic Party in view of the current political constellation in Austria. Both library and other party assets could be transferred to the non-political association. During the national socialist regime the rooms of the libary were used as a meeting place by members of the resistance. Again, several relocations took place in the national socialist era and during the after-war period. In 1961, the library finally found a home in the Vienna district Ottakring, Thalheimergasse 38, where it remained until taken over by the Research Centre for the History of Minorities.

The Jirásek library currently comprises some 6500 volumes, ranging from traditional fiction (above all inter-war period editions) to an outstanding collection of modern Czech literature and Czech Viennensia. Special sections are devoted to young people's and educational literature.

In addition, Ludwig Kolin, director of the Jirásek library, has preserved interesting records documenting the activities of Czech theatrical societies. From the middle of the 19th century onwards, Czech theatrical performances have been conducted at Vienna by non-professionals, and the Vienna Czech theatre has remained an amateur stage until today. Venues were restaurants, assembly rooms of Czech associations, after 1945 also one of the Vienna theatres (Volkstheater). Programmes included not only Czech-language plays, but also works of German, Austrian, British, French and Russian authors. Apart from entertainment and sociability, the Czech theatre has also served the functions of strengthening the identity of the group and promoting the use of the Czech language. During the Nazi era, the Czech drama became the mouthpiece of national and cultural opposition.