This week we continue our look into the dramatic events in Czechoslovakia just before World War Two. By the summer of 1938, Hitler’s Germany was demanding nothing less than the immediate annexation of the entire Sudetenland – all parts of Bohemia and Moravia with a German speaking majority. The Sudeten German Party had made big gains among German speakers in local elections earlier that year, and the Nazi rhetoric of their leaders was unambiguous.
In the last couple of weeks we have looked at the growing tensions in Czechoslovakia in the second half of the 1930s, as pressure from Nazi Germany grew. The period leading up to the Munich Agreement in September 1938, when Britain and France gave Hitler the green light to annex vast areas of Czechoslovakia, is extremely well documented in the Czech Radio archives. The archives also reveal that this was one of the first international diplomatic crises to be played out on the airwaves. Through radio, the Munich crisis became a battle of international
A court in Prague has lifted a ban imposed by the Czech Interior Ministry on a Sudeten Germans’ association in the Czech Republic, the news website lidovky.cz reported on Thursday. The ministry refused in 2009 to register the association; officials argued that the group would try to breach the so-called Beneš decrees which stripped around three million ethnic Germans of the citizenship and property after WWII. However, the court said this alone was not sufficient ground to refuse registration.
“Hello, hello! Prague, Czechoslovakia calling. Good evening ladies and gentlemen”: Radio Prague welcomes listeners to its English programmes back in 1937. The tone may be a little more formal, but it is not so different from today. Yet much has changed since the troubled times of the later 1930s. Nazi Germany was breathing down Czechoslovakia’s neck and tensions in the mainly German-speaking Sudetenland were rising rapidly. The young British historian Hugh Seton Watson was in Czechoslovakia in September that year, attending an international summer
The head of Germany’s biggest and most important region, Bavaria, is making a landmark visit to the Czech Republic. The two-day trip by minister president Horst Seehofer is the first ever being made by a Bavarian premier to its neighbour since the end of WWII. While relations have been complicated by recent history, this visit is putting the accent on the present and future.
Czech film director David Vondráček is to receive a prize for his film “Zabíjení po česku,” which roughly translates as “Killing Czech style” in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday. The Franz Werfel Human Rights Prize has been awarded by the German foundation, the Centre Against Expulsions. The film deals with Czech murders of German civilians at the end of WWII. In particular it concentrates on the murder of 763 civilians by members of the Czech army and revolutionary guards at the town of Postoloprty in the north of the country. The film was screened in prime time by Czech Television.
German President Christian Wulff told the Czech Press Agency on Friday that Germans must never forget the “indescribable suffering” they inflicted upon Czechs during the Second World War. In an interview ahead of his first trip to Prague on Monday, President Wulff said that even he, who was born 14 years after the war, shares responsibility for that history, which he must pass on to the next generations. The comments were in response to others made by his Czech counterpart, Václav Klaus, signalled his frustration that the dimensions and chronology of the occupation are being forgotten, in a speech to mark the Czech student resistance on Wednesday’s national holiday. Post-war Czech violence on Germans, Mr Klaus reminded, was incomparably smaller than the violence committed by the Nazis in the occupied countries. Mr Wulff also said he would like to pay respect in Prague to the Czech intellectuals and students who were sent to Nazi concentration camps on November 17, 1939.
Speaking at an event on Wednesday commemorating the students’ 1939 resistance to Nazi rule, Czech President Václav Klaus stressed that Czech violence committed against Germans following the end of the war was incomparable to atrocities committed by the Nazis. The president called it frustrating that - in his view - the true dimensions and chronology of the historic events were being forgotten, and said that while it was not possible to be proud of what some fellow citizens did in the post-war period, it was, in his words, “a far cry” from what had taken place in Nazi-occupied areas, prisons and concentration camps.
Czechoslovakia was one of the first victims of the Nazis, with the march into the Sudetenland in I938 followed by the occupation of the rest of the country in March 1939 and an increasingly oppressive regime for most of the population. The backlash at the end of WWII was harsh and violent. And that backlash against the Nazi occupiers, Sudeten Germans and Czechs believed to have collaborated in some way is the subject of US historian Benjamin Frommer’s book “National Cleansing: Retribution against Nazi Collaborators in Postwar Czechoslovakia.”
The first German speakers settled in the Czech lands in the 13th century, and in the interwar period there were around three million ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. That changed completely after World War II, when almost all of them were forcibly expelled from the country. Now, however, their history is being reclaimed – with plans to open the first museum in the Czech Republic dedicated to the country’s former German minority.
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