Czechoslovakia

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The constituent parts of Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia (Česko-Slovensko) was an artificial republic[1][2][3] in Central Europe created by the plutocratic liberal Western Allies at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, comprising of ancient provinces of Austria-Hungary. It subsequently became a protégé of France as well as a member of the Little Entente, and the League of Nations.

Hitler described it as "a structure manufactured at Versailles....an untenable situation"[4].

Basic statistics

The area of the new State was 54,244 square miles and in 1934 the population was 14,729,536, of whom about 7,300,000 were Czechs and 2,300,000 Slovaks, 3,231,688 Germans, 691,923 Hungarians, 549,164 Ruthenians, Russians and Ukrainians, 186,642 Jews (by nationality), 81, 737 Poles, and 49, 737 others. There were 249,971 persons not Czecho-Slovak citizens. The Czechs inhabited chiefly the centres of Bohemia and Moravia; the Slovaks, north and central Slovakia; the Germans the west and north of Bohemia, and north Moravia, forming about one-third of the populations of Bohemia and Moravia; the Hungarians, along the southern fringe of Slovakia; the Ruthenians, Carpatho-Ruthenia; the Poles, that part of Silesia falling within the new State's borders. 10,831,696 persons in 1930 were Roman Catholics; 585,041 Greek and Armenian Catholics (nearly all Ruthenians); 1,129,758 were Protestants; 145,598 Orthodox (Ruthenians); 356,830 (2.4%) Jews.[5]

The chief towns (with 1930 populations) were: Prague, 848,823; Brunn, 264,925; Mahrisch-Ostrau, 125,347; Pressburg, 123,892; Pilsen, 114,704; Kaschau, 70,232; Olmutz, 66,440.[6]

Political history

The founder President of the new State, which included the Austrian Crown Lands of Bohemia and Moravia, and Hungarian Slovakia and Ruthenia, was Thomas Masaryk (1850-1937), a philosopher and Francophile. The government pinned its foreign policy to the Little Entente and to France.[7] On 14 August 1920 Czechoslovakia signed a Treaty of Alliance with Yugoslavia, and again with Romania on 23 April 1921, both clearly aimed at Hungary; and with France on 25 January 1924 aimed at Germany. On 16 May 1935 Czechoslovakia concluded a Treaty of Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union.

A State of minorities.

The Czechs and the others

The new State's government was formed by the Czech National Socialist Party, the title of which indicated the government's policies. Despite consisting of less than half the population (43%), the Czechs assumed almost all positions of government and authority and began to oppress the other peoples of the State with their hegemony, including their insistence that everyone speak their language. Alexander Powell, writing in 1928, said "that of all the countries of eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia was the best risk [of trouble]. This lies in the selfishness displayed by the Czechs of Bohemia in their relations with others." He continues: "the Czechs have stubbornly refused to listen to reason, even when arguments for a change in their attitude have been advanced by friends. Their frontiers were fixed at Trianon 'for all time', they assert, and in their refusal to consider any revision they are adamant. Their uncompromising attitude is doubtless attributable to the fact that just at present they are considerably 'above themselves'. But such a frame of mind is hardly surprising in a people who obtained their independence so recently, so suddenly, who have had good fortune literally thrust upon them."[8]

Despite German being the official language for centuries, ethnic German/Austrian civil servants who now found themselves in Czechoslovakia were obliged to pass an examination in Czech; the effect was to halve the proportion of Germans in the Civil Service. Huge numbers of German schools were closed down by the Czech authorities, while new Czech schools were built even in towns where only a few Czech families lived. "Land Reform" (meaning selective expropriation and redistribution, or State theft) notably of the estates of Austrian-German aristocracy, was also high on their agenda.[9] By 1928 "Something like a wave of terror had swept over Slovakia".[10] British historian Donald Cameron Watt relates that "for twenty years Czech officials assumed extensive almost colonial-style responsibility for affairs in the Slovak and Ruthene provinces. They antagonised Slovaks by their tactless assumption of superiority and their didactic manners". The Czech Secret Police seemed to be everywhere.[11] Therefore from the outset there were problems between the Czechs, Slovakians, Ruthenians and Germans, the latter three all wanting autonomy. The Slovaks, for instance, had originally (1919) been promised a great degree of autonomy.[12] This failed to materialise in any serious form until it was too late. Over 500,000 people were unemployed in Czechoslovakia in April 1937.

Sudetenland crisis

On 24 April 1938 the Sudeten German Party (who formed the second-largest party in the Parliament) outlined at Karlsbad their Eight-Point Demands for full equality for Germans with Czechs, including full autonomy and self-government for German areas. This was followed by a formal Memorandum in considerable detail submitted to the Czechoslovak Government on 7 June 1938[13]. There were 14 points set forth including Local Diets, Public Servants, etc. The Czechoslovakian Government replied in summary form in what they called their "Fourth Plan" submitted to the Sudeten Germany party on 6 September 1938[14] with 19 points. The President of Czechoslovakia, the notorious Edvard Beneš, broadcast the same day[15] a pure propaganda speech by this chronic Czech nationalist. Both the "Fourth Plan" and Benes' speech were considered for what they were by the minorities, who constituted 57% of the country. By now it was almost certainly too late for these platitudes. On 13 September 1938 the Sudeten German Party, representing 3.5 million Germans, issued a Communiqué containing terms of an Ultimatum to the Czechoslovak Government[16]

In August 1938 the British Government had despatched Lord Runciman of Doxford and his entourage to Prague to examine the overall situation with all parties and to mediate in this Sudeten German - Czechoslovak Government debates. In his report to the British Prime Minister dated 21 September 1938[17] he outlined a considerable length the significant problems, from post-1919 government land confiscations (called "Land Reform" by the Czechs), police issues, and a host of other complaints. he added: "I could find no readiness on the part of the Czechoslovak Government to remedy issues on anything like an adequate scale......there is real danger of a civil war..........a very large majority of the inhabitants desire amalgamation with Germany. I consider, therefore, that these frontier districts should at once be transferred from Czechoslovakia to Germany and further that measures for their peaceful transfer, including provisions of safeguards for the population during the transfer period, should be arranged......There would still remain in Czechoslovakia a large number of Germans and in the area transferred to Germany here would still be a certain number of Czechs. Economic connexions are so close that absolute separation is not only undesirable but inconceivable; I repeat my conviction that history has proved that in times of peace two peoples can live together on friendly terms" [Germans and Austrians had lived in Bohemia and Moravia for 900 years].

On 21 September 1938 the Soviet Union's Foreign Commissar, Maxim Litvinoff, addressed the League of Nations saying that the Sudetenland issues were "the internal business of the Czechoslovak State.[18]

Dissolution of the Versailles State

The Munich Agreement of 29/30 September 1938 finally detached the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia and attached it to Greater Germany largely on the grounds of self-determination, supposedly one of the original cornerstones of the Versailles Treaty. In many quarters the Munich Agreement was viewed as revanchism.

In October Federation was implemented by the Czechoslovak State Parliament, after which the name of the state became hyphenated: Czecho-Slovakia[19], but it was too late. The Munich Agreement was soon followed by the First Vienna Award on 2 November 1938, detaching majority Hungarian-inhabited territories in southern Slovakia and southern Carpathian Ruthenia from Czecho-Slovakia and returning them to Hungary, while Poland also invaded and annexed disputed territory in the North.

On 14 March 1939, the Slovakian Diet voted for and declared its full independence and the First Slovak Republic was proclaimed.

On the 15 March 1939 Germany following deputations from the Czech Government, occupied the remaining rump Czech State making it a Protectorate, using the pre-1919 Austrian Crown Lands names of Bohemia and Moravia.

World War II and after

The Protectorate had a very quiet war, although there was fighting in Slovakia and the USAAF bombed Bratislava. In 1945 all the above-mentioned areas were occupied by the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia was then reconstituted as one of their Eastern Bloc puppet-states until 1992. With the collapse of the Communist Eastern Bloc of countries, on January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully split once again into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Czech War Crimes

Memorial in Germany to the murdered ethnic German population of the Sudetenland.

In 1945 with the collapse of Greater Germany Czech partisans (a combination of communists and fanatical nationalists), many of whom had spent the war years in the Soviet Union, committed the most fantastic murderous atrocities against the indigenous German population who had lived in this part of Europe for up to 900 years, despite the fact that Bohemia and Moravia had led a charmed life during World War II with virtually no damage. The ethnically German population was totally dispossessed and expelled. Although the murders and atrocities of this period were reported at the time, the victorious plutocratic Allies ignored them. In October 1945 the new Soviet-installed government announced an amnesty for all war crimes committed against Germans, military, civilian, or otherwise, thus whitewashing these crimes.

Expelled Sudetenland families meet in Berlin in 1963.

Slowly a number of books appeared on these atrocities. The Federal Government of West Germany (Bonn) produced four volumes (in three bound books, 1954, 1960 and 1961) entitled Documents on the Expulsions of the Germans from Eastern-Central Europe by a board of academics and professors who interviewed thousands of people and examined vast quantities of evidence. The esteemed American professor, Dr.Austin J. App, M.A., PhD., produced three small volumes (1976, 1977 and 1979) on The Sudeten-German Tragedy. The Secretary of the United Nations Human Rights Commission for over 20 years, Professor of International Law, Aldred-Maurice de Zayas, researched and wrote extensively on the subject, including Nemisis at Potsdam (1977/79), and A Terrible Revenge - The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans (2006). More recently author Sidonia Dedina's graphic book and Professor of History R.M. Douglas's Orderly and Humane (2012) (a pun on the instructions given by the western Allies as to how to deal with any expellees), re-opened what the Czechs would like swept under the carpet. In addition, surprisingly, the BBC produced a shocking and harrowing documentary mainly dealing with Czech atrocities and murders in 1945 which was first broadcast on BBC2 TV on 24 May 2015.

See also

References

  1. The Tragedy of Trianon by Sir Robert Donald, G.B.E., LL.B., London, 1928, pps: 25-6, 57-8.
  2. Czecho-Slovakia Within by Count Bertram de Colonna, London, 1938, p.9.
  3. The Origins of the Second World War by A. J. P. Taylor, London, 1961, p.201.
  4. Speech by German Chancellor Hitler at the NSP Congress, Nuremberg, Germany, 12th September 1938.
  5. Encyclopaedia Britannica Book of the year 1938, London, 1938, pps: 354 &188.
  6. Britannica, 1938, p.188.
  7. Britannica, 1938, p.189.
  8. Embattled Borders by E. Alexander Powell, London, 1928, p.227 and chapter VI.
  9. The War of the World by Niall Ferguson, London, 2006, ISBN-13: 978-0-713-99708-8, p.168-9.
  10. Donald, 1928, p.28.
  11. Donald, 1928, index - many mentions.
  12. Britannica, 1938, p.188.
  13. Published in the London Times newspaper, 20 July 1938.
  14. Published in the London Times newspaper on 10 September, 1939.
  15. Published in the New York Times newspaper, 11 September 1938.
  16. Published in the New York Times, 14 September 1938.
  17. Published in the New York Times, 29 September, 1938.
  18. Published in the New York Times, 22 September 1938.
  19. Taylor, 1961, p.201.
  • The Crisis in Czechoslovakia, April 24 - October 13, 1938 by the Carnegie International Conciliation for International Peace, no.344, New York City, Nov 1938.
  • The Expulsion of the German Population from Czechoslovakia, edited by Professor Theodor Schieder, et al, Federal Ministry for Expellees, Refugees and War Victims, Bonn, West Germany, 1960, Band IV, 1 and IV, 2.
  • The Czechoslovak Political Trials 1950-1954 - The Suppressed Report of the Dubceck Government's Commission of Inquiry, 1968, edited by Jirí Pelikán, Macdonald & Co., London, 1971, ISBN: 0-356-3585-9
  • Essays in Czech History by R. R. Betts, University of London/Athlone Press, 1969.
  • The Sudeten-German Tragedy by Dr. Austin J. App, PhD., Maryland, 1979.
  • Edvard Beneš - The Liquidator by Sidonia Dedina, USA, 2001, ISBN: 0-9663968-4-7
  • A Terrible Revenge by Alfred M. de Zayas, 4th edition, Macmillan, England, May 2006, ISBN: 978-1-4039-7308-5

Other literature