Continuing with this rather ugly story about a mass ethnic cleansing which took place in May of 1945. The author is Georgiy Zotov.
On October 1, 1938, Czechoslovakia’s ethnic German population ecstatically welcomed their “reunion” with the German Fatherland. The 90% ethnic-German Sudetenland region was attached to the Nazi Reich.
The areas known as Sudetenland were originally part of Bohemia, and settled (in the Middle Ages) mostly by Western Slavs. Named after the Sudetes Mountains which run along the Czech northern border with Lower Silesia (now belonging to Poland). This name was given to these mountains by a Greco-Roman writer named Ptolemy (around 150 AD), who named them in Greek “Σούδητα“, possibly from the Latin “sudes” means “spines”, like the spines of a mountain range (?)
Slavic tribes started moving into this area in the 7th century AD and soon built dominant kingdoms. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, starting in the 13th century, that ethnic Germans started migrating into the lesser-populated border regions, taking up an ecological niche in areas later known as Lusatia and Silesia. Bohemian Kings such as Wenceslaus II (aka “Good King Wenceslaus”) welcomed the settlers. This Good King’s Slavic name, by the way, was something like *Ventie-Slav-us which means “Much Glory”, and can be seen in modern names like Václav (Czech) or Vyacheslav (Russian). At the time the name was borrowed into German (or Germanized) into Wenceslaus, Common Slavic (still pretty much one language, but with multiple regional dialects) had a nasal vowel –en– whose pronunciation was probably not unlike that of the French -in in the word vin (wine). This vowel later morphed into an ah sound like you see in the Czech and Russian. But the Germanized form shows more of the true nature of the name as it was pronounced during the medieval times.
Be that as it may, we see Czech Bohemians and ethnic Germans getting along quite well together for many centuries; as well as with Poles, Lusatians, Silesians, and many other peoples. Up until Hitler, Germans were considered good people to have around: They are so intelligent, so well organized, and also industrious that they are usually an asset to any country which will let them in. For example, in the 1300’s and 1400’s these German settlers into Bohemia engaged in manufacturing, such as glass-making and the like. Germans were also fruitful, and by 1800, even the Czech capital of Prague had a majority German population.
Through the next few centuries, a lot of history happened. During the Romantic Era, some nationalistic tensions developed between Czech and German speakers. The term “Sudetendeutsche” (“Sudeten Germans”) arose in the early 20th century.
The real problems started in the aftermath of World War I. The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was an event as catastrophic in its own way, as the later dissolution of the USSR. Austria-Hungary had kept together many nations and ethnic groups in a common entity, where they all had more or less equal rights. The resulting national units which arose from its ashes were not nearly as stable, from the geopolitical point of view.
In 1918 the Czechoslovak nation emerged, containing the lands of the former Bohemian Kingdom, plus chunks of Hungary. This new multi-ethnic state contained Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Hungarians, Poles and Ruthenians, who all mistrusted each other. Sudetenland was an issue from the very start (with its 90% ethnic German composition), and contributed to the overall instability of the new entity. A lot of Germans would have preferred to come under the jurisdiction of German or Austria, but were refused, and felt unfairly discriminated against. Separatist tendencies grew and were fostered by the Nazis.
In March of 1938, after Germany’s reunification with Austria, Hitler set his sights on the Sudetenland. He actually had a good claim, and the Western governments such as England and France were only too willing to accommodate him.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler in September and agreed to cede the Sudetenland to him, even though the Czech government was furious. They had previously promised a fight to the death, but now had to back down and agree to the cession.
And so it came to pass that the Sudetenland was annexed by Nazi Germany in October of 1938. And we all know the sequel to this story: In March of 1939 the rest of Czechoslovakia was dismembered: Hitler took the Czech chunk, Slovak Separatists organized a pro-Nazi satellite state; and Poland, the “hyena of Europe”, in the words of Winston Churchill, also took a slice of the borderlands.
The Sudetenland did fairly well under Nazi occupation. It was divided into administrative districts and ruled rather efficiently. Undesirables — Jews, Czechs and political dissidents — were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. On December 4, 1938 elections were held, in which the Nazi Party got 97.32% of the vote. Sudeten Germans flocked to join the Nazi Party in droves. The Nazis ended up with 17.34% of the population as card-carrying members; as compared to only 7.85% in Germany proper. This shows just how popular the Nazis were. In addition, Sudeten Germans also happened to be fluent in Czech, which made them invaluable administrators of the not-quite-as-enthusiastic Czech Protectorate.
Also recall (as another factor that could have really ticked off the Czechs) that official Nazi ideology deems Slavs as genetically inferior to Germans, although there is no logical reason for this, even within the crazy rules of Nazi logic, since Slavs are every bit as Indo-Aryan as the Germans. More, in fact, as the German language itself shows signs of “contamination” of the German race at the hands of a non-Aryan substrate – LOL! But I digress…
All of this explains why, when the tables were turned, Czechs entered into a carnival of retribution against their former neighbors…
[to be continued]