The Darker Side Of Victory – How Czechs Punished Germans – Part III

Dear Readers:

Continuing with this story about the end of the war in Czechoslovakia, and how the Czechs dealt with their ethnic German population in the aftermath.  Author Georgiy Zotov stipulates that the ethnic Germans were not innocent lambs.  As proud “Aryans” they greeted Hitler ecstatically and were more than delighted to join the Reich.  On the other hand, maybe people can’t really blame them for wanting out of the failed Czechoslovak state, a state that the Western “democracies” themselves had given up on, especially with Hitler promising them a better life and fairy-tale future.

Reichsstatthalter Konrad Henlein

On the third hand, these Germans, puffed up with the racialist ideology claiming they were better than Slavs, were quite zealous in helping the Nazis to oppress those not deemed as “exceptional” as themselves.  A Sudeten German politician named Konrad Henlein headed the so-called “Fifth Column” and was rewarded with an appointment as Reichsstatthalter for the Sudetenland.  Many other Sudeten Germans took up posts in the Wehrmacht and SS Divisions.  As already noted, they rushed in droves to join the Nazi Party in numbers greater proportionately, than even the regular Germans in Germany proper.

Having quickly and efficiently absorbed the Sudetenland:  On March 14, 1939 the German army just reached out and took the remainder of the former Czechoslovakia, losing a measly six soldiers in the conflict!  The Czechoslovak army was already broken in spirit and offered virtually no resistance.  The Nazis quickly established a “Protectorate” of Bohemia and Moravia and moved 350,000 Czechs to work in German arms factories.  The demoralized Czechs offered no resistance in terms of any partisan activities or an active Underground, with the exception of a few isolated assassinations of German occupiers.  But even the most famous incident, the assassination of SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich (in 1942), was not a grassroots action on the part of angry Czechs, but rather a British Special Ops affair called Operation Anthropoid.

[yalensis:  One can only wonder what the Brits hoped to accomplish with this assassination, since it changed nothing and only led to mass SS reprisals against innocent Czech civilians.  And, just in general terms, any “Undergrounds” in Nazi-occupied Europe were just ineffective window-dressing and mostly mythological.  The sad reality is that nothing could ever defeat the mighty Nazi army except an equal and opposite army.]

British-paid boneheads assassinate Heydrich. (I think this photo is just a reconstruction.)

And speaking of (equal + opposite) army, namely the Red Army, it wasn’t until after the fall of Berlin and just 4 days prior to the capitulation of the Reich, that the Czechs got up the nerve to rebel against the Hitlerites.  One of the reason the Czechs were so timid [aside from intelligent human caution] is precisely the zealotry of the Sudeten residents.  Those people were still fanatics, and the Czechs had learned not to say anything bad, or even look sideways at these representatives of “the ruling Aryan race” in their midst.  Those Sudetenlanders were quick to denounce and arrest anyone who displeased them.  And just because Liberation is near, doesn’t mean that a lot of bad things couldn’t happen in just the course of a few days.

Following the (mostly) Soviet Red Army defeat of Hitler, the tables suddenly turned.  The Czechs instantly realized that they now had the upper hand!  Czechoslovak President-in-Exile Edvard Beneš, from his safe perch in London, at once became hyperactive:  Grabbing his pen, he started writing a bunch of decrees, the thrust of which was to punish punish punish the Sudeten Germans for their treachery.

[to be continued]

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3 Responses to The Darker Side Of Victory – How Czechs Punished Germans – Part III

  1. Pavlo Svolochenko says:

    Under his leadership, his local association of the Turnerband continued to grow, and Henlein became a well-known figure in the Sudetenland.[4] During this time, Henlein worked very closely with another Turnerband leader, Heinz Rutha, who wrote articles arguing for the Turnerband to become a type of political party which would nurture völkisch ideas amongst the youth.[4] In July 1923, Rutha first met Henlein when he heard the latter give a “fiery speech” at the local turner club, and the two become inseparably close as the two shared a common interest in promoting a sense of völkisch-tinged nationalism together with physical activities amongst young men (neither Henlein nor Rutha ever had much interest in young women).[5] Rutha was active in the Wandervogel youth movement where he took young men out for long camping trips in the Sudeten mountains and forests, where they would contemplate the beauties of nature, sing German nationalist songs, and cultivate a sense of brotherhood.[5] Rutha, who believed in the unity of “body and soul”, often saying that healthy male bodies made for a healthy race, had decided to link his wandervogel group with the turner movement.[5]

    For Henlein, preserving a sense of masculinity and with it “healthy” male bodies was the key concern for his work with the Turnerband.[2] The British historian Mark Cornwall noted that Henlein’s language was very gendered as he always spoke about preserving the “German male hero” which was his ideal of what a Sudeten man should be.[6] In an article in 1925, Henlein urged his followers to be “complete men” and “dress in a manly way!”[6] Reflecting his fear that men were starting to “go soft” becoming like women, Henlein wrote: “Our age bears all the signs of decadence and decline. Mannestum (maleness) and a sense of heroism have been rare among us Germans; a weaker, slacker, more effeminate trait is dominant, something emasculating, which will never be constructive for our people!”[6] Through Henlein’s colleagues found him to be a friendly and affable man, who was a natural mediator, he was well known as a tough disciplinarian who imposed rigorously demanding and quasi-military training on the young men involved in his gym club.”[6]

    As the men in Henlein’s club were noticeably more successful at sports than those from elsewhere, from 1926 Henlein became an increasingly well known figure in the Sudetenland.[6] That same year, young men from Henlein’s club in Asch beat several Czech athletics in a gymnastics competition in Prague, a success that won Henlein much attention in the Sudetenland.”[6] Henlein’s mentor Rutha called for an youthful männerbund (male elite) whose bodies were to be as well developed as their minds, who would serve as the leadership cadre for the Sudeten community.”[6] Though Henlein did not entirely embrace the barely veiled homo-eroticism of Rutha’s männerbund concept which celebrated the beauty of the male body, the concept of a männerbund of Führeren (leaders) who were to command unconditional loyalty from the entire Sudeten community influenced Henlein’s politics.

    Henlein attempted to place his long-term followers in key positions in his Gau, which caused him starting in the spring of 1939 to become locked into a battle over patronage with Reinhard Heydrich.[12] Cornwall described the Henlein-Heydrich struggle as between two men who were “ideologically close” with the principle differences between Henlein’s emphasis on Sudeten “particularism” vs. Heydrich’s Großdeutschland nationalism, and over the völkisch fanatic Heydrich’s disgust at Henlein’s attempt to create a “big tent” right-wing party in the 1930s.[12] Heydrich felt that Henlein should have presented the SdP as an unambiguous völkisch party, which for him indicated that Henlein was “soft”, one of the gravest insults that the self-proclaimed “hard man” Heydrich could apply. In late 1939, Heydrich struck at Henlein by arresting over 50 leading Sudeten Nazis—all of whom were closely associated with Henlein’s mentor Heinz Rutha—on charges of being part of a homosexual group whose used their positions in the SdP in the 1930s to recruit young men for sex.[12] Heydrich chose to let the accused go on trial in early 1940 rather than taking them into “protective custody”, when the courts heard lurid stories of how in the 1930s the SdP leaders had engaged in homosexual orgies.’

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