Czech Republic–Germany relations

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Czech-German relations
Map indicating locations of Czech Republic and Germany

Czech Republic

Germany

Czech–German relations date back one and a half millennia. Today, the two countries share 815 km of common borders. The Czech Republic has an embassy in Berlin, 3 general consulates (in Bonn, Dresden and Munich), and 6 honorary consulates (in Dortmund, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Nürnberg, Rostock and Stuttgart). Germany has an embassy in Prague. Both countries are full members of NATO and of the European Union.

Background[edit]

Bohemia and Moravia (the bulk of the modern Czech Republic) was settled in the 6th century by the Czechs, during the post-Roman migration of peoples. Later German settlers came to constitute a minority in the Czech lands and relations between the two communities were generally amiable during this period. After the extinction of the Czech Přemyslid dynasty, the Kingdom of Bohemia came to be ruled by the House of Luxembourg, the Jagiellonians, and finally the Habsburgs. During the Thirty Years' War, the Protestant Czechs sought to resist Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II's attempt at reintroducing Catholicism. After the Czechs' defeat at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, the Czech nobility and the educated Protestant population was slaughtered and exiled, the Czech lands were made a hereditary possession of the Austrian Empire and German was made the official language. The Czech language decreased in prominence, as the government and aristocracy operated in German, and became endangered until the Czech National Revival in the late 19th century. Tensions deteriorated between the Czechs and the Germans, and during World War I, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk convinced American President Woodrow Wilson to establish a Czechoslovak state in Central Europe on the principle of national self-determination, after three hundred years of Austrian domination. The Czech portion of the newly-formed state consisted of the bulk of the historic Kingdom of Bohemia, which left a significant German minority (20% of the total population) in the nation's borderlands.

After Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany, the Nazi German government sought to inflame nationalistic tensions in neighbouring Czechoslovakia, and Hitler instructed local Nazi leader Konrad Henlein, the leader of the German minority in the Czech borderlands, to make unreasonable demands on the Czech government and to attempt to paralyse the Czechoslovak democracy. Ethnic German nationalists backed by Hitler demanded the union of German-speaking districts with Germany. At the height of Western Appeasement of Nazi Germany, the British and French-backed Munich Agreement granted the German areas, including all of the crucial Czechoslovak border fortifications, to Germany. Despite the Czech-French alliance, Czech officials were not invited to negotiate and were informed of the agreement only after its conclusion. The defenceless Czechoslovak state was forced to give up one third of Slovakia to Hungary, and the Těšínsko area, containing the only railway between the Czech lands and Slovakia, to Poland. The Czechoslovak leadership fled to London and several months later Hitler seized the rest of Czechoslovakia. During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Nazi party destroyed the Czechoslovak state, the only Central European parliamentary democracy, and sought to "reintegrate" Bohemia and Moravia into the Nazi empire. This Nazi German policy took the form of so-called Grundplanung OA (Basic planning) from the summer of 1938, which included extermination of Czech nation, and later the genocidal Generalplan Ost.

At the conclusion of the war, as part of the general post-war flight and Allied expulsion of German minorities, the German population was expelled from Czechoslovakia. These expulsions were carried out by the army and wartime resistance forces. An estimated 2.4 million ethnic Germans were deported to East and West Germany, of whom several thousand perished in the population movement. There have been calls within Germany for the compensation of the refugees, which the Czech government has refused to entertain, citing the German occupation, wartime injustices, the German minority's support for the Nazi party, genocidal plans by the German government, and atrocities such as the Lidice Massacre.

Modern relations[edit]

After the end of the Cold War, relations warmed between the newly-reunified Federal Republic of Germany and the newly-democratic Czech Republic. On February 27, 1992, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Czechoslovak President Václav Havel signed a treaty of friendship.[1] In 2012, German President Joachim Gauck and Czech President Václav Klaus jointly visited Lidice, a Czech village razed to the ground by German forces in 1942, heralding a leap in Czech-German rapprochement.[2] As a result of the Schengen Agreement, there are no border checks between the two countries, and their borders are completely open to one another. Citizens from one state may also freely move to and work in the other state as a result of the European Union's freedom of movement for workers.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Detlef Brandes and Václav Kural (eds.): Der Weg in die Katastrophe. Deutsch-tschechoslowakische Beziehungen 1938–1947. Klartext, Essen 1994, 255 pp.
  • Václav Kural: Konflikt anstatt Gemeinschaft? Tschechen und Deutsche im tschechoslowakischen Staat (1918–1938). Ústav mezinárodních vztahů, Praha 2001, 359 pp.
  • Václav Kural: Místo společenství konflikt. Češi a Němci ve Velkoněmecké říši a cesta k odsunu (1938–1945). Ústav mezinárodních vztahů, Praha 1994, 296 pp.