German occupation of Czechoslovakia
The German occupation of Czechoslovakia (1938–1945) began with the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia's northern and western border regions, known collectively as the Sudetenland, under terms outlined by the Munich Agreement. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's pretext for this effort was the alleged privations suffered by the ethnic German population living in those regions. New and extensive Czechoslovak border fortifications were also located in the same area.
Following the Anschluss of Nazi Germany and Austria, in March 1938, the conquest of Czechoslovakia became Hitler's next ambition. The incorporation of the Sudetenland into Nazi Germany left the rest of Czechoslovakia weak and it became powerless to resist subsequent occupation. On 16 March 1939, the German Wehrmacht moved into the remainder of Czechoslovakia and, from Prague Castle, Hitler proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The occupation ended with the surrender of Germany following World War II.
- 1 Demands for Sudeten autonomy
- 2 Tensions between Germany and Czechoslovakia
- 3 The Munich Agreement
- 4 The first Vienna Award
- 5 The Second Republic (October 1938 to March 1939)
- 6 Division of Czechoslovakia
- 7 End of the war
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Demands for Sudeten autonomy
Sudeten and Carpathian Germans believed Czechoslovakia were instilling much oppression and hatred toward a sizeable German minority. Therefore, the notion of Sudeten autonomy began to arise. Moreover, due to the insurmountable German majority and distinct culture in Sudetenland, most argued that Sudetenland should control its own political agenda. On the other hand, President Beneš refused to capitulate since it would mean surrendering some of the most critical aspects of Czechoslovakia’s industrial and economic sectors that were heavily relied on to achieve stability in the region. Undoubtedly, Hitler’s staunch rhetoric regarding the unification of all Germans in Europe facilitated more radicalization and an inclination on Germans residing in Sudetenland to promote extreme right-wing nationalism.
Pro-Nazi leader Konrad Henlein in Czechoslovakia was content with the numerous demands for Sudeten autonomy and recognition by Czechoslovakia’s president Beneš. The subtle advances made by Germans into Sudetenland contributed to the Czech government imposing military crackdowns which aggravated the situation. Moreover, violent conflicts arose between German and Czech civilians, leaving many people wounded and dozens deceased. Henlein’s ‘8-point plan for introducing the means by which Sudeten autonomy would be conceived was unilaterally rejected by President Edvard Beneš. Furthermore, Czechoslovakian troops began to congregate at the western border between Czechoslovakia and Germany due to erroneous reports that German troops were accumulating at the border.
In fact, there were no German tanks stationed at the border. German engineer tests concluded that the border was so impermeable that Germany would suffer “disastrous” consequences, according to Speer. This only led to an increasing presence of Czech soldiers in Sudetenland which bolstered tensions between Germany and Czechoslovakia in regards to the sovereignty of the region.
Tensions between Germany and Czechoslovakia
According to New Statesman editor Martin Kingsley, over 75 million Germans occupied the area between Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia, preventing the Czechs from taking bold actions in suppressing activity near the border. In addition, Kingsley asserts that if mobilizations were to occur, that this would lead to war.
At this point, Czechoslovakia is virtually surrounded by hostile forces, with Hungary and Poland as neighbors. Although Hungary is not privy in attacking Czechoslovakia, Poland was more likely to be more malignant in the event of a German assault. The Soviet Union would not begin war preparations unless France begins to do so, and if that were to occur, then Nazi Germany would be obligated to move soldiers to its western border.
Due to Hitler’s political and military pursuits for acquiring Sudetenland, it is critical to examine the intentions of the conflict from Germany’s perspective. According to Kingsley, this can be underscored through various events in German history. First, the assassination of Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss in 1934  and the impending trial of Schuschnigg, the Austrian chancellor in 1938, are tantamount to arguably grotesque behavior stemming from fascism.
The Munich Agreement
Due to the increasing presence of Germans occupying Austria in March 1938, Adolf Hitler shifted his focus to Sudetenland, a minute portion of Czechoslovakia consisting primarily of Germans. The migration of Germans into Czechoslovakia is mostly attributed to the formation of the Sudeten German Party established in 1931 under Konrad Henlein, who aspired to gain the region under German rule. Although the party was not officially recognized by the Czechoslovak government, the Sudetenland German Party was highly favored among Sudeten Germans.
Reaction to Germany’s advances into Czechoslovakia was predominantly negative as a result of the land’s significant amount of natural resources, industrial, and domestic sectors of its economy, like its banking system. This prompted Czechoslovakian president Edvard Beneš to station troops in the mountains of Sudetenland to deter further unwarranted expansions. Nevertheless, as the crisis continued to grow and fears of war began circulating around Europe, Great Britain and France began discussing diplomatic measures to defuse the situation. To this end, British Prime Minister sent a telegram to Hitler asking for meeting to discuss a feasible, peaceful solution. On September 15, Hitler and Chamberlain officially convened in Berchtesgaden. During this meeting, Hitler attempted to compel Chamberlain to concede Germany’s full control over Sudetenland, citing oppression of Sudeten Germans. Chamberlain, unable to comply with Hitler’s demands, returned to deliberate with his Cabinet in London. Hitler did, however, agree to refrain from engaging militarily in Sudetenland.
Despite Chamberlain’s prolonged efforts in preventing German control of Sudetenland, he was authorized by the Cabinet to yield Sudetenland to Germany, with French approval. On September 19, ambassadors from France and Great Britain met with the Czechoslovak government to finalize the concession of Sudetenland, an area where Germans comprised over 50% of the population. However, Hitler remained dissatisfied with the conditions of the Anglo-French resolution. In response, Hitler demanded that German troops be given access to occupy Sudetenland, non-Germans would be banished, and that Hungary and Poland surrender territories as well. Astounded, Chamberlain initially refused, prompting Britain and France to begin war preparations. At the time, Germans were not receptive to the idea of more warfare, prompting Hitler to send a letter to Chamberlain ensuring the safety of Czechoslovakia if Sudetenland was given to Germany. Chamberlain, desperate to prevent war, replied by stating that he was willing to continue negotiations and enlisted the help of Italian leader Benito Mussolini to further as a means to garner support.
On September 29, Chamberlain, Hitler, and Mussolini were joined by French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier to form an official agreement. Though deliberations continued throughout the day, the final language contained in the agreement was very similar to Hitler’s demands. In effect, the agreement authorized Germany to annex Sudetenland. In return, this would mark the end of German expansion into other European nations. This agreement is known as the Munich Agreement, named after the place in which it was created. The treaty was signed by 1:00 AM the next day, allowing German troops to begin entering Sudetenland on October 1, ending on October 10. The Czechoslovak delegation, who were excluded from deliberations, were displeased with the agreement but were obligated to concur since British and French officials stated that if a war were to erupt, they would be held accountable.
How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.
—Neville Chamberlain, September 27, 1938, 8 p.m. radio broadcast
On 5 October 1938, Beneš resigned as President of Czechoslovakia, realising that the fall of Czechoslovakia was a fait accompli. Following the outbreak of World War II, he would form a Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London.
The first Vienna Award
In early November 1938, under the first Vienna Award, which was a result of the Munich agreement, Czechoslovakia (and later Slovakia) — after it had failed to reach a compromise with Hungary and Poland — was forced by Germany and Italy to cede southern Slovakia (one third of Slovak territory) to Hungary, while Poland invaded Zaolzie territory shortly after.
As a result, Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia lost about 38% of their combined area to Germany, with some 3.2 million German and 750,000 Czech inhabitants. Hungary, in turn, received 11,882 km2 (4,588 sq mi) in southern Slovakia and southern Ruthenia; according to a 1941 census, about 86.5% of the population in this territory was Hungarian. Meanwhile Poland annexed the town of Český Těšín with the surrounding area (some 906 km2 (350 sq mi), some 250,000 inhabitants, Poles made about 36% of population) and two minor border areas in northern Slovakia, more precisely in the regions Spiš and Orava. (226 km2 (87 sq mi), 4,280 inhabitants, only 0.3% Poles).
Soon after Munich, 115,000 Czechs and 30,000 Germans fled to the remaining rump of Czechoslovakia. According to the Institute for Refugee Assistance, the actual count of refugees on 1 March 1939 stood at almost 150,000.
On 4 December 1938, there were elections in Reichsgau Sudetenland, in which 97.32% of the adult population voted for Nazi Party. About 500,000 Sudeten Germans joined the Nazi Party which was 17.34% of the German population in Sudetenland (the average Nazi Party participation in Nazi Germany was 7.85%). This means the Sudetenland was the most "pro-Nazi" region in the Third Reich. Because of their knowledge of the Czech language, many Sudeten Germans were employed in the administration of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and in Nazi organizations (Gestapo, etc.) The most notable was Karl Hermann Frank, the SS and police general and Secretary of State in the Protectorate.
The Second Republic (October 1938 to March 1939)
|Part of a series on the|
|History of Czechoslovakia|
The greatly weakened Czechoslovak Republic was forced to grant major concessions to the non-Czechs. The executive committee of the Slovak People's Party met at Žilina on 5 October 1938, and with the acquiescence of all Slovak parties except the Social Democrats formed an autonomous Slovak government under Jozef Tiso. Similarly, the two major factions in Subcarpathian Ruthenia, the Russophiles and Ukrainophiles, agreed on the establishment of an autonomous government, which was constituted on 8 October. Reflecting the spread of modern Ukrainian national consciousness, the pro-Ukrainian faction, led by Avhustyn Voloshyn, gained control of the local government and Subcarpathian Ruthenia was renamed Carpatho-Ukraine.
A last-ditch attempt to save Czecho-Slovakia from total ruin was made by the British and French governments, who on 27 January 1939, concluded an agreement of financial assistance with the Czech government. In this agreement, the British and French governments undertook to lend the Czech government ₤8 million and make a gift of ₤4 million. Part of the funds was allocated to help resettle Czechs who had fled from territories lost to Czechoslovakia in the Munich Agreement or the Vienna Arbitration Award.
In November 1938, Emil Hácha — succeeding Beneš — was elected president of the federated Second Republic, renamed Czecho-Slovakia and consisting of three parts: Bohemia and Moravia, Slovakia, and Carpatho-Ukraine. Lacking its natural frontier and having lost its costly system of border fortification, the new state was militarily indefensible. In January 1939, negotiations between Germany and Poland broke down. Hitler — intent on war against Poland — needed to eliminate Czechoslovakia first. He scheduled a German invasion of Bohemia and Moravia for the morning of 15 March. In the interim, he negotiated with the Slovak People's Party and with Hungary to prepare the dismemberment of the republic before the invasion. On 13 March, he invited Tiso to Berlin and on 14 March, the Slovak Diet convened and unanimously declared Slovak independence. Carpatho-Ukraine also declared independence but Hungarian troops occupied it on 15 March and eastern Slovakia on 23 March.
Hitler summoned President Hácha to Berlin and during the early hours of 15 March, informed Hácha of the imminent German invasion. Threatening a Luftwaffe attack on Prague, Hitler persuaded Hácha to order the capitulation of the Czechoslovak army. Hácha suffered a heart attack during the meeting, and had to be kept awake by medical staff, eventually giving in and accepting Hitler's surrender terms. Then on the morning of 15 March, German troops entered Bohemia and Moravia, meeting practically no resistance (the only instance of organized resistance took place in Místek where an infantry company commanded by Karel Pavlík fought invading German troops). The Hungarian invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine encountered resistance but the Hungarian army quickly crushed it. On 16 March, Hitler went to Czechoslovakia and from Prague Castle proclaimed the German protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Thus, independent Czechoslovakia collapsed in the wake of foreign aggression and internal tensions. Subsequently, interwar Czechoslovakia has been idealized by its proponents as the only bastion of democracy surrounded by authoritarian and fascist regimes. It has also been condemned by its detractors as an artificial and unworkable creation of intellectuals supported by the great powers. Both views have some validity. Interwar Czechoslovakia comprised lands and peoples that were far from being integrated into a modern nation-state. Moreover, the dominant Czechs — who had suffered political discrimination under the Habsburgs — were not able to cope with the demands of other nationalities; however, some of the minority demands served as mere pretexts to justify intervention by Nazi Germany. Czechoslovakia was able to maintain a viable economy and a democratic political system under the adverse circumstances of the inter-war period.
Division of Czechoslovakia
Division of Pre-War Czechoslovakia
Shortly before World War II, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist. Its territory was divided into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the newly declared Slovak State while the considerable part of Czechoslovakia was directly joined to the Third Reich. Some parts (e.g., Zaolzie, Southern Slovakia) were annexed by Poland and Hungary in the fall of 1938. The Zaolzie region was directly joined to the Third Reich after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.
The German economy — burdened by heavy militarisation — urgently needed foreign currency. Setting up an artificially high exchange rate between the Czechoslovak Koruna and the Reichsmark brought consumer goods to Germans (and soon created shortages in the Czech lands).
Czechoslovakia was a major manufacturer of machine guns, tanks, and artillery, most of which were assembled in the Škoda factory and had a modern army of 35 divisions. Many of these factories continued to produce Czech designs until factories were converted for German designs. Czechoslovakia also had other major manufacturing companies. Entire steel and chemical factories were moved from Czechoslovakia and reassembled in Linz, Austria which incidentally remains a heavily industrialized sector of the country.
Beneš—the leader of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile — together with František Moravec — head of Czechoslovak military intelligence—organized and coordinated a resistance network. Hácha, Prime Minister Alois Eliáš, and the Czech resistance acknowledged Beneš's leadership. Active collaboration between London and the Czechoslovak home front was maintained throughout the war years. The most important event of the resistance was the Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, SS leader Heinrich Himmler's deputy and the then Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Infuriated, Hitler ordered the arrest and execution of 10,000 randomly selected Czechs, but, after consultations, he reduced his response. Over 10,000 were arrested, and at least 1,300 executed. The assassination resulted in one of the most well-known reprisals of the war. The villages of Lidice and Ležáky were completely destroyed by the Nazis; all men over 16 years of age from the village were murdered and the rest of the population was sent to Nazi concentration camps where many women and nearly all the children were killed.
The Czech resistance comprised four main groups:
- The army command coordinated with a multitude of spontaneous groupings to form the Defense of the Nation (Obrana národa, ON) with branches in Britain and France. Czechoslovak units and formations with overwhelming majority of Czechs (cca 82–85%) served with the Polish Army (Czechoslovak Legion), the French Army, the Royal Air Force, the British Army (the 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade), and the Red Army (I Corps). Thousands of Czech troops fought alongside the British during the war in areas such as North Africa and Palestine. Among other, Czech fighter pilot, sergeant Josef František was one of the most famous Czech personalities as being among The Few's top aces in the Battle of Britain.
- Beneš's collaborators, led by Prokop Drtina, created the Political Center (Politické ústředí, PÚ). The PÚ was nearly destroyed by arrests in November 1939, after which younger politicians took control.
- Social democrats and leftist intellectuals, in association with such groups as trade-unions and educational institutions, constituted the Committee of the Petition We Remain Faithful (Petiční výbor Věrni zůstaneme, PVVZ).
- The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) was the fourth major resistance group. The KSČ had been one of over 20 political parties in the democratic First Republic, but it had never gained sufficient votes to unsettle the democratic government. After the Munich Agreement, the leadership of the KSČ moved to Moscow and the party went underground. Until 1943, however, KSČ resistance was weak. The Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in 1939 had left the KSČ in disarray. But ever faithful to the Soviet line, the KSČ began a more active struggle against the Nazis after Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941.
The democratic groups — ON, PÚ, and PVVZ — united in early 1940 and formed the Central Committee of the Home Resistance (Ústřední výbor odboje domácího, ÚVOD). Involved primarily in intelligence gathering, the ÚVOD cooperated with a Soviet intelligence organization in Prague. Following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the democratic groups attempted to create a united front that would include the KSČ. Heydrich's appointment in the fall thwarted these efforts. By mid-1942, the Nazis had succeeded in exterminating the most experienced elements of the Czech resistance forces.
Czech forces regrouped in 1942–1943. The Council of the Three (R3) — in which the communist underground was also represented — emerged as the focal point of the resistance. The R3 prepared to assist the liberating armies of the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In cooperation with Red Army partisan units, the R3 developed a guerrilla structure.
Guerrilla activity intensified with rising number of parachuted units in 1944, leading to establishment of partisan groups, such as 1st Czechoslovak Partisan Brigade of Jan Žižka, Jan Kozina Brigade or Mistr Jan Hus Brigade, and especially after the formation of a provisional Czechoslovak government in Košice on 4 April 1945. "National committees" took over the administration of towns as the Germans were expelled. More than 4,850 such committees were formed between 1944 and the end of the war under the supervision of the Red Army. On 5 May, a national uprising began spontaneously in Prague, and the newly formed Czech National Council (Česká národní rada) almost immediately assumed leadership of the revolt. Over 1,600 barricades were erected throughout the city, and some 30,000 Czech men and women battled for three days against 37,000–40,000 German troops backed by tanks and artillery. On 8 May, the German Wehrmacht capitulated; Soviet troops arrived on 9 May.
Slovak National Uprising
The Slovak National Uprising ("1944 Uprising") was an armed struggle between Nazi German Wehrmacht forces and rebel Slovak troops from August–October 1944. It was centered at Banská Bystrica.
The rebel Slovak Army, formed to fight the Nazis, had an estimated 18,000 soldiers in August, a total which first increased to 47,000 after mobilisation on 9 September 1944, and later to 60,000, plus 20,000 partisans. However, in late August, German troops were able to disarm the Eastern Slovak Army, which was the best equipped, and thus significantly decreased the power of the Slovak Army. Many members of this force were sent to concentration camps in the Third Reich; others escaped and joined partisan units or returned home.
The Slovaks were aided in the Uprising by soldiers and partisans from the Soviet Union, France, Czech Republic and Poland. In total, 32 nations were involved in the Uprising.
Edvard Beneš had resigned as president of the first Czechoslovak Republic on 5 October 1938 after the Nazi coup. In London, he and other Czechoslovak exiles organized a Czechoslovak government-in-exile and negotiated to obtain international recognition for the government and a renunciation of the Munich Agreement and its consequences. After World War II broke out, a Czechoslovak national committee was constituted in France, and under Beneš's presidency sought international recognition as the exiled government of Czechoslovakia. This attempt led to some minor successes, such as the French-Czechoslovak treaty of 2 October 1939, which allowed for the reconstitution of the Czechoslovak army on French territory, yet full recognition was not reached. (The Czechoslovak army in France was established on 24 January 1940, and units of its 1st Infantry Division took part in the last stages of the Battle of France, as did some Czechoslovak fighter pilots in various French Fighter squadrons.)
Beneš hoped for a restoration of the Czechoslovak state in its pre-Munich form after the anticipated Allied victory, a false hope. The government in exile—with Beneš as president of republic—was set up in June 1940 in exile in London, with the President living at Aston Abbotts. On 18 July 1940, it was recognised by the British government. Belatedly, the Soviet Union (in the summer of 1941) and the U.S. (in winter) recognised the exiled government. In 1942, Allied repudiation of the Munich Agreement established the political and legal continuity of the First Republic and de jure recognition of Beneš's de facto presidency. The success of the Operation Anthropoid — which resulted in the British backed assassination of one of Hitler's top henchmen, Reinhard Heydrich, by Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš on 27 May — influenced the Allies in this repudiation.
The Munich Agreement had been precipitated by the subversive activities of the Sudeten Germans. During the latter years of the war, Beneš worked toward resolving the German minority problem and received consent from the Allies for a solution based on a postwar transfer of the Sudeten German population. The First Republic had been committed to a Western policy in foreign affairs. The Munich Agreement was the outcome. Beneš determined to strengthen Czechoslovak security against future German aggression through alliances with Poland and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, however, objected to a tripartite Czechoslovak-Polish-Soviet commitment. In December 1943, Beneš's government concluded a treaty just with the Soviets.
Beneš's interest in maintaining friendly relations with the Soviet Union was motivated also by his desire to avoid Soviet encouragement of a post-war communist coup in Czechoslovakia. Beneš worked to bring Czechoslovak communist exiles in Britain into cooperation with his government, offering far-reaching concessions, including nationalization of heavy industry and the creation of local people's committees at the war's end. In March 1945, he gave key cabinet positions to Czechoslovak communist exiles in Moscow.
Especially after the Nazi reprisals for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, most of the Czech resistance groups demanded, based on German Nazi terror during occupation, the "final solution of the German question" (Czech: konečné řešení německé otázky) which would have to be "solved" by deportation of the ethnic Germans from their homeland. These reprisals included massacres in villages Lidice and Ležáky, although these villages were not connected with Czech resistance.
These demands were adopted by the Government-in-Exile, which sought the support of the Allies for this proposal, beginning in 1943. During the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Government-in-Exile promulgated a series of laws that are now referred to as the "Beneš decrees". One part of these decrees dealt with the status of ethnic Germans and Hungarians in postwar Czechoslovakia, and laid the ground for the deportation of some 3,000,000 Germans and Hungarians from the land that had been their home for centuries (see expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia, and Hungarians in Slovakia). The Beneš decrees declared that German property was to be confiscated without compensation. However, the final agreement authorizing the forced population transfer of the Germans was not reached until 2 August 1945 at the end of the Potsdam Conference.
Division of Czechoslovakia in Mid-Post War Setting
There are several theories surrounding the possible causes for the ultimate partition of Czechoslovakia. The first one being attributed to historical reasons, namely, that the nation was composed of two distinguishable groups: Czechs and Slovaks. Even though the country existed as a single, unified unit for 75 years, it was simply a façade facilitated by fears of German and Hungarian irredentism and Soviet intervention. Historians assert that if it weren’t for these reasons, the nation would have split much earlier.
The second reason is the staggering differences in the nations’ economies. The Czech Republic, for instance, had a much more developed economic system as compared to Slovak’s. The industrial sectors of the country were mostly located in the Czech Republic, since it was a primary manufacturer of weapons and artillery. Slovakia, a much more rural area, therefore, would have more difficulty transitioning to an industrialized zone. Lastly, the political structure and the failed constitutional negotiations of the government led some Czechs and Slovaks to concur in separating. The constitution, adopted by the communist federalization of 1969, formed a bicameral legislature, one of which was based on proportional representation and the other on equal representation. The 1969 constitution required a 60 percent majority in both houses in order to amend it. Because both sides wielded veto power, and Czechs preferred a more centralized political system while the Slovaks leaned more towards a confederal system, both sides deemed it necessary to partition the state.
End of the war
On 8 May 1944, Beneš signed an agreement with Soviet leaders stipulating that Czechoslovak territory liberated by Soviet armies would be placed under Czechoslovak civilian control.
On 21 September, Czechoslovak troops formed in the Soviet Union liberated the village Kalinov, the first liberated settlement of Czechoslovakia near the Dukla Pass in northeastern Slovakia. Czechoslovakia was liberated mostly by Soviet troops (the Red Army), supported by Czech and Slovak resistance, from the east to the west; only southwestern Bohemia was liberated by other Allied troops from the west. Except for the brutalities of the German occupation in Bohemia and Moravia (after the August 1944 Slovak National Uprising also in Slovakia), Czechoslovakia suffered relatively little from the war. Even at the end of the war, German troops massacred Czech civilians, as was for example in Massacre in Trhová Kamenice or Massacre in Javoříčko.
A provisional Czechoslovak government was established by the Soviets in the eastern Slovak city of Košice on 4 April 1945. "National committees" (supervised by the Red Army) took over the administration of towns as the Germans were expelled. Bratislava was taken by the Soviets on 4 April. Prague was taken on 9 May by Soviet troops during the Prague Offensive. When the Soviets arrived, Prague was already in a general state of confusion due to the Prague Uprising. Soviet and other Allied troops were withdrawn from Czechoslovakia in the same year.
On 5 May 1945, in the last moments of the war in Europe, the Prague uprising (Czech: Pražské povstání) began. It was an attempt by the Czech resistance to liberate the city of Prague from German occupation during World War II. The uprising went on until 8 May 1945, ending in a ceasefire the day before the arrival of the Red Army and one day after Victory in Europe Day.
Expulsion of Germans and Hungarians from Czechoslovakia
In May 1945, Czechoslovak troops took possession of the borderland. A Czechoslovak administrative commission composed exclusively of Czechs was established. Sudeten Germans were subjected to restrictive measures and conscripted for compulsory labor. On 15 June, however, Beneš called Czechoslovak authorities to order. In July, Czechoslovak representatives addressed the Potsdam Conference (the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union) and presented plans for a "humane and orderly transfer" of the Sudeten German population. There were substantial exceptions from expulsions that applied to about 244,000 ethnic Germans who were allowed to remain in Czechoslovakia.
Following groups of ethnic Germans were not deported:
- persons crucial for industries
- those married with ethnic Czechs
Following World War II, Czechoslovakia faced a significant challenge, namely how the country would address the excessive levels of unwanted ethnic groups in the state. Some of these groups were responsible for starting WWII. In essence, Czechoslovakia incurred a “cleansing crisis.” To this end, President Edvard Benes issued a decree proclaiming that Germans and Magyars were to be stripped of Czechoslovak citizenship. The decree did, however, establish exemptions for Germans and Magyars who officially registered and identified as Czechs or Slovaks.
Thus, an exodus of Germans from Czechoslovakia ensued. German nations known as the Reichsdeutsche and the Volksdeutsche migrated into areas known as post-war Germany and post-war Austria. The total number of Germans involved in the movement amounted to at least 12 million people, with some estimates reaching 14 million, making the movement the largest transfer of any ethnic group in modern history.
Mandatory migrations occurred throughout Europe in 1945. The Soviet Red Army continued to advance westwards, causing millions of ethinic Germans to become refugees.
The mass migrations also contributed to several casualties, from approximately 500,000 to 2 million Germans. These deaths were attributed to deaths from famine, illness, and acts of violence. Out of the 12 million Germans which migrated from Europe, about 3 million originated from Czechoslovakia, or 25% of the total migrations. Lastly, as the expulsions came to an end, only 200,000 Germans remained in Czechoslovakia, with 20,000 residing in Slovakia.
The displacement of Sudeten Germans was greatly enhanced by the provisions of the Potsdam Conference. The agreement, formed by the three superpowers, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union in 1945, reestablished national borders and authorized certain expulsions of Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. The expulsions were finished by 1950, resulting in the number of ethnic Germans remaining in Eastern Europe at 2.6 billion.
On the other hand, the Slovak portion of Czechoslovakia was predominantly occupied by Hungarians, another ethnic group which needed to be addressed. The Vienna Arbitration of 1938 and the annexation of southern parts of Slovakia significantly worsened relations with Czechs and Hungarians. Countries like Prague and Bratislava considered Hungarians guilty of treason against the Czechoslovak Republic, the pre-Munich crisis, the Vienna Arbitration, and finally the Munich Agreement, condoning fascism, and working cooperatively with Nazi Germany to promote violence against Czechs and Slovaks during the war.
Hungarians living in postwar Czechoslovakia was largely seen as the Slovak problem, due to the fact that 600,000-650,000 of Czechoslovakia’s Magyars lived in the southeastern areas of Slovakia in 1946. The Kosice Program of 1945, which stipulated the political and social paradigm for Hungarians still residing in Czechoslovakia after the war, stated that Hungarians, who migrated to Czechoslovakia during the occupation in 1938, were forced to leave immediately. Otherwise, Hungarians who came to the country prior to 1938 were allowed to keep their citizenship if they were able to prove their allegiance to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and democracy. Simultaneously, the Prague and Bratislava governments required that the “truly democratic” Hungarians cleanse themselves of the Magyar minority consisting of the fascist and anti-Slovak factions.
- Fall Grün, the Nazi invasion plan for Czechoslovakia rendered obsolete by the Munich Agreement.
- Lety concentration camp
- Hodonin concentration camp
- Czechoslovak border fortifications – built 1935–1938 against Nazi Germany
- Battle of Czajánek's barracks
- Karel Pavlík
- Western betrayal
- Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts (2005). World War II: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-57607-999-6.
- Martin, Kingsley The Czech crisis and the New Statesman
- Martin, Kinglsey The Czech crisis and the New Statesman
- Siwek, Tadeusz (not dated). "Statystyczni i niestatystyczni Polacy w Republice Czeskiej". Wspólnota Polska.
- Forced displacement of Czech population under Nazis in 1938 and 1943, Radio Prague
- Zimmermann, Volker: Die Sudetendeutschen im NS-Staat. Politik und Stimmung der Bevölkerung im Reichsgau Sudetenland (1938–1945). Essen 1999. (ISBN 3884747703)
- Text of the agreement in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 196, pp. 288–301.
- The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich
- Czechoslovak Bn. no. 11 on British & Commonwealth Orders of Battle
- Naše geografická situace a historie naší země od 10. století tu může býti všem dostatečným důvodem a dokladem k tomu, že toto konečné řešení německé otázky u nás je naprosto nezbytné, jedině správné a opravdu logické.
- HISTORY OF LIDICE VILLAGE
- Československo-sovětské vztahy v diplomatických jednáních 1939–1945. Dokumenty. Díl 2 (červenec 1943 – březen 1945). Praha. 1999. (ISBN 808547557X)
- Eyal, Gil The Origins of Postcommunist Elites: From Prague Spring to the Breakup of Czechoslovakia
- THE 5TH EXHIBITION: THE ANNALS OF THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR REFLECTED IN WAR MEMORIALS
- Statistický lexikon obcí v Republice československé I. Země česká. Prague. 1934.
Statistický lexikon obcí v Republice československé II. Země moravskoslezská. Prague. 1935.
- Cichopek-Gajraj, Anna Negotiating Jewish belonging in postwar Slovakia
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2008)|