Sudeten German Party

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Sudeten German Party
Leader Konrad Henlein
Founded 1 October 1933
(as Sudetendeutsche Heimatfront)
Dissolved 5 November 1938
Preceded by German National Socialist Workers' Party (DNSAP);
German National Party (DNP)
Succeeded by NSDAP
Paramilitary wings Volkssport;
Freiwilliger deutscher Schutzdienst (FS);
Sudetendeutsches Freikorps (SFK)
Membership 1.35 million in 1938
Ideology Fascism;
Nazism
Political position Far right
International affiliation None
Colors Black, red, black
Party flag
Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg

The Sudeten German Party (German: Sudetendeutsche Partei, SdP, Czech: Sudetoněmecká strana) was created by Konrad Henlein under the name Sudetendeutsche Heimatfront ("Front of Sudeten German Homeland") on October 1, 1933, some months after the state of Czechoslovakia had outlawed the German National Socialist Workers' Party (Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpatei, DNSAP). In April 1935, the party was renamed Sudetendeutsche Partei following a mandatory demand of the Czechoslovak government.

History[edit]

In 1903, a group of Sudeten Germans living among the Czech population in the Bohemian crown lands of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had created the German Workers' Party (DAP). Influenced by the ideas of Pan-Germanism and Anti-Slavism, they opposed the Czech National Revival movement advocated by the Young Czech Party. The history of this party is centered on the cities of Eger (German for present-day Cheb) and Aussig (Ústí nad Labem), it originated and gave the impetus for Austrian National Socialism.

German settlement areas (pink) of Austria–Hungary, 1911

At the end of World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire broke up into several nation states. The DAP had been renamed German National Socialist Workers' Party on 5 May 1918 and upon the proclamation of Czechoslovakia claimed the right of self-determination in the predominantly German-settled Sudetenland and German Bohemian territories, demanding the affiliation with the newly established Republic of German-Austria. However, the new Czech-dominated government stood on the unity of the Bohemian (or now called Czech) lands, as confirmed by the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and considered the Pan-German party to be offensive and dangerous for the existence of the country. The Czechoslovakian DNSAP led by Hans Knirsch together with the conservative German National Party (Deutsche Nationalpartei, DNP) became the main proponent of so-called "negativism", the general tendency among the Sudeten Germans of refusing to accept the legitimation of the Czechoslovak state. Under Knirsch's successor Rudolf Jung the party increasingly orientated itself by the rise of the Nazi Party in the German Weimar Republic. In 1933 both the DNSAP and DNP decided to dissolve in order to prevent the imminent ban by the Prague government.

Konrad Henlein[edit]

Henlein speaking in Carlsbad, 1937

However, the newly established SdP did not see itself as a successor of the DNSAP; in fact, SdP leader Konrad Henlein sharply rejected the idea. He himself at first advocated the Ständestaat concept of the Austrofascist movement according to the ideas developed by Othmar Spann and would have rather preferred the affiliation with the Federal State of Austria than with Nazi Germany. In his earlier speeches (up until 1937), Henlein stressed his distance from German National Socialism, affirming loyalty to the Czechoslovak state and stressing approval of the idea of a cantonal system and individual freedom. Nevertheless he later described his attitude—speaking to Nazi leaders—as merely tactical. When in 1935 Karl Hermann Frank became deputy leader, the SdP gradually adopted the DNSAP tradition and turned towards a more radical stance.

In the parliamentary election of May 1935, the SdP with 1,249,534 (15.2%) of the votes cast became the strongest of all Czechoslovakian parties (including the Czech parties) and won about 68% of the German votes in Czechoslovakia, thus surpassing the German Social Democratic Workers Party, the German Christian Social People's Party and the Farmers' League. Meanwhile the influence exerted by the German Nazi dictatorship rose and from 1935 several groups within the party were financed from Germany. Adolf Hitler in November 1937, according to the Hossbach Memorandum, had openly declared his intention to separate the Sudetenland from the Czechoslovak state, and the SdP officially coordinated this policy with Nazi leaders in order to integrate the German-speaking parts of Bohemia and Moravia into the German Reich.

Karl Hermann Frank speaking at the Carlsbad convention of April 1938

Upon the Austrian Anschluss, Henlein first met with Hitler on 28 March 1938. His policy took the form of so-called "Grundplanung OA" (Basic planning) from summer 1938 and later in the interior policy of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. In March 1938, the Farmer's League joined the SdP, as did many Christian Social deputies in the Czechoslovak parliament. At a convention in Carlsbad on April 24, the majority of the party advocated the demand for the recognition of the Sudeten Germans as an autonomous ethnic group, the separation of a self-governing German settlement area, and the freedom to decide for an affiliation with the German nationhood, which implied the Anschluss to Nazi Germany. At this time, the SdP had about 1.35 million members.

The policy of SdP succeeded in September 1938 with the German annexation of Sudetenland according to the Munich Agreement (see: German occupation of Czechoslovakia). On October 1, Henlein was appointed Reichskommissar of the incorporated territories, which were to become the Reichsgau Sudetenland. After a last convention at Aussig, the organization was officially declared disbanded and merged into the German Nazi Party at a festive ceremony held in Reichenberg (Liberec) on 5 November 1938. However, as many Nazi officials like Reinhard Heydrich were suspicious of the SdP members, party fellows were not absorbed but had to apply for admission to the Nazi Party. About 520,000 were approved, among them Henlein himself, who also joined the SS and officially was appointed Gauleiter in 1939, an office he held until 1945, though largely disempowered by Reich Protector Heydrich.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • The German Dictatorship, The Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism, Karl Dietrich Bracher, trans. by Jean Steinberg, Praeger Publishers, NY, 1970. pp 50–54.
  • Marek, Pavel; Dieter Schallner (2000). "Sudetendeutsche Partei - Sudetoněmecká strana". In Pavel Marek et al. Přehled politického stranictví na území českých zemí a Československa v letech 1861-1998. Olomouc: Katedra politologie a evropských studií FFUP. pp. 279–286. ISBN 80-86200-25-6. 

External links[edit]