Czech Republic–Germany relations


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

Czech Republic

Germany

Czech–German relations have a long and complicated history.

There had been a German minority in Bohemia and Moravia ("Czech lands") for centuries. The regions later called Sudetenland were situated on the borders of the Kingdom of Bohemia, which also consisted of Moravia (and later Silesia) and was in turn part of the Holy Roman Empire. After the extinction of the Czech Přemyslid dynasty, the kingdom was ruled by the Luxemburgs, later the Jagiellonians and finally the Habsburgs. Starting from the 13th century onwards the border regions of Bohemia and Moravia, called Sudetenland in the 20th century, were settled by Germans, who were invited by the originally Slavic Bohemian nobility.

After the Renewed Constitution of 1627 (German: Verneuerte Landesordnung des Erbkönigreichs Böhaimb) the German language was established as a second official language in the Czech lands. The Czech language remained the first language in the kingdom. Both German and Latin were widely spoken among the ruling classes, although German became increasingly dominant, while Czech was spoken in much of the countryside.

In Habsburg Monarchy, especially from the 17th century onwards the German-speaking population became the privileged ethnic and linguistic group, while Czechs felt increasingly sidelined.

The Habsburgs integrated the Kingdom of Bohemia and Moravia into their monarchy, of which it remained a part until the modern nationalism gained power in the 19th century: conflicts between Czech and German nationalists emerged, for instance in the revolution of 1848: while the German-speaking population wanted to participate in the building of a German nation state, the Czech-speaking population insisted on keeping Bohemia out of such plans.

The relationship between the German-speaking and Czech-speaking populations radically changed after World War I when independent Czechoslovakia was established. The ultimately successful Czechoslovak demands for the German majority territories were viewed favorably by France and the UK, but negatively by the U.S. who favored the Sudeten German demands for self-determination.

In view of the continuous discrimination the German minority was subjected to in the new state that they had been forced to join (see Treaty of Versailles), the Germans eventually came to see hope for their plight with the rise to power of Nazi Germany. This eventually led many of them to join the Nazi party. [Note: the term 'continuous discrimination' is a very strong statement and lays the onus of NAZI sentiment on the Czechs. This requires documentation. What the Sudeten German's viewed as discrimination may be simply be part of being a minority in a Czech dominated state. Here evidence is needed to support this statement.]

Before the 1938 German annexation of the Sudetenland, roughly 20 % of the population in Czechoslovakia had been ethnic Germans.[1]

In the Czech lands they constituted more than 30 % of the population.[1] Ethnic German nationalists backed by Hitler demanded the union of German-speaking districts with Germany. Threatening war, Hitler seized through the Munich Agreement in September 1938 the cession of the Bohemian, Moravian and Czech-Silesian borderlands: Sudetenland. In November 1938, Czechoslovakia was forced by Germany and Italy to also cede southern Slovakia (one third of Slovak territory) to Hungary. The Czechs in the greatly weakened Czechoslovak Republic were forced to grant major concessions to the non-Czechs. Eventually Germany seized all of Czechoslovakia.

Reasons for the expulsion have the roots in the irredentist Heim ins Reich (Back to Reich) policy of Sudeten German Party (German: Sudetendeutsche Partei, SdP) that was Pan-German and Nazi oriented. The SdP was from 1935 financed and supported by Nazi Germany. From 1937 the leaders of SdP coordinated the policy with Nazi leaders in order to destroy the Czechoslovak state and its parliamentary democracy and "reintegrate Bohemia and Moravia back to Nazi German Empire". This Nazi German policy took the form of so called Grundplanung OA (Basic planning) from summer 1938 (which included extermination of Czech nation) and later during German occupation of Czechoslovakia it was part of interior policy of Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia within Generalplan Ost.

Leader of SdP Konrad Henlein met with Adolf Hitler in Berlin on March 28 1938, where he was instructed to raise demands unacceptable to the Czechoslovak government. On April 24, the SdP issued the so called Carlsbad Decrees, demanding autonomy for the Sudetenland and the freedom to profess Nazi ideology.

The policy of SdP succeed in September 1938 by annexation of Sudetenland into Nazi Germany enabled by the Munich Agreement that caused shock and indignation of the Czechs because the Czechoslovak government was not invited to negotiations of the Munich Agreement at all and was only told of its results so it was received as dictate or ultimatum.

During the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, 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.[2] These demands were adopted by the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile which, beginning in 1943, sought the support of the Allies for this proposal.[3][4] The final agreement for the expulsion of the German population however was not reached until 2 August 1945 at the end of Potsdam Conference.

In the months following the end of the war the expulsion happened from May till August 1945. These expulsions were encouraged by hate-inciting speeches made by several Czechoslovak politicians. The expulsions were executed by order of local authorities mostly by groups of armed volunteers. However in some cases it was initiated or pursued by assistance of the regular army.[5] Several thousand died violently during the expulsion and many more died from hunger and illness as a consequence. The expulsion according the Potsdam Conference proceeded from 25 January 1946 till October of that year. An estimated 1.6 million ethnic Germans were deported to the American zone of what would become West Germany. An estimated 800,000 were deported to the Soviet zone (in what would become East Germany).

Today, both 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.

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See also

External links

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b The Expulsion of 'German' Communities from Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War, Steffen Prauser and Arfon Rees, European University Institute, Florense. HEC No. 2004/1. pg. 18.
  2. ^ 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.[1]
  3. ^ Edvard Beneš[2]
  4. ^ Československo-sovětské vztahy v diplomatických jednáních 1939–1945. Dokumenty. Díl 2 (červenec 1943 – březen 1945). Praha. 1999. (ISBN 808547557X)
  5. ^ Biman, S. - Cílek, R.: Poslední mrtví, první živí. Ústí nad Labem 1989. (ISBN 807047002X)

References

  • 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.

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