“In these days, the most terrible thing that could happen to us outside of war happened. We were defeated without a war. The Czechoslovak Republic is being cut down and enemy hands, with the help of our former friends, are tearing pieces from our living body,” Czechoslovak Radio broadcast in the fall of 1938, when Czechoslovakia had to surrender its border to Germany, in a commentary by Josef Martínek.
“The principle of self-determination has been turned upside down. The issue of the three-million-strong German minority in Czechoslovakia was resolved by the Directory of the Four Powers by creating a new million-strong Czech minority in Germany,” said the radio.
With the signing of the Munich Agreement, the quest for a peaceful coexistence of Czechs and Germans in the young republic was finally broken after twenty years.
Frustration of the German minority
“When the enthusiasm breaks out on October 28 and a new state is actually created, the Germans hardly register it. Respectively, they register it as one of the many things happening at that time,” describes historian Vojtěch Kessler from the Historical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the atmosphere surrounding the declaration of Czechoslovakia in October 1918.
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“Just as the Czechs are establishing their own state, it is obvious that we will also establish a state of our own. And then it will be up to us, in the future when things stabilize, if we connect it to Germany, which is beyond the borders here, or to Austria, where we were actually used to existing until now,” demonstrates the historian of the thinking of the Sudeten Germans at the time.
And he adds that they were very surprised that Czechs don’t think like that. And the Czechs think that they will simply be a part of Czechoslovakia.
While representatives of the left-wing German political parties considered the recognition of the new republic, the right-wing German parties were completely against it. Already in 1918, the Germans declared four separatist provinces. They made it clear that they did not want to be part of Czechoslovakia.
“It was decided that this would not happen until September 1919, when the peace treaty with Germany was finally signed. And in one of the many points of that treaty, it was stipulated that all their ambitions for any territory abroad were cancelled. And the representatives of the political parties of the Germans had to admit that they would be a part of it,” describes Vojtěch Kessler.
Sudeten German side
According to Vojtěch Kessler, the disappointment and frustration of the German minority in Czechoslovakia became the basis for the establishment of the Sudeten German Party headed by Konrad Henlein in 1933:
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“Before 1918, there were two forces – the Czechs and the Germans, who were simply fighting over anything in the state, and there was some referee over them. This was the monarch and the government around him. They kept expecting that we are fighting our national struggle here, just like the Czechs, and someone from outside will come and say who won on points. But suddenly the Czechs were deciding who would win,” added the historian.
However, in twenty years, the Germans learned how to live in democratic Czechoslovakia and how to appeal to German voters.
“They were able to build a party that declared in advance that it was the party of all Germans. Their only political goal, in the first stages of their thinking, was to make the German element in the Czechoslovak state strong enough to influence it, if not break it. Which in the end they actually succeeded,” adds historian Vojtěch Kessler.
Lucie Korcová, epo
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