The German occupation of Czechoslovakia in rare photographs, 1938-1939

After Germany's annexation of Austria in March 1938, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain traveled to the continent twice to appease Hitler's aggressive intentions and prevent another disastrous European war, but with a distinct lack of success.

Czechoslovakia had signed treaties with France in 1926 and with the Soviet Union in 1935 to protect itself from German invasion – the Soviet Union had promised to intervene, but only if France acted first – but it exposed and remained weak.

Concurrent agreements between Czechoslovakia, Romans and the Little Entente of Yugoslavia were of little use to defend against any invasion from the Hungarian side.

Within the Czechoslovak Republic, a fierce German nationalist movement led by Konrad Heinlein and fully supported by the National Socialists in Berlin opposed the Prague regime and demanded that the Sudetenland, where most Czechoslovak Germans lived, be united with the Reich. .

When German troops prepared to march across the border in May 1938, only two months after the Nazi occupation of Austria, Czechoslovaks partially rallied, and the situation became increasingly ominous.

The ambassadors of France and Great Britain delivered a note to President Edvard Baynes on 19 September, demanding that the republic cede its Sudeten territories to Germany in exchange for a guarantee of its new borders, to prevent immediate occupation by the Wehrmacht. And suddenly the Czechoslovak Republic and its (some) friends were isolated.

On 23 September, in a desperate gesture, Czechoslovakia once again mobilized its army and air force. Hitter's ally Benito Mussolini proposed a four-power meeting to resolve the Czechoslovak crisis.

The famous convention, held on 29–30 September (1938) in Munich in the presence of representatives from Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy, was notably absent from Czechoslovaks.

Chamberlain, French Prime Minister douard Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini signed an agreement that accepted all of Germany's demands.

The Sudetenland was to be annexed to the Reich on 1 October; This and further concessions deprived the Czechoslovak Republic of a large part of its historical territory, its major fortifications against Germany, and most of its iron, steel and textile factories.

Also with the loss of the Sudetenland came the threat of further loss of border areas in the east, which Poland and Hungary coveted. A week after being mobilized, Czechoslovakia surrendered on 30 September.

The rest of Czechoslovakia was weakened by the Sudetenland's inclusion in Germany on 1 October 1938. In addition, a small northeastern part of the border area known as olzy was annexed and given to Poland to "protect" the local ethnic Polish community and the previous territorial claims (in the years 1918–20 the Czech- Polish dispute). ,

In addition, by the First Vienna Award, Hungary received the southern regions of Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia, which were largely inhabited by Hungarians.

As the Slovak state was declared on 14 March 1939, Hungary annexed the next day and the rest of the Carpathian Ruthenia. Anticipating a Hungarian invasion, the Czech Prime Minister asked the German Wehrmacht to defend the remaining Czech lands.

On the morning of 15 March, German troops entered the remaining Czech parts of Czechoslovakia (Rest-tschei in German), with practically no resistance (the only example of organized resistance occurred at Mistec where an infantry company commanded by Karel Pavli). attacked the German army).

The Hungarian invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine met resistance but was quickly crushed by the Hungarian army. On 16 March, Hitler went to Czech lands and declared the German protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia from Prague Castle.

In addition to violating his promises in Munich, the rest of Czechoslovakia was occupied, unlike Hitler's previous actions, not described in Mein Kampf.

After repeatedly stating that he was only interested in Pan-Germanism, the unification of ethnic Germans into a Reich, Germany had now conquered seven million Czechs. Hitler's proclamation claimed to create a protectorate that "Bohemia and Moravia have belonged to the Lebensraum of the German people for thousands of years".

British public opinion changed significantly after the invasion. Chamberlain realized that the Munich Agreement had no meaning for Hitler. Chamberlain told the British public during a speech in Birmingham on 17 March that Hitler was attempting to "coercively dominate the world".

There are sources that highlight the more favorable behavior of the Czechs during the German occupation than the treatment of Poles and Ukrainians.

This is attributed to the view within the Nazi hierarchy that a large section of the population was "capable of Aryanisation", therefore, Czechs were not subjected to random and organized acts of the same degree of brutality that their Polish counterparts experienced. was.

Such potential for Aryanization was supported by the position that part of the Czech population had German ancestry.

In addition to the inconsistency of hostility towards the Slavs, it is also claimed that the coercive but restrained policy in Czechoslovakia was partly motivated by the need to keep the population nourished and complacent so that it could carry out the important task of producing weapons in factories. . ,

By 1939, the country was already serving as a major center of military production for Germany, manufacturing aircraft, tanks, artillery and other weapons.

In March 1944, Hungary was occupied by Germany during Operation Margarethe, while Slovakia shared the same fate, beginning with the Slovak national uprising in late August 1944.

The occupation ended with the surrender of Germany after World War II. Between 294,000 and 320,000 civilians (including Jews, with most casualties) were massacred during the German occupation.

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