viernes, 29 de julio de 2016


History of Expulsion

By May of 1945, the Soviet Red Army had conquered Slovakia and the Czechs along with the Third Reich. One regime of denial of sovereignty, purges, executions, and political censorship had replaced another, as reunited Czechoslovakia was rapidly absorbed into the Communist orbit of the Warsaw Pact. Returning from exile, Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš found a broken nation enraged with ethnic hatred for the Germans regardless of their political beliefs or their opinions on Nazism or anti-Slavic Nazi chauvinism. The culture, ethnicity, and even the sound of the German language disgusted many Czechs (Wheeler). 

More than 250,000 people in Czechoslovakia had died during the war due to execution, imprisonment, or in transit camps like Theresienstadt and abroad in Poland (Burleigh 2001, 416). 300,000 Czechs and Jews had been deported to concentration camps (Wheeler). In the understandable anti-German hysteria that followed, it was extolled within the Czechoslovak government that the 'nation survives only on its hope for revenge' (Glassheim 2000, 471). In a sweeping generalisation that falsely viewed all Germans as inherently belligerent, pro-Fascist, and anti-Czech, the Czechoslovaks planned to completely destroy the entire 1,000-year-old German minority community simply because of their ethnicity, effectively purging more than 28.8% of the national population in only a few years. 

President Beneš demand that, 'the German question in our republic must be liquidated', rallying that Czechs must 'wait cleanse the republic' (ibid). The Czech government expedited the removal of the German civilians by asserting that 'the Czech nation also needs its Lebensraum' to be achieved by 'the departure or expulsion' of all Germans accused of collaboration with the invaders (Glassheim 2000, 473-4). Although he proceeded to insist that it was inappropriate to murder or execute the Germans en masse, and that anti-Fascists would not be affected, ultimately the near entirety of the German ethnicity would be removed and shipped to Allied-occupied Germany, including those who had absolutely no pro-Nazi sympathies and actively considered themselves citizens of Czechoslovakia. He argued that the punishment for 'treason' for which the Sudeten Germans were guilty – death – was far worse than expulsion, even though at least 15,000-30,000 civilians died during the expulsions.

Beneš, nationalists, and other proponents of the expulsion programme framed the removal of the German and Hungarian 'criminal' minourity under the context of purging the now-liberated Czechoslovak state of foreign, imperial influences that even went back to the crushing of Czech independence by the German Habsburgs at White Mountain in 1620 during the Thirty Years' War. He announced to the public, 'let our motto be: to definitely de-Germanise our homeland, culturally, economically, politically.' Other newspapers fueled the intense inter-ethnic hatred that resulted from centuries of cultural tension and the brutal German occupation by universally proscribing the Germans as a parasitic threat to the liberated Czechoslovak state. Newspapers like Novo Slovowrote on 18 August, 1945, that 'the German possesses no soul, and the words that he understands best are – according to [influential nationalist] Jan Masaryk – the salvos of a machine gun.' Other outspoken politicians like the leader of the National Socialist Party said that the goal of all Czechs must be 'to clean out the republic as a whole and completely of Germans...every one of us must help in the cleansing of the homeland' (Naimark 2001, 115).

By the time of the expulsions in 1945, there were 3,295,000 total German civilians in Czechoslovakia (Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft). Included in this statistic were 147,501 Carpathian Germans in Slovakia (Carpathian German Homepage). Only a few months after the fall of the Third Reich in May of 1945, the decision was finalised to expel all but 800,000 Germans (Burleigh 2001, 799). The remaining Germans were to be used as labor (primarily voluntary) to fuel the reconstruction effort. Tens of thousands of ethnic Hungarians were also to be expelled simply because of their ethnicity's longstanding conflict with the Slovaks, and because their nation had been a close ally of the Third Reich. 

Those exempt from expulsion were disallowed from leaving in order to provide the war-torn Czechoslovak job market with employees. Ultimately, the majority of the exempt 800,000 were eventually expelled or displaced with the other more than 2,000,000 as well. To expedite the expulsion of the German minority, President Beneš had codified the so-called Beneš Decrees, legal parametres in Czechoslovakia that would allow soldiers and private citizens to expel German citizens, confiscate all their property without compensation, and even employ physical violence when necessary without legal or criminal prosecution. 

These laws are still present in the Czech Republic today, although they are not at all enforced. Although the Czech government and Czech nationalists today insist that the expulsions and any subsequent deaths were merely a retribution for Germany's brutal truculence in occupied Czechoslovakia against a highly pro-Nazi population, and cannot be compared with Nazi atrocities, the Czech expulsions purged ethnic German civilians even with far-left and socialist beliefs solely because of their cultural affiliation. The British government encouraged the Czechoslovaks to disregard the diverse political beliefs of the Germans and expel them all because a radical solution was required to alleviate the perceived pervasive German belligerence (Burleigh 2001, 799). Anti-Fascists who committed no treason were to be expelled too.

From 1945 to 1950, the expulsion campaign under military and government direction dropped the ethnic German population in Czechoslovakia from 3,295,000 (28.8% of the nation) to only 159,900 (1.8%) (Eberhardt 2003, 150). This is a total of a 95% loss of Czechoslovakia's German minority. The Carpathian German community in Slovakia dropped from 147,501 to 5,200, only 0.1% by 1950. More than 1.3 million civilians were shipped to the American occupied zone in Germany in the initial phase, and 800,000 to the Soviet zone, where the latter faced extremely inclement purging and expulsion like the Volga Germans and Prussian Germans (Radio Praha #2). 

Over 500,000 ethnic Germans were expelled from the Czech portion of Silesia on the Polish border alone, and were marched to the German border in Saxony at gunpoint (ibid, 148). The Sudetenland, a German community for over 500 years, was completely depopulated and replaced by Czech and Slovak families. In February of 1945 (before the war's end), there were 868,000 Czechs and Slovaks in the border area. By Decembre of the same year (after the war), there were over 1,731,000 million Slavs, and by May of 1947 there were 2,230,000 – from 80% German before the war to 90% Slavic after the expulsions (ibid, 150). About 2 1/2 million Czechs settled in areas that were forcibly depopulated of German families (Radio Praha #3).


Der Spiegel / Radio Praha

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