HISTORY (85 K)

The History of the Sudetenland
[ In the graphic above are superimposed the coats of arms of the three regions (tinted pink) comprising the Sudetenland:
Böhmen (Bohemia), Mähren (Moravia), and Schlesien (Silesia) ]



SUDETENLAND COAT OF ARMS (2 K) Overview
   Sudetenland (the coat of arms for which appears at left) is a term for the German settlement area of the Bohemian Lands (Bohemia, Moravia, and Austrian Silesia), used only sporadically before 1918. The German ethnic group in the Bohemian Lands (with approximately 3.5 million citizens) was referred to, since the early 1900s, as "Sudetendeutsche" (Sudeten Germans). The Bohemian Lands were part of the Austrian Monarchy until 1918. From 1918 to 1938, the Sudetenland was part of Czechoslovakia. After the "Münchner Abkommen" (the Munich Agreement) in 1938, the Sudetenland was the official term (1938-1945) for the Reichsgau Sudetenland. After the end of WW II, the Sudetenland was again reintegrated into Czechoslovakia and its German ethnic group was expelled.



The Coming of World War II:
Annexation & Absorption into Germany


    The first solid indication of how the Nazis would treat occupied territories came in Czechoslovakia, and the auguries were both misleading and ominous. In 1938 Hitler's troops marched into the Czech Sudetenland; it was largely populated by Germans, who welcomed the invaders warmly. In most of the region, a carnival atmosphere prevailed. To greet the occupying troops, whom the Czech forces had been ordered not to resist, huge Nazi flags — smuggled in earlier by NSDAP party agents — sprouted from buildings. Women wept or cheered at the sight of German soldiers, and garlanded them with flowers. One admirer was so carried away by excitement that a bouquet of roses she tossed to the Führer hit him in the face as he drove by into his new domains.

    Behind these festive scenes were a few darker vignettes. A German mob in the town of Cesky Krumlov fired at the backs of retreating Czech soldiers; in other towns shops and homes belonging to Czechs and Jews were vandalized and ransacked; a railroad station clerk was shot dead when he refused to turn his cash over to Sudeten freebooters. In Prague, veterans of the legendary Czech legion were observed weeping. President Eduard Benes despairingly left the capital of truncated Czechoslovakia for a self-imposed exile in England.

    Even more ominous for Europe's immediate future were Hitler's words as he spoke at the Czech town of Cheb, congratulating his new subjects on their love for the Fatherland. He grandiosely assured them that "over the greater German Reich is laid a German shield protecting it, and a German sword protecting it!" Careful listeners noted that territory in German control for barely a day had somehow become part of the Reich, and clearly saw signs of the future in the words "greater" and "sword." As for Hitler himself, convinced that the mere threat of force could make him master of Europe, he began boldly to plot his next move.

    In March 1939, German troops entered Bohemia and Moravia, the last two provinces of Czechoslovakia, and Hitler informed the world that "Czechoslovakia has ceased to exist."


SALUTING THE FUHRER (35 K)

A Sudeten woman, overcome with emotion, pays homage as the Wehrmacht enters the Sudeten border town of Cheb, October 1938. (Photo reprinted courtesy U.S. National Archives.) The original uncropped photo appears below.


Photos from the Annexation

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Germany Invades Czechoslovakia— In 1938, German troops marched into the Sudetenland, largely populated by Germans. The Munich Pact, signed by Britain and Germany, allowed Germany to incorporate this area into the Greater German Reich.
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Overcome By Emotion — Three Sudetenlanders, one overcome with emotion as she raises her arm in a Nazi salute, pay homage as the Wehrmacht enters the border town of Cheb, October 1938.
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The People Finally United! — Jubilant Sudeten Germans welcome Nazi troops in 1938. The banner proclaims "One Folk, One Reich, One Führer." Hitler promised to protect Czechoslovakia by the "German shield and sword."
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Greeting the Conquering Heroes — Ecstatic Sudeten girls in traditional local costumes join in welcoming the German soldiers (1938).
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The Happy Throng — German troopers clutch belts to stop the happy throng from rushing parading comrades (1938).
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Getting A Good Look — Sudeten boys peek through the boots and rifles of German guards posted along the parade route (1938).
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All Hail the Wehrmacht! — Sudeten youngsters — some held in the arms of German infantrymen — become a proud part of the Wehrmacht entry into the border town of Ash. It would not be long before these young German boys would be marching into battle themselves (1938).
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Hitler Greets Hacha — Hacha became president after Eduard Benes resigned. He signed a 1939 agreement allowing Hitler to invade areas of Czechoslovakia outside the Sudetenland, thus surrendering to Germany (1939).
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The Czechs Were Not So Happy — Reflecting a very different mood from that of the celebrating Sudetenlanders, a subdued crowd in Prague gets a look at the German columns rolling in to occupy the Czech capital (1939).
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The Changing of the Guard — A German motorized unit clatters over snow-flecked cobblestones in Prager Platz past Hradcany Castle, the ancestral home of Czech rulers (1939).
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The Changing of the Names — Obeying German orders, a Czech policeman gets ready to change a street sign in the city of Brno from "Freedom Avenue" to "Adolf Hitler Place" (1939).
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And the Persecution Begins — The Germans established domination in Czechoslovakia by imposing administrative regulations that included posting signs warning buyers to avoid shopping in Jewish stores (1939).
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More Changes Coming — A new sign orders motorists to change over to German traffic patterns by driving on the right-hand side of the road in Jihlava, a Czech town some 65 miles southeast of Prague (1939).

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