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Czecho-Slovakia Within.
[46]
Chapter 8

In an article which appeared in The American Mercury last May, Posselt states: "The very name of the Czecho-Slovakian Republic is a lie, if by Republic is meant a free popular government in which there are no classes having exclusive privileges." The article goes on to say that: "There is no such group, ethnologically speaking, as the Czecho-Slovakian people," and "the Democratic promises made by the Republic's founders to the Allied Powers in 1919 were made in brazen fore-knowledge that they would not be kept." Two other points in this article are that: "Hundreds of thousands of persons in this Democratic nation are now faced with actual starvation" and "that 3,500,000 Sudeten Germans are doomed to extinction."

The American Mercury also published a document signed by fifty-four duly-elected representatives of the Sudeten Germans, translated into English for the first time. This document was submitted to the House of Representatives in Prague on June 1st, 1920, and to the Senate on the 9th of the same month. Part of it reads as follows:

    Through the Peace Treaty, a state has been created in the middle of Europe which, outside of approximately 6,500,000 Czechs, also embraces... almost 4,000,000 Germans. In vain were our [47] protests... before the beginning of and during the peace negotiations... in vain we have pointed out that a state shaped like this is not in accord with Wilson's Fourteen Points, nor with the conception of democracy; that it could never find peace, and that it would represent a permanent threat to the peace of Europe.... We declare solemnly that we shall never cease to demand the self-determination of our people...."
So much for the claim made by the Czechs that the Sudeten desire for self-determination is of recent growth. The American Mercury proves conclusively from this and other evidence that the German protests had their birth at the time of the formation of the Czech Republic; their statement made eighteen years before the "incidents" of last May has proved a true prophecy.

    "Not, of course, that all holding liberal views approve of the new Republic. In an article in The Daily Telegraph on July 25th, 1938, Mr. Lloyd George referred to it as 'the polyglot and incoherent State of Czecho-Slovakia,' and wrote of the 'incorporation in that State of hundreds of thousands of protesting Magyars and millions of angry Germans.' As he is one of the men who played a leading part at the Peace Conference his opinion is of special interest. He admits that he viewed, even in those days, Benes' 'proposed incorporation of the territory occupied by German and Magyar majorities with serious misgivings,' and that it was 'a departure from the principles laid down by the Allies during the war.' Lloyd George then requested, so he says, General Smuts to make a trip to Prague and discuss matters with President Masaryk. General Smuts 'pointed out to the President the grave undesirability of including in the Czecho-Slovak State a very large purely Magyar population living north of the Danube.... President Masaryk agreed and said he would prefer to waive all claims to the Magyar territory' - but, as Mr. Lloyd George describes in his article, Masaryk demanded 'a small strip of Hungarian territory south [48] of the Danube' in exchange. Most of these facts, like the treatment accorded to minorities and foreigners in Czecho-Slovakia, have remained secrets until now. But truth will out, and observers in Czecho-Slovakia are gradually sending to the outside world messages which will not fall on deaf ears.
          Even British visitors are now being subjected to annoyance and even ill-treatment in this strange 'democracy.'"



 
[49]
Chapter 9

The primary preoccupation of the Czech mentality is its desire to maintain its dominant position vis-à-vis the other nationalities which go to form the heterogeneous State which is known as Czecho-Slovakia. It is the fervent wish of every Czech to absorb all the non-Czechs. The Czechs look upon the 3,500,000 Sudeten Germans as alien intruders in "their" country and visualize their gradual disappearance as a corporate entity. Prague has repeatedly stated its determination to expropriate German-owned land and thus to spread the Czech language to the frontiers of the new State.

Every possible means has been employed during the twenty years of the Republic's existence in the attempt to arrive at this goal. Systematic destruction of Sudeten German industry and means of livelihood has been undertaken to this end.

The economic distress now prevalent in Sudeten German areas is probably worse than in any other part of Europe. The unemployment figures have attained a record height and standards of living, low already, continue to fall. This is not the result of the world economic crisis, nor can it be traced to general trade conditions in Czecho-Slovakia. It is purely and simply the result of the Czech determination to [50] exterminate by one means or another those Germans who are compelled to live within the marches of the Republic.

The entire State machinery is brought into play against the Sudetens. German denationalization is a Czech governmental aim and successive Czech Governments have taken pains to place Sudeten German industry at a disadvantage with its competitors. In the following pages an attempt is made to show how this policy is carried out in practice.

The country inhabited by the Sudeten Germans is thickly populated and highly industrialized. The northern half of the area contains fairly rich mineral deposits; these, in conjunction with a favourable transport situation and a supply of willing workers, have led to intensive development by those who made up some three-quarters of the whole industry of the old Dual Monarchy. Vienna and Budapest alone were industrial competitors in pre-war days. On the disruption of the Hapsburg Empire the newly-created Czecho-Slovakian State took over its most valuable industrial areas, together with Bohemia and Moravian Silesia. Manufacturing plants were chiefly in the hands of Germans. Czech industry dates from 1890 only and had attained no great importance by 1918.

It was at the express desire of the Czechs that the Sudeten German areas were included in the new State at the Peace Conference. It must be conceded that the Czech wish to possess so rich an industrial country was a natural one. Not only did the Sudeten [51] Germans play an important part in industrial affairs, but they were also large landowners in the German-speaking area, while their financial and banking houses had an influence in the economic field commensurate with that which they erected in the field of production.

With the object of weakening German economic power the Czechs started a campaign against this key position. At the same time the policy of Czech penetration was begun, with the object of converting the purely German-speaking areas into mixed districts.

The prevalence of large estates in the Sudeten country, as opposed to the relatively small number of small holdings, has led to agitation in favour of redistribution of land, even in pre-war days. This measure of land reform, however that may be, was undertaken by the Czechs soon after the creation of the Republic. They were not, however, actuated by a zeal for social reform; their action was purely national. "Land reform" was exploited by the Czechs as a means to the expropriation of non-Slav soil, and in order to permit of the settlement of Czechs in the German-speaking districts. While the Government claimed to be taking from the rich in order to give to the poor, they made no attempt at an equitable redistribution of the confiscated acres. Over 1,250,000 acres of German land were expropriated between 1921 and 1932, with the semi-officially admitted aim of weakening the German position. This land was acquired by the State against paid or promised indemnities amounting to a mere fraction [52] of its real value. Ninety-six per cent. of this land, all of which had been in German ownership, was allotted to Czech farmers. The German-speaking population lost one-sixth of their land and the formerly compact German enclave was now dotted with Czech cells. A negligible proportion of the land was returned to German ownership.

In the sacred name of land reform 3,250 German farmers were reduced to the state of labourers while 18,500 Czech labourers were promoted to that of farmer. The German farm labourer also suffered. According to official Czech figures there has been an increase of 66,000 in agricultural unemployment figures since this reform.

The German-owned forests were also confiscated by the State. In Bohemia alone 300,000 acres of forest land, 87% of the whole, were taken from their German owners, while the Czech forest owners in Bohemia lost only 13% of their holdings. Land reform was also used as a means to appropriate German industrial enterprises. Many German breweries, sugar factories and saw mills, shared the fate of farm and forest land. The so-called reform has been conducted in such a manner as to lead to the present-day possession by the German-speaking population of only 3% of the whole land in the Czech Republic, and has rendered acquisition of a larger proportion almost impossible.

This land appropriation was regarded by the Czechs as the most successful method of German denationalization. They adopted further means to [53] this end: The Civil Service became predominantly Czech. Czech nationalism was emphasized by the appearance of a horde of Czech police, customs officials, post office clerks, and the like; most of them chosen with an eye to the size of their families. They were soon followed by Czech business men and commercial travellers and attempts were made to introduce Czech working men. Wherever a Czech appeared a German lost his occupation, whether as official or labourer. In other words, he was deliberately deprived of his means of livelihood. Between 1918 and 1938 150,000 Czechs were "dumped" in German-speaking areas, giving rise to a commensurate increase in German unemployment figures.


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