Sudeten-German Inferno: the little-known tragedy of the
Sudeten Germans

Ingomar Pust

If You Make Yourself a Lamb,
Don't Be Surprised When The Wolves Eat You
t was in Prague during the days of the Protectorate that a very high-ranking state official of North German extraction said to me, verbatim: "I don't understand you Sudeten Germans, how you couldn't get along with the Czechs. They're thoroughly cozy, friendly people!"

I replied: "Well yes, Mr. Assistant Secretary of State, you know the Czechs from the beer tables or even from lavish banquets. We have known them since the Hussite Wars and earlier, from their real side, from the innermost of their complex-laden national soul whose bloodthirsty chauvinism is capable of inconceivable bestiality."

He answered, "Oh bosh, my good man, that slander was discredited a long time ago."

Not two years later, in May 1945, that Assistant Secretary of State died on Wenzel Square in Prague, tied to a truck and dragged to death - a victim of "cozy Czech friendliness".


Concentration Camp Inmate Sandor Kovac,
on the Czechs in 1945
itness statement of the Hungarian half-Jew Sandor Kovac, who was in a concentration camp shortly before the end of the War and passed through Prague on his way home:

"In Hitler's concentration camp I saw things I would not have believed possible, that people would do to other people. But in May 1945, when I was traveling homeward, I was caught unawares in the outburst of Czech insanity in Prague, and I witnessed an inferno of human depravity and moral baseness compared to which my concentration camp days had almost been a holiday. Women and children were doused alive with petroleum and set on fire, men were murdered under inconceivable tortures. And I must make it an emphatic point that it was the entire population that participated in these crimes, not just the usual rabble. I saw stylish, elegant young Czech ladies, who had perhaps flirted with the German officers not too long before, now walking the streets with guns and dog whips and torturing and murdering people, and I saw Czech officials, evidently of higher rank, raping women together with the howling Czech street mob and then killing them as painfully as they possibly could. I feared a German reawakening, for what was done to the Germans defies description!"


Czech Clergymen
Forget Their Christian Brotherly Love

"What ye have done,
inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me!"

n 1945 many Czech clergymen failed miserably to live up to this well-known Biblical teaching of our Lord Jesus where their desperate German co-religionists were concerned. Unbridled, chauvinistic Czech nationalism took precedence over the dissemination of the Catholic faith and teachings as ordered by the Church. They maintained this attitude towards their German co-religionists, as the following witness accounts show. Even the Ten Commandments were grossly violated.

In his book Rache nicht, Gerechtigkeit: Geschichte und Leidensweg der Sudetendeutschen. Eine Dokumentation (Stronsdorf: KFM, 1989) the editor, fellow-countryman Fritz Schattauer, recounts on page 174: "In Jamnitz several SS men trying to flee to Austria were killed; the chaplain of Jamnitz bragged about having done that deed himself, and he went about his pastoral duties in Alt-Hart armed with a submachine gun." Five pages further, on p. 179, we read the account of Captain Bruno Knösel, a Sudeten German homecomer: "There I saw unbridled, wild nationalism visit unutterable suffering on innocent women, children, elderly and soldiers. To this day I see these victims expelled from their homeland. The terrible guilt, where not even the Czech priests shied back from soiling their sacred vestments with blood..."

Anton Beck, who arrived in his hometown Cernosín, in Mies District, on June 12, 1945 and was thrown into prison there following gross abuse by Czech partisans, tells of being denied spiritual aid (p. 189):

"Many of those imprisoned asked for a clergyman. A Czech priest came. He stood by the cell door and asked what they wanted from him. Those that were critically ill and already marked by Death lifted up their arms and asked him to take their confession, or asked for a rosary or prayer book. But the priest said cynically, 'that's forbidden for Germans...', turned away and left."

In reports of the Church Auxiliary in Frankfurt-am-Main we read: "Unfortunately even Church organs, even clergymen, make no exception to their chauvinistic attitude towards the Germans."

At a public assembly on June 24, 1945 in Libenec, Msgr. Stasek, who had already been an active member in the First Republic's "Lidova Strana", the Czech People's Party, proclaimed: "The precept of brotherly love is void where Germans are concerned!" And Oliva - a clergyman and Director of Charitable Works - was a member of the People's Court and frequently contributed to unjust verdicts!

Priest Hermann Schubert of Trautenau published his diary from those days, and under the date of August 7, 1945 we read: "The first publication from the Bishop's Palace in Königgrätz has arrived together with a pastoral of the Czech diocesan bishop Mauritius Picha. One day this publication may stand as official document of the failure of Czech Catholicism in the time of greatest need. An extravagant nationalism has gripped the Czech people, right up to the highest ecclesiastical circles. [...]

"It is depressing that particularly Catholic priests and Catholic laity participate in and approve of the activities of the Czech Bolshevists. The Czech catechist Janecek in Eipel, for example, is on the city's expulsion committee. Newspapers (Lidova demokratie) and periodicals (Novy narod) that claim to be Christian in nature are proud to stand at the vanguard of the incitement against all things German. It is a disgrace that cries to heaven, that two Catholic priests are Ministers in the Bolshevist Czech government and take their full share of responsibility for the government's measures against the Germans. Msgr. Sramek is deputy prime minister, Msrg. Hala is postmaster general. [...]

"The measures being taken against the Germans are clearly and wholly against natural law, against the Divine Laws, and against all humanity and culture. The fact that Czech priests in leading positions give their approval to the dreadful brutalities of the Czech Revolution is one of the saddest aspects of Czech history."

Diary entry of August 14, 1945: "Our Czech Commissar has arrived: Chaplain Josef Novak, about 27 years of age, till now chaplain in Eipel. We soon realized that this young priest seeks to make up for his lack of decency and education with arrogance. Whenever he is suddenly seized with another bout of Czech fanaticism, he forgets his office and his dignity."

August 25, 1945: "Tomorrow there will be a Czech celebration in the city. The Czech chaplain wants to hoist the national flag as well as the Soviet flag over the church. I had a heated quarrel with him - the Soviet flags stays down. At night the rowdy mob ran the streets, singing old Czech songs of pilgrimage."

August 27, 1945: "We have just learned that Dean Cölestin Baier, priest of Merkelsdorf, was shot some time ago by Czech soldiers. It is said that he was made to dig his own grave. When his housekeeper and two other persons, who were also to be shot, wept and did not want to go along, he said: 'Come along, be calm, we're just going home.' Not until later did we find out that on Aug. 24, 1945, in the evening, two Padres from the Benedictine monastery at Braunau were murdered by Czech soldiers: P. Ansgard OSB and P. Alban OSB. They were led from the Schönau parish out into the woods, shot, and thrown into a shallow grave." (Report No. 50, authenticated reports of German expellees, Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen aus Ost-Mitteleuropa, ed. Bundesministerium für Vertriebene, Flüchtlinge und Kriegsgeschädigte, Munich: dtv, 1984, reprint of 1957 ed., p. 266-268.)

In an article in the Sudeten-Post, issue 19 of October 1, 1992, our late fellow-countryman Dr. Franz Prachner wrote about the Prague Cardinal Tomasek (see also next section): "Let's stay with the facts! At the passing of Cardinal Tomasek I shall permit myself to correct the going account. For one thing, this late prince of the Church kept a low profile with regard to the Communist rulers, and kept more or less out of sight until the end of Communist rule, unlike his predecessor, Cardinal Beranek, who courageously opposed the dictators' wishes. Cardinal Tomasek's words about the unjust expulsion of the Sudeten Germans were merely a belated face-saving, made after his initial statement that 'there is no cause for an apology' had drawn uncomfortable attention. The old maxim of not speaking ill of the dead must not lead to an inversion of the facts. Ultimately, history stands guard that truth shall remain truth."


The Conduct of Czech and German Clergy
During the Expulsion of the Sudeten Germans
in 1945/46
fter the First World War, but already under the Monarchy as well, the Czech clergy exhibited markedly nationalist, chauvinist conduct, whereas the German clergy acted instead in an ecclesiastically international manner.

In her book Wie es wirklich war, Frau Anna Spangl of Reinthal, Lower Austria, recounts on page 6: "Since I'm already writing of our priest Siegmund, I shall also mention his predecessor, priest Vesely, a Czech. During the First World War a bell was removed from the church bell tower and turned into cannons. After the war the district councillors decided to have a new bell cast in Brünn. But our worthy Pastor Vesely refused to consecrate it, because the inscription on the bell was in German. So it was blessed by a pater in Brünn instead, and then driven to Prittlach. For this reason we could not hold a consecration, just a bell festival."

On page 70 of the same book Frau Spangl recalls the "Christian comfort" given her by a Czech nun: "One time, during my stay at the hospital, my Mother Superior came from the boarding school in Grillowitz to visit someone in the hospital. I greeted her and told her in tears that my father was here, half beaten to death, and my mother and all the people from my home town were in the camp and had to endure terrible things. And this 'worthy' nun, called by God to her holy office, answered me: 'It serves you right, you've been asking for it'!!!"

On January 11, 1990, the Vienna newspaper Kurier wrote on page 5: "92-year-old Frantisek Tomasek also sees no need for an apology. The resettlement of the Germans, who had incurred guilt towards us, was justified."!

Clergymen were also represented in the first Czech government after the Second World War, namely: Msgr. Dr. Jan Sramek as deputy prime minister and Msgr. Frantisek Hala as postmaster general. Both bear full responsibility for the brutal expulsion of innocent and defenseless Germans. Both approved the laws in question with their signatures. It is a grave error to believe that the Czech Communists alone can be held responsible for the expulsion with all its terrible consequences. They were not able to wield absolute power until after the putsch of 1948.

Two accounts speak eloquently of the attitude and actions of the Czechs of those days:

"One of our countrymen who had been sentenced to several years' imprisonment had to do slave labor in the quarry of Waltrowitz (Valtrovice). The supervisor there said: 'Our bishop of Prague, Beranek, recently declared: if a Czech comes to me and confesses to having killed a German, I absolve him immediately!!!!'

"A woman from a South Moravian market community told me, after having returned from the upheavals of the war, that her parish priest had said to her, verbatim: 'Frau G., you'll never see your husband again, he's already in Siberia!' (Solace offered by the Church...)

"I can take both statements on my oath. To protect family members still living, full names have not been given here."


Wounded as Living Torches
n his book Das Ende an der Elbe, Jürgen Thorwald summarizes the situation thus:

In the first days of May 1945 a deceptive calm pervaded the region of the Protectorate. All the streets were jammed with the wretched columns of refugees from the East. Tens of thousands of wounded were squeezed by train or truck columns into this region which still appeared to be a last safe haven.

As early as the time when the German Eastern front had collapsed outside Berlin and along the Oder River, the German state minister in Bohemia and Moravia, SS-Obergruppenführer Frank, had considered turning power over to a Czech national government, but Hitler had forbidden it. Now the rapid advance of the Americans offered the Sudeten Germans significant hope. The people feared the Russians; no-one thought that the dreadful fate which awaited the Sudeten Germans would not even emanate from the Soviets at all.

Even those Germans that knew the dark, unpredictable, strange and explosive Czech character never dreamed that anything worse would happen to them than having to live under Czech rule again. Since not so much as one single Czech had been expelled or expropriated during the years of the Protectorate, no-one expected a storm of vengeance.

And in fact nothing did happen - until May 5, 1945. But the Americans in their utter blindness let the Soviets persuade them to halt at the Karlsbad-Pilsen-Budweis line and to leave the "liberation" of Czechoslovakia to the Bolsheviks.

But even if the Americans had marched on, they would have afforded the Sudeten Germans no protection. In those areas where the Americans did later occupy the land, they did not so much as lift a finger to prevent the torrent of bestiality vented on the Sudeten Germans. The majority of the GIs watched the mass murder with equanimity. These soldiers, propagandized into a gross hatred of all things German, regarded the physical extermination of the Sudeten Germans as an act of just punishment: let's get rid of these damned Germans once and for all.

On May 5, while the units of Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner still stemmed the tide of the Soviet advance in eastern Czechoslovakia, the Communists in Prague proceeded to get the masses moving. In the morning hours they started the rumor that American tanks were already standing at the western outskirts of Prague. It was a bluff, of course; after all, the duped Americans had halted a hundred kilometers farther east. But the rumor was all it took to unleash pandemonium. Immediately, Czech and Red flags appeared in the windows, and the citizens of Prague rushed into the streets to greet the Americans. Songs of nationalism burst forth.

At first the German soldiers and the police watched helplessly. But then something possessed Frank to order the streets cleared and noncompliant persons shot. A mad order, it may seem today. But one must consider that Schörner's units yet fought in the east of Prague and that their rear field was to be kept clear.

Only some of the German troops obeyed Frank's orders. But it sufficed to clear the streets in some parts of the city, and to ready artillery and machine guns; the Czech masses, believing the American tanks to be at the ready behind them, suddenly went on the offensive after Communist combat groups seized power. Every German soldier found in the streets was lynched. Smaller German offices were stormed and their staff butchered. German homes were plundered, their owners abused, beaten to death or thrown out the windows. Piles of bodies lined the streets. Armed Communists had killed the small guard posted at the radio station, and now began to broadcast an orgy of hatred into the ether. Accounts of murders allegedly committed by German soldiers were broadcast incessantly, peppered with calls for revenge and pay-back. The danse macabre of Prague began. In Wenzel Square, wounded German soldiers were hung from lamp posts, and fires were lit beneath these unfortunates so that they died a gruesome death as living torches.

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Sudeten German Inferno
The hushed-up tragedy of the ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia