"Sudeten" refers to a mountain range 200 miles long and 20 to 40 miles wide, covering the north of
Bohemia and Moravia as well as part of Sudeten Silesia. Germans inhabited this "Czech" territory
well before Slavic tribes arrived around 500 AD, although major German settlement in the Sudeten
began during the reign of King Premysl Otakar II in the 13th century when the area was largely
uninhabited and heavily forested. For centuries, Czechs were but a very small minority here.
"Liberec will never again be Reichenberg. We will clear Liberec of the German enemies, and we will
do it so thoroughly that not the smallest place will remain where the German seed could grow once
more. We shall expel all the Germans, we shall confiscate their property, we shall de-nationalize not
only the town but the whole area. so that the victorious spirit of Slavdom shall permeate the country
from the frontier range to the interior . The government is determined to settle the question of the
Germans uncompromisingly and unflinchingly . We are aware that, in the West, various reactionary
protectors of the Germans are at work. But the government will not be misled or softened by any
pressure, any campaigns, any libellous attacks. It is for us a decisive and encouraging fact that the
Soviet Union stands by us in the question of transferring the Germans, and that Marshal Stalin
himself has the greatest possible understanding for our endeavors to get rid of the Germans. We will
not allow even some hundreds of thousands of Germans to remain in this country . We do not want
any Germans along our north-western frontier, we want Czechoslovakia to form one integrally Slav
territory with Poland and the Soviet Union." Kopecky, the Stalinist Minister of Propaganda in the
Czech cabinet, stated in a speech at Reichenberg (now "Liberec") on July 25, 1945. And, Jan
Masaryk, son of Czech founding president Tomáš Masaryk, boasted that the Czech nation was
finally '"over with the Germans of Czechoslovakia...There is no possible way to get us to live under
the same umbrella again".
Some people were crammed in freight cars and shipped out, such as the cramped, thirsty transport
of Sudeten Germans from Troppau in Czech Silesia that arrived in Berlin in August, 1945. After 18
hellish days of travel, only 1,350 out of 4,250 woman, children and old people were still alive.
Many were forced to walk out. Reduced to skin and bones, refugees were starving on the roadsides,
with women, children and babies dead in the ditches. Those Germans who made it alive to a bombed
-out, starving and already over-strained West Germany were regarded at times as unwanted
foreigners. They had to struggle to fit in and were lucky to get even menial jobs. Read Account
The Germanic villagers living for centuries along the sections of ancient salt routes through the
present day Czech Republic were all rounded up and either murdered or exiled, their homes and
farms brazenly stolen. The place names of German villages and cities in these areas were all changed,
and their histories subsequently stolen, erased or rewritten. An example is the farming village of
BoemishRoerhren, a centuries-old resting and watering place for salt trade horses going from Passau
to Prachatitz to exchange salt for wheat and barley. The village was laid out facing the morning sun
against the mountain. The Germans were brutally expelled in 1944 at sunrise.
In 1945 Budweis, now "Ceské Budejovice", the entire ethnic German population living in the city
was forced to assemble. Some were murdered outright, and the rest were forced into exile under
horrible conditions, leaving their homes, farms and businesses behind. Today, Budweis is part of the
present day Czech Republic with its German heritage rewritten as Czech.
These citizens were never repaid for the theft of their homes and properties. Zuckmantel (now "Zlate
Hory") was the home of Schubert's father, Franz Theodor Schubert. He moved in 1783 from
German speaking Neudorf near Mährisch-Schönberg in the Sudetenland to Vienna. There were also
were genocidal expulsions here after war's end. Original Place Names
|The Sudetenland: Stolen Suffering
Gablonz an der Neiße in northern Bohemia was the second largest town of the Reichenberg Region
and it had for centuries a large German majority, mainly glass blowers and glass workers. After the
Czech decree that all property belonging to the "German Race" be confiscated without compensation,
many of the Germans who were expelled from Gablonz (now "Jablonec") migrated near to the old
Bavarian town of Kaufbeuren where they founded the township of Neugablonz.
Even small hamlets were cleansed of their German histories. For well over 700 years, German
speaking people had inhabited Zuckmantel, the birthplace of Franz Schubert's mother Maria Vietz
(1756- 1812) until the very last remnants of them were cruelly driven out at the end of World War
Two between December and January of 1946. Their new Czech masters almost overnight, by gun
point, issued the following directive upon banishing them: that the inhabitants must leave their houses
"completely furnished; curtains, carpets, lamps, bed linen... with beds to be freshly made for 2
persons per home. The luggage may not be packed in carpets and coats.......Certified luggage for a
person : 30 kg and 10 kg hand baggage. All else is to be left in the home!"
On March 28, 1946, the provisional Czech government formally mandated that all German civilians
were to be collectively presumed guilty and stripped of their citizenship and their property. This
included the most barbarous persecution and oppression of minorities humanly imaginable: rape,
deportations, expulsions, internments, kangaroo courts, confiscation of property and the use forced
labor camps. Over three and a half million Sudeten Germans were brutally expelled from their homes
and farms. Even very old people much too frail to travel were evicted and forced into an early death.
Benes and company applied this ruthless policy to ethnic Hungarians as well.
Thousands of German civilians were interned in concentration camps where they were murdered by
poisoning, intentional starvation and unchecked disease. 2,061 such camps existed in Czechoslovakia.
In the Mährisch-Ostrau camp around 350 people were tortured to death by early July 1945.
Likewise, local Carpathian Germans either fled or were killed in death camps such as Svaljava. 700
people from Theresiental were taken for slave labor in Siberia, the last ones not being freed until
1969. At the end of 1946, after "evacuation", about 24,000 ethnic Germans still remained alive in
Slovakia. Although most overt violence against German civilians in Slovakia ended in the late 1940s,
the years of discrimination resulted in a quick and disparate assimilation.
Benes constructed his decrees as early as 1940 during his exile, suggesting the expulsion of all ethnic
Germans from Czechoslovakia and the confiscation of their property, a cold, merciless solution fully
supported by both the Allies and the Soviets. The murder and expulsions began in earnest when the
Benes "reslovakization" programs started in 1945. Women, children and old people paid the price.
German civilians thrown into Czech concentration camps ranged in age from 4 to 80 and were
crammed together in tents or shacks and slowly starved to death. It is thought that approximately
10,000 people died in Bohemian and Moravian camps and prisons from 1945 to 1948 from murder,
epidemics, starvation and general abuse. One such notorious concentration camps at the once
German town of Budweis was commanded in the years 1945-6 by Václav Hrneček who later fled
Czechoslovakia and went to Bavaria where he was recognized by former German inmates of the
camp and brought to trial before an American Court of the Allied High Commission for Germany. He
received an eight year sentence for his criminal and cruel camp, a virtual center of sadism. Similar
conditions were found in the internment camp near Kolín, where internees were raped, beaten and
killed. According to a some estimates, approximately 10,000 people died in Bohemian and Moravian
camps and prisons from 1945 to 1948.
The artificially built Second Czechoslovak "Republic" was abetted by foreign assistance, support and
endorsements which it received despite the xenophobic Benes Decrees which substituted the once
harmonious coexistence of the Czech, German, Slovak and Hungarian people with brutality, denial of
basic human rights, theft and murder. Benes was determined that his Czechoslovakia should not only
keep its pre-war borders, but rid itself of its German minority, and after coming to power following
the war, it did that with immense greed. Greed was the strongest motive for all of the expulsions.
All of the pent up rage at the war, the world or simply one's personal misfortunes was directed at
these civilian non-combatants in a gruesome, genocidal mix of punishments. Already, in May of
1945, Czech paramilitaries, army units and gangs of local vigilantes violently drove hundreds of
thousands of Germans from their homes and across the borders of devastated and occupied
Germany and Austria, torturing and murdering many in what Czechs refer to as the "wild transfer".
The Czechoslovak army played a central role in the horrors. General Zdeněk Novák issued an order
to "deport all Germans from territory within the historical borders" citing the "Ten Commandments
for Czechoslovak Soldiers in the Border Regions" which directed soldiers that "The Germans have
remained our irreconcilable enemies. Do not cease to hate the Germans... Behave towards Germans
like a victor... Be harsh to the Germans... German women and the Hitler Youth also bear the blame
for the crimes of the Germans. Deal with them too in an uncompromising way."
The only exceptions from expulsion were 244,000 ethnic German "anti-fascists" and other ethnic
Germans absolutely crucial for industries stolen from Germans. They were allowed to remain in
Czechoslovakia and were worked as slaves for their Czech masters, but only as long as needed. In
1946, an estimated 1.3 million ethnic Germans were deported to the American zone of future West
Germany and estimated 800,000 were deported to the Soviet zone, later East Germany.
This famous photograph, above right, which many of us have seen, shows train cars crammed full of
Germans expelled from their homes, and was originally described by the government as: "Freight
trains full of refugees, 1946. Crowded freight train bound for the Ruhr region. Background, double-
decker train to Lübeck". The bombed-out Hamburg RR Station looms behind. This photo was later
cropped, retouched and widely distributed in 1981 with the caption: (Nazi) "transports into ghettos
and extermination camps". On the left, Sudeten Germans, some branded with paint, being expelled.
The ethnic and cultural face of the whole land was changed, even in the smallest of villages and the
most remote hilltop hamlets. For example, the German population was expelled and replaced by
Poles on the rugged northern Silesian side of the Riesenberg mountain range and by Czechs on the
southern Bohemian side. The brutal ethnic cleansing program innocuously termed a "population
exchange" led to a decline of the cultural landscape, and in many large parts of the mountains, the
meadows went to seed, settlements vanished and hundreds of traditional mountain houses, chapels
and monuments decayed or were destroyed because they were German in origin.
Sudeten German civilians, on the basis of their ethnic identity alone and although they themselves
were not personally responsible for the suffering of the Czech people, were held accountable for all
wartime Czech suffering by means of collective guilt. Hence, to this day their expulsion and the
severe hardships which more than 3,000,000 people endured, the loss of everything they possessed
and the vicious cruelty inflicted upon them in one of the largest forced population transfers in history,
is viewed by some, including the majority of Czechs, as fully justified and even commendable.
The unique Sudeten and Carpathian German communities have vanished from the earth. The Czech
government has never made any admission of guilt for their role in this horrendous, flagrant human
rights violation. Indeed, the "Beneš Decrees" that granted immunity to Czech citizens for expelling
Germans and confiscating their property without compensation is still on the books, and legally the
rape, theft or even murder of a German adult or child is technically legal under the law.
The still valid Benes decree #115 of May 8, 1946 declared all deeds against Germans, down to the
rape and murder of children, were "justified acts of retribution" that could not be prosecuted. This
led to unfathomable and sadistic abuses by anyone with a penchant for lust, murder, revenge or theft.
Foreign observations and primary accounts document are rife with tales of Czech police looking the
other way as guards physically and sexually abused German women in forced labor camps, often to
such a brutal extent that thousands of women committed suicide. Even Soviet observers at the time
reported to the Central Committee in Moscow that the Czechs "don't kill them, but torment them like
livestock. The Czechs look at the Germans like cattle"
The fugures of Sudeten German deaths as a result of the ethnic cleansing process range from a
ridiculously low Czech (together with modern apologetic German) estimates of 15,000, which blurs
the issue by distorting the true count, to the traditional standard figure of 270,000 (i.e. figure from the
Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft) which stood for almost half a century. Likewise, figures from
the Brünn death march alone range an older figure of 20,000 to an unrealistic low today of 800. Of
the several thousands who died in the process of ethnic cleansing, some sources state that 16,000
alone were documented as dying from direct violent deaths and 6,000 from "suicides" during the
expulsion, with thousands more died from hunger and illness as a consequence. Like Allied bombing
mortality figures, they are consistently being revised downward and never readjusted as higher.
That some Czechs, in the same manner as some Poles, Yugoslavians and others who in this manner
acquired German properties, have literally buried evidence of their own complicity in the ethnic
killings and expulsions while demanding blood money from the German government for themselves
as restitution and reparations is untenable. Regardless of whether 'only' 20,000 were killed in the
expulsions or 250,000, the fact remains that Czechoslovaks ultimately destroyed an entire ethnic
community of more than 3,000,000 civilians which, by standards involving any other ethnic group
other than Germans, would constitutes genocide. Budweiss and Gablonz, above