The Second World War
In negotiations with the Czechoslovak government on regulating the status of the German minority in Czechoslovakia, the Sudeten German Party proceeded according to Adolf Hitler’s instructions with the principal aim of not coming to an agreement and thereby increasing international tensions in regard to the status of Germans in the republic.
The United Kingdom and France, paralysed by the experiences of the First World War and conscious of their lack of preparedness for war, decided on a policy that involved making concessions to Germany. In November 1938, the Viennese Arbitration following the Munich Conference resulted in Hungary gaining southern Slovakia and Sub-Carpathian Ukraine, while Poland won part of Cieszyn and parts of northern Slovakia. The state was affected by a loss of industry, the severance of transport connections and a flood of refugees (due to the fact that 150,000 people had to leave the Sudetenland).
Hitler issued a decree establishing a Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. A protectorate government worked under German administration and supervision. The breakout of the Second World War was welcomed by the resistance movement, which was striving for the restoration of pre-war Czechoslovakia. Only a complete defeat of Germany could liberate the nation from the Nazi occupation.
Germany's terror tactics increased even more after the arrival of Reinhard Heydrich, who took the post of acting reich protector in September 1941. Participation in the resistance was punishable by death or, at best, by being sent to a concentration camp.
Even the prime minister of the protectorate government, General Alois Eliáš, joined the domestic underground movement, and was executed.
The position of the government and President Edvard Beneš abroad was more difficult by virtue of the fact that the truncation, breakup and occupation of Czechoslovakia had occurred before the war. Even so, they gained international recognition as the valid representatives of Czechoslovakia; they got the French and the British to revoke their signing of the Munich Agreement; and, last but not least, they achieved the restoration of Czechoslovakia. After 1941, the Czechoslovak Communist Party became increasingly involved in the work of both branches of the national resistance (foreign and domestic). Its foreign leadership was based in Moscow.
In Slovakia, which was fighting on the German side, the national democratic and communist resistance joined forces and created a supreme body – the Slovak National Council.
On August 29, 1944, the so-called Slovak National Uprising broke out. Its exponents fell in with Czechoslovakia. A mobilization of the Czechoslovak Army was declared on the territory of the insurrection. It resisted superior German forces for two months. Afterward, the fight continued in the mountains, but the uprising was eventually suppressed.
President Beneš, who had a decisive say in the formation of Czechoslovak foreign policy, was aware of the growing influence of the USSR on post-war events. In 1943, he concluded an alliance treaty with the Soviet Union. Prague rebelled in May 1945 and the German Army surrendered to the insurrectionists on the understanding that they would allow it to depart freely. The Red Army arrived in Prague May 9, 1945, and clashed in battle with the last fanatical German divisions. Czechoslovakia was mostly liberated by the Soviet Union, but western Bohemia was freed by the U.S. Army.
The events of Munich, the time of the Protectorate and the German terrorization of the population during the war caused general hostility among Czechs toward Germans. As regards the issue of the resettlement of the German population outside of Czechoslovakia, there was general unanimity and conviction that it was essential for this measure to be implemented. In the initial phase in the months after the war, the displacement of the German population took place in an unrestrained manner during a period of so-called wild expulsions. The manner of the resettlement provoked criticism among the country’s Western allies. The resettlement of the German minorities from Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary was officially approved at a meeting of the allies in Potsdam in 1945.
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