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Vol 3, No 16
7 May 2001
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Sudeten Dialogues
Martin D Brown and Dr Eva Hahn

Left-wing understanding...

MDB: Do left-wing Czechs and Germans get on more successfully?

EH: Definitely. Do not forget that understandings between Czech and German left-wingers never ceased to exist, you just have to think of their mutual opposition to the Nazi regime, of the German emigrants in the First Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938) as well as of the co-operation between the left-wing Sudeten German émigrés and the Czechoslovak government in exile during the war. The so-called "national conflicts" in Bohemia and later in Czechoslovakia have always been a product of right-wing politics.

Take, for example, Carl von Ossietzky, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935 after being imprisoned by Hitler, and look through his writings from the 1920s. You will find many critical comments on the political developments in Czechoslovakia, but no hostile sentiments, whereas he had also been consistent in his hostility towards right-wing attitudes in Germany, and with that, towards all representations of the then already well-known "Sudeten German Question."

I do not think that he would have had any problems with any Czechs or any Czech with him. The only trouble was that Ossietzky enjoyed so little popularity in the Federal Republic that it took 17 years of hard political struggle before the University of Oldenburg was allowed to honour his name in 1991 by renaming itself the "Carl von Ossietzky Universität." It seems obvious to me that precisely those Germans who have difficulties with Ossietzky are the same people who also have problems with the Czechs as a whole.

And ethnic conflict

MDB: The problems in contemporary Czech-German relations are often viewed as resulting from national or ethnic conflict, do you agree?

EH: Not at all. In both the Czech Republic and Germany, Czech-German problems have now turned out to be more of a long term intellectual problem, rather than the political issue it had been throughout the 1990s. The Declaration of 1997 provided the institutional framework to satisfy the small groups involved in these Czech-German disputes. However, by offering financial subsidies to these institutions, it has created a kind of "official" platform that intrudes on free discourse by selective financial support and by doing so, floods the market with just one particular kind of literature.

Paradoxically, we are living at a time where the "free market" is seen as the only acceptable economic paradigm, yet when publishing books on Czech-German relations, state subsidy is believed to offer the best solution... So that in fact, as with post-war Germany, state influence has also become a significant factor in the Czech Republic.

By pouring so many governmental subsidies into the so called "Czech-German reconciliation" program, this money is actually strangling free discourse. Unfortunately, all the existing subsidising institutions do not seem particularly interested in encouraging free discussions carried out in a lively manner by independently minded people. Moreover, when you look at the literature on history, for example, which had been published in this way, you find that it is mostly books written by Sudeten German historians which are then translated into Czech and published in Praha. Whereas, hardly any Czech books have been translated into, and published, in German.

Lack of equality

MDB: How has this lack of equality in post-1989 relations contributed to Czech resentment of Germany's clearly more dominant position in these discussions?

EH: Well, for example, the present director of the Historický ústav at the Czech Academy of Science, Jaroslav Pánek, has recently called upon the Czech historians to resist the "systematic misinterpretation of the Czech history" and the "disintegration of the Czech historical consciousness" which he believes is the consequence of "militant Sudeten German interpretations of Czech history" currently popularised by the Czech press because of its ownership by "German capital." [10]

Similarly, another influential historian, Jan Křen, voiced his criticism of "crooked historical reflection" and "mistakes and deformations," and called for "deeds" challenging German attitudes of superiority and Czech complexes of inferiority. [11]

But, neither author discussed these problems openly, so that these two examples actually indicate the extent to which the so-called "German-Czech problem" has been moved out of the political and public spheres and pushed into an emotional sphere. This, I believe, is the most worrying aspect of the present form of political settlement.

MDB: It seems then that on one level the 1997 Declaration did resolve some of the more pressing political problems that the "Sudeten German Question" posed in Czech-German relations in the early 1990s. However, whilst it may have allowed the respective governments to distance themselves from the debate it's clear that it did not definitely "solve" the question.

Instead, as you outline, the argument appears to have moved from inter-governmental agendas and the front pages into a new "emotive," increasingly partisan, forum largely ignored by the wider public.

The fact that the focus of political action has moved from the Czech and German governments to the European Parliament (EP) would appear to also reflect this shift in emphasis. While I don't necessarily believe that recent EP resolutions will actually hinder the Czech Republic's accession to the EU I do think it shows that the question is still a significant one.

It's also worth considering that these tensions might even increase when the Republic joins the EU. Then, those Sudeten Germans who were transferred between 1945and 1947, and their descendants, will be able to purchase property in the areas where they previously lived. If, the current tensions between the two communities continue then, clearly, such an influx would further heighten frictions. Interestingly, unlike Denmark and Austria when they joined the EU, and now Slovenia, the Czech Republic has not attempted to insert limits on the foreign ownership of property into its accession discussions.

I think this raises some important questions. Clearly there are several opposing sets of myths [12] in operation here. Interestingly, they do not seem to be nationally exclusive. On the one hand, we have a set of myths utilised by the survivors of the odsun in the Sudeten German organisations and on the other, we have opposing Czech myths of the past.

Opposing myths

How would you define these opposing sets of myths and what do they reveal about the evolutionary development, in both Germany and the former Czechoslovakia, about the whole "Sudeten German Question?"

EH: I think that you are right to draw the attention towards the role and function of myths because this aspect does play a much more significant role in the current Czech-German discourse than, for example, in Polish-German relations. As you have seen, even among historians, emotional responses play a major role in these discussions even though the same authors repeatedly pay lip service to "political correctness."

However, the lack of any coherent discussion about myths, stereotypes, collective memory and the construction of collective representation seems to me to be a good indication of the unusual lack of intellectual dynamism in modern Czech-German discourse.

The old fashioned concept of historiography as the "science about what really happened" dominates all Czech-German debates, which is in a way hardly surprising. Indeed, if you look at the major studies about the history of Czech-German relations, which have been widely read and referred to during the 1990s, then you might be surprised to see how old some of them are.

The major study on the "Protectorate," (Nazi occupied Bohemia and Moravia 1939-1945) Die Tschechen unter deutschem Protektorat, by Detlef Brandes, was first published as his dissertation in two volumes in 1969 and 1975. But when it appeared translated into Czech for the first time in 1999, it was hailed as the best book on the topic. [13]

On top of that, there are other strange practices which are popular among Czech and German historians. Old books get lightly refurbished when they are republished. So the unwary reader might think that the authors have worked with newer literature without being aware that all they have done is added some new bibliographical titles to the footnotes (this was the case with two of the most influential books on the history of the Czech-German relations, published in the 1990s by Ferdinand Seibt and Jan Křen [14]).

When you think of all the changes that have occurred in the historiographical discourses concerning World War II in the late 1960s and early 1970s, you would probably find Czech-German debates over these questions somewhat old fashioned. You can hardly expect these "old" books to be able to deal with these subjects in a way that would allow them to conceptualise "myths and nationhood" in the way you are suggesting.

MDB: And how are these opposing sets of myths, which seem largely responsible for the rather sorry state of current Czech-German intellectual relations, composed?

EH:There are three major conflicting issues here, firstly World War II, secondly post-war (Cold War) history and, finally, the old disputes about the interpretation of Czech history in general. The most striking feature of all three spheres is the stubborn way in which old attitudes are still being defended, attacked and counter-attacked.

The first issue—World War II—is of surprisingly little significance. As you would expect, Czech literature about World War II concentrates mainly on the Czech experience of the war and stresses Czech suffering, whereas German studies emphasise the material benefits, limited damage and the absence of fighting experienced by the Czechs during the war.

Because no Czech or German historians have ever really discussed the diversity of attitudes and everyday experiences between 1938 and 1945 in any detail, and because there has been hardly any critical re-examination of post-war myths and collective memory in the way that Tony Judt has suggested,[15] attitudes are still stuck with post-war images and sentiments.

Look, for example, at the article by Detlef Brandes on Czech views of World War II and the odsun between 1945 and 1995 [16]: it is a strange mixture of sources from diplomatic and political history without any analysis of other kinds of information, completely ignoring the methods and discussions of similar questions in other fields of contemporary historiography.

But, because everyone nowadays agrees that the Nazi regime was a particularly brutal one, this issue does not constitute a significant problem. Some Czechs and Germans occasionally use it as a form of emotional munition for expressing frustration. However, on the whole, it is a rather random problem in present-day Czech-German relations.

I would say that the main problems in this field concern rhetorical and discursive practices: fixed and hollow phraseology which prevents people from developing analytical approaches and understanding how the Nazi regime worked and how its victims reacted.

A more pressing issue and the central problem in Czech-German relations, relates to the post-war (Cold War) period. The most obvious issue here is the odsun itself. The first, presently popular, myth says that this issue was a taboo subject during the forty years of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. But in a way, the opposite is true: while the Communist regime never allowed free discussion on this subject, and in particular, any kind of articulation of critical attitudes. The odsun did play a central role in the collective identity of post-war Czechoslovakia after 1945, and it was often and emphatically referred to. [17]

You can find references to the odsun in every schoolbook and in every newspaper every year around May. The odsun has been celebrated as a great historical achievement, so everyone knew about it. The general public did not know any details, of course, and that is were the trouble started.

Here too, hollow rhetoric, empty slogans, lack of an analytical, factual approach, a lack of interest in concrete information and no sense of differentiated historical, political and moral implications in discussions concerning the odsun,seems to me, to be a major problem amongst the Czech public.

A large number of new studies have been published in the 1990s, but unfortunately without many changes in overall discursive habits. So it seems that the interesting problem is not that the Czechs don't want to speak about the odsun, but rather the ways in which they do talk about it.

MDB:And in Germany?

EH: In Germany, the situation is not much better. At present, the "Sudeten German Question" is generally considered to be a natural consequence of the odsun, and not the result of the political construction of this "Question" in Cold War Western Germany; and certainly not because of its pre-World War II roots. Therefore, it has been forgotten that only some sections of the Sudeten German population participated in the institutions and organisations which were established after 1948 with the clear aim of serving specific objectives (the revision of Potsdam Agreement of 1945) and to preserve selected elements of the memory of Czech history and the odsun itself.

The are some amazing continuities in certain sections of the Sudeten German population regarding the attitudes and views they held both before and after World War II, especially amongst those who were involved in the Nazi Regime and in the post-war Sudeten German organisations. Moreover, as they were supplied with the means to publish their own propaganda and their own view of Czech history in the Federal Republic, their particular brand of myths achieved real domination in this field.

The critics of this development, who could be identified in the 1950s and 1960s, somehow lost interest in these issues during the 1990s, so that in Germany, as in the Czech republic, we are still confronted with the absence of any real re-examination of the post-war myth of the Czechs as the usurpers of German cultural heritage and suppressers of the German population.

The third set of problems concern the general conceptualisation of Czech history. Here too, older positions are still widely held: the Czechs consider the last thousand years of history as the story of ethnic Czech national history with the German population as a "foreign" minority.

Whereas German historical consciousness is still dominated by the concept of the Bohemian Lands and its history as a part of German history (because of its links with the Holy Roman Empire), with the Czechs as a kind of "indigenous" population who just happened to be living within the same sphere of German culture and civilization. (This is the case with the two books cited above by Jan Křen (The Czechs and the Germans) and Ferdinand Seibt (Germany and the Czechs). Křen’s book is based on the image of two equal peoples, whereas Seibt’s book implies a thousand-year old history of a state (Germany), and the Czechs (as a stateless people)).

Even if you look at the most prestigious German encyclopaedias like Brockhaus, you can still find some amazing information about the Czechs; for example, that the population of Bohemia consisted of Germans and some Slavic tribes who lived in the area where the rivers "Elbe, Moladu and Eger joined." [18]

Amongst Czechs, debates about the overall interpretations of Czech history have only just recently attracted the attention of serious historians and intellectuals. Moreover, there have always been emphatic defenders of contradicting attitudes amongst Czechs so that it would be wrong to refer to "Czech attitudes" as if they were shared collectively. (Just think of the debate between Tomas G Masaryk and Josef Pekař in the early years of the Twentieth century or the similar debates around the work by "Podiven" in early 1990s.) So in reality, we are confronted with some lively debates here, but unfortunately they use the same vocabulary and sentiments used in the late nineteenth century.

MDB: Baring these factors in mind what sources would you recommend, especially on Czech-German relations, that offer a less biased view ?

EH: Well, the trouble is that you have to really look hard to find such publications. Most of them are minor studies and academic articles, and you will have to work through an unbelievable amount of Sudeten German and Communist propaganda to find them. There is only a small group of scholars presently interested in building up the required mosaic of texts, so progress is correspondingly slow.

I would recommend authors like Elizabeth Wiskemann or Johann Wolfgang Brügel (who are only well known in the English speaking world), Wilfried Jilge, Tobias Weger and Tomáš Staněk. But, of course, you should also read the pre-war texts by the Sudeten German social democrats where you can find criticisms of the whole Henleinist (Konrad Henlein leader of the popular, pro-Nazi, Sudetendeutsche Heimatfront in the 1930s) "Sudeten German ideology" about Czechoslovakia as well as about people who propagated the same ideas in the Federal Republic. (By comparison the works of their social democratic critics are still hidden away in the Archives. For example in the famous Munich Institute of Contemporary History, where nobody takes much notice of them.)

Here too, you must be careful not to read the post-war secondary literature which was dominated by Wenzel Jaksch and his followers who actually only represented a small part of the whole German Social Democratic Party. A more accurate representation of their views can be found in the works of Johann Wolfgang Brügel, a pronounced critic of Jaksch.[19]

To understand the one sided nature of the post-war literature on Czech-German relations, look at the two books written by the English historian Elizabeth Wiskemann: "Czechs and Germans. A Study of the Struggle in the Historic Provinces of Bohemia and Moravia" from 1938, and "Germany‘s Eastern Neighbours. Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontiers Regions" from 1956.[20]

The first book is a wonderfully detailed study of Czech-Sudeten German relations during the inter-war period. Which was first published in London a few months before the Munich Conference of September 1938. Even if one rejects it as a serious work, no historian working in this field can avoid it. It is a most impressive document, written by a close observer of this most dramatic period in Czech-German relations.

However, if you look through the works published in Czech and German on this subject [21] during the 1990s you will not find any references to her work, apart from a few bibliographical notes. The same is true about her second book, which analyses, in similar detail, the development of the Sudeten German political organisations in the post-war period.

Elizabeth Wiskemann’s work has never been translated into either German or Czech. But, it seems to me, that one needs to know her views on this subject in order understand what modern theories on myths and nationhood are referring to.

Recently, a large number of interesting books have appeared in the Czech Republic on these issues but for some reason these have been written in a very similar style to Elizabeth Wiskemann's. Tomáš Staněk’s recent studies on the odsun are the most important examples.

No one else has yet offered such a detailed understanding of living conditions for Germans in post-war Czechoslovakia. However, although the largest publishing house in Praha, Academia, published his first book in 1990, his studies that followed have only appeared in print through minor publishers. Moreover, none of his books have been published in German. It is almost as if those Germans who talk so much about the Beneš Dekrete are not really that interested in such scholarship.

The path that the Czech-German discourses have taken during the 1990s ended the open-minded curiosity of the Czech public. Now, one needs a magnifying glass to find any inspired perspective, new information and insightful questions.

MDB: It's interesting to note how deeply embedded some of these myths are in the opposing camps and how impervious they seem to change. Even after the events of 1989.

But, taking a step back, perhaps that's not too surprising—the British are also obsessed by their relations with the Germans.

I've spoken to many Europeans living in Britain who are amazed by what they see as Britain's utter obsession with the Second World War. If you open a newspaper or switch on the television then you will soon read or see something pertaining to the war. Indeed, when German's Culture Minister dared to mention this aspect of British behaviour he received a torrent of abuse from the tabloids.

If after 50 years the British, and I realise this is a gross generalisation, still stereotypically view the German people as humourless and militaristic, is it surprising that certain sections of Czech society are still unable to form a more objective view of a population that many feel they've been in conflict with for centuries?

EH: Well, the trouble with these national stereotypes is that they are not simply a product of World War II. In fact, stereotypes are never the product of experience. It is really the other way round, people conceptualise their experiences according to the images that they already had in mind.

The Czechs not only feel that they have been in conflict with the Germans for centuries, but they have had similar images of the Germans in their literature for centuries too. There is the famous example of the Dalimil-Chronik from the Fourteenth Century, which is often cited as a Medieval example of Czech anti-German sentiments, but I can refer you to many others.

One of the most impressive statements on this issue is Pavel Stransky’s treaty On the Czech state (1634). Here, the author refers to voices which consider the Germans as victims of their feelings of superiority, not only towards the Czechs, but towards the Slavs in general, always treating them with contempt and always maintaining that Bohemia was just a part of the German Empire—almost as if they had predicted the course of the Twentieth century...

So, I would say that Czech literature has been, and continues to be, the most important source of national images and stereotypes. These myths, images and stereotypes are more a product of these deeply engraved patterns than of real experience. What we need now is not to condemn them, but rather to work with them, to get to know them, analyse them and study their changing functions in cultural, social and political contexts.

Only then can we look at who uses what kind of stereotypes and for what purposes. This will help us to build the required critical distance towards stereotypes and myths, rather than trying to persuade people that the Germans are not "like that." This latter approach just does not work, because German literature is similarly full of anti-Czech stereotypes, which anyone can use as an indication that their anti-German stereotypes are right.

MDB: Indeed, I think there's also a worrying undercurrent of wider xenophobic feelings in the Czech Republic today—not just anti-German ones. In part, it seems to me, due to a rather parochial worldview, and in part influenced by the isolationist and suspicious nature of the former Communist regime.

Such attitudes were clearly in evidence in the Czech media, and in the population at large,during the anti-globalisation/anti-IMF (International Monetary Fund) demonstrations last year. [22] They were also clearly identifiable during the crisis at Czech television (ČT), when much was made of Jíří (George) Hodač's British passport.[23]

I don't think these attitudes are unchangeable and I think as time passes, and the Republic becomes more closely inter-linked with the rest of Europe, that they'll slowly fade or more likely they'll be forced to change them. Eventually, it will reach a point where the Czechs are just as racist and xenophobic as any other European state, especially the British, but display such attitudes in ways western Europe finds more acceptable, more "normal."

This will of course take time, and in the general scheme of things ten years of transition after 40 years of totalitarian rule is nothing much. But, I can't help feeling that they're at least partly to blame for the inability of some people to come to a more rational understanding of the myths you've outlined.

I think there's one further aspect of these mythological attitudes that needs to be considered and that's the contending myths that deal with how many Sudeten Germans died in the transfers. While this particular aspect of the "Sudeten German Question" doesn't seem to be as hotly debated as it once was, it's still there.

As I understand it the figures used in the early 1950s, presented to the US Congress by representatives of Sudeten German organisations, stated that some 300,000 Germans had died in the transfers. More recent assessments have produced far lower figures.

Misuse of statistics

How do the contending arguments over how many died during the transfers fit in with the "Sudeten German Question" and wider Czech-German relations?

EH: This issue is the most fascinating example of the use and misuse of statistics. To understand the real difficulties behind the figures you mention you have to go back to May 1945. The liberation of Czechoslovakia was different from the liberation of all other European countries: it was the liberation of the last Festung (fortress), as the Germans used to call Bohemia, the last remnants of the German Army had been pulled back into Bohemia in a desperate attempt to escape Russian captivity.

Moreover, large numbers of German refugees from the East were moving towards Germany and were "trapped" in Bohemia and Moravia by the end of the War. Large numbers of SS-units were also arriving in Bohemia from Saxonia . All this means that far more Germans than usual, not just the Sudeten Germans were in Czechoslovakia by May 1945, and this situation was not particularly conducive for statisticians to conduct their research. So even by 1946, when the first census was carried out in Germany, the figures were far from accurate.

Similarly, the more detailed census in the Federal Republic in 1950 has not—and hardly could have—offered satisfactory information about how many Sudeten Germans had lost their lives in post-war Czechoslovakia. In fact, these results merely said that there should be around 238,000 persons about whom there was no information. [24]

This figure was based on statistical calculations about how many Germans could be assumed to have been in Czechoslovakia by 1945, which itself was already a complicated question. Other major problems with these figures concern the fact that it was not known how many Germans had remained in Czechoslovakia after the odsun, how many died between 1945 and 1950 in Germany itself (the death rate among the incoming population was high), how many were in the Soviet Zone, how many were German Jewish victims of the Holocaust and how many were German émigrés.

Of course, I could raise further statistical difficulties in this matter. However, what we do know is that in the Sudeten German registration office in Regensburg, where data had been provided individually by Sudeten Germans arriving in the Western zones from Czechoslovakia, 5596 named persons are known to have been killed, 3411 committed suicide, 6615 died in the camps and 3267 died or were killed under various other circumstances. [25]

Let me also quote the figures given in the British Annual Register under the heading "Czechoslovakia" for 1946 and which are completely different from those German statistical calculations I have just mentioned:

"Within a year the eviction of the Germans had been completed. Of the total number [3, 318,445] 1,420,598 went to the American zone, 750,00 to the Soviet zone. This left Czechoslovakia—after about 900,000 war-losses from the Sudeten population—with only a little over 300,000 persons of German nationality, including some German workmen in industry or in the mines, with their families, whom the Government had decided to keep for the time being, as well as about 40,000 Germans married to Czechs and Slovaks, and a number of individuals exempted from the eviction by generosity and for reasons of humanity." [26]
There was no reference to any person being killed or having died under external circumstances.

Sudeten German organisations have been successful in misusing these statistics for their own revisionist purposes. They established the figure of "250 000 Sudetendeutsche Vertreibungopfer" as the commonly quoted, and unquestioned figure, of how many Sudeten Germans allegedly died in post-war Czechoslovakia. As Czech historians were generally not interested in any discussion of this matter, they reacted in a similarly inappropriate way: they tended to deny the deaths in polemical tones without any substantiation.[27]

Unfortunately, in 1996 the Czech-German governmental Commission of Historians made a statement on this matter by suggesting the figure of 30,000 victims,[28] without any of the sort of references usually common in the academic world. Anyone who did not like this figure could just reject it by saying that it was arrived at without any research whatsoever.[29]

MDB: I totally agree that the events surrounding the liberation of Praha in May 1945 are crucial in any understanding of these figures. Having studied these events from the British perspective, perhaps I can add some further comments to your own.

As the Protectorate had been largely free from Allied bombing during most of the war - apart from a few desultory attempts by the RAF to bomb the massive Škoda works in Plzeň and later raids by the USAF—significant numbers of German civilians from the Reich were evacuated to the region to escape the destruction wrought on cities in the north-west.

(Incidentally, on a recent visit to Berlin my wife and I discovered that the owner of the restaurant we were eating in had himself been evacuated as a child from Berlin to a village south of Praha to escape the bombing. A sojourn he remembered with great fondness.)

On top of that, there were the 1,200,000 German soldiers in the Bohemian basin, to the east of Praha. Their standing orders were to delay the Red Army's advance long enough for the bulk of their own forces and others in Praha to reach the American Third Army's lines in the west of Bohemia.

Obviously, it was preferable for them to surrender to the Americans rather than the Russians and it was this objective that made the fighting in Praha, which started on 5 May 1945, so desperate. Moreover, it was a battle that continued after the German declaration of surrender on 7 May, only ending with the arrival of the Red Army on the morning of the 9 May.

It's also worth noting here that although Bohemia was regarded as the last German Festung by Germans, in the minds of the West's leading Generals, Dwight D Eisenhower in particular, the real threat lay to the south. Here he feared that Field Marshal Karl von Rundstead would turn the mountainous region covering southern Germany, Austria and Italy into an impregnable "National Redoubt." In part this explains Eisenhower's reluctance to push on towards Praha whilst he still felt there was a threat in the mountains. [30]

Ironically, the bombing of the Škoda Works on 25 April 1945 by the USAF, which largely destroyed the factory complex, was undertaken in order to prevent it supplying arms for this mythical Redoubt. A decision that was viewed by the Russians, and some Czechs, as having been carried out in order to deny the factory to the Soviet Union.[31]

In the aftermath of the Czech uprising in May many Germans in Praha, especially those unfortunate enough to still be in uniform, were lynched in retaliation. Actions that were witnessed by Colonel Harold Perkins of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the first westerner to enter Praha in 1945.[32]

Such retribution against collaborators was common in post-war Europe. In the case of Czechoslovakia the frequency of such actions was probably heightened by the long occupation, the fact that many Czechs and anti-Nazi Sudeten Germans had to leave their homes in the border regions after the Munich Agreement in 1938 and the gruesome destruction of Lidice in 1942.

The point being that the events surrounding the liberation of Praha were inherently confused with a bewildering range of soldiers, civilians and refugees milling around. So the idea that any coherent idea of the numbers of Sudeten Germans there could be formulated should rightly, as you say, be regarded with deep suspicion.

Indeed, when American forces entered Western Bohemia they experienced a massive exodus of Germans fleeing westward. So much so that General Omar Bradley requested that he be allowed to retreat from Plzeň and České Budejovice back to Czechoslovakia's mountainous borders, where he felt he could better manage this influx. The British government strenuously resisted this request and the American Twelfth Army remained on Czechoslovak territory until December 1945,[33] where they enthusiastically fraternised with the Sudeten German population (Believing they had liberated them), much to the disgust of many Czechs.

I have to say that I'm consistently surprised that anyone, Czech, German or otherwise, could ever have taken a figure like 250,000 dead seriously. I would have thought that anyone with even an basic knowledge of the actions of the Einsatzgruppen on the Eastern Front [34] or the gradual evolution of the Final Solution,[35] would find the idea that so many people could be killed, in a relatively short space of time, whilst leaving no trace of their bodies, highly dubious. (I'm basing this on the supposition that most of the Sudeten Germans who died perished between the end of the war and the start of organised transfers in January 1946. Some seven months in total.)

More recent atrocities in Cambodia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia illustrates that large numbers of dead bodies are exceptionally difficult to dispose of secretly. This means that if such large numbers were killed then it would have to have been carried out in an organised, centralised and systematic manner.

But, the evidence that remains of Czech retribution against Sudeten Germans, such as at Ústí nad Labem on 31 July 1945, suggests that these were largely isolated and spontaneous acts. Moreover, by June 1945 Czechoslovakia was crawling with western journalists, Red Cross workers and members of other NGOs and these attacks were swiftly covered in the western press. The British Times, Manchester Guardian, Daily Mail and the periodical Nineteenth Century and After [36] all recorded examples of nationalist violence against the Sudeten Germans, either as they happened or soon after.

However, this should not in any way detract from the fact that some Czechs clearly did murder German civilians, innocent and otherwise, in the immediate aftermath of the war. Whether this was a matter of hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of people has yet to be proven.

This then poses the question of how such a large figure could have ever been accepted in the west, that it became established amongst the transferees is easier to comprehend. Obviously, as you explain, this figure was just ignored in Communist Czechoslovakia, but it did, it seems to me, become widely accepted amongst many in the West.

Personally, I think the answer lies in the connection of the odsun to the developing Cold War. Although all parties in post-war Czechoslovakia supported the transfers it does seem that in the evolution of the "Sudeten German Question" that it has been the Communists who became most closely linked to the transfers. A connection most clearly made in the samizdat work by Bohemus where the transfers of the Sudeten Germans are linked to the later Communist take-over in 1948.

Clearly they were involved. After all it was the Communist Minister of Agriculture, Július Ďuriš, who announced the decree confiscating Sudeten German property on the site of the Battle of the White Mountain outside Praha.[37] Which, if nothing else, illustrates how well the Communists utilised Czech national myths to foster widespread support.

However, we should also remember that when Sudeten-German representatives originally presented these figures to the American Congress in the early 1950s, the McCarthy trials were in full swing and Congress was investigating the murders of Polish Officers at Katyn.

Is it possible therefore, that these figures were seen as acceptable because they were presented as the work of the Communists, or at least by a country that largely sympathised with them? How else did, the Cold War and the West's view of all Communists as inherently "evil" contribute to the acceptance of these figures and the evolution of the "Sudeten German Question?"

EH: The Cold War has had a major impact on the way we think about the odsun and its aftermath. Take as an example the following passage from an English study in 1996: "The experience of the odsun and the subsequent difficulties which attended integration into what was to become the Federal Republic of Germany are enough to explain the powerful sense of grievance expressed by the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft "[38] In fact, I myself used to share this view for many years while working in the Sudetendeutsches Haus in Munich.

The hardships that the Germans experienced in Eastern Europe after the war seems a plausible explanation for observations many people made about the political radicalism and somewhat outdated opinions expressed by Sudeten German organisations. It has even been widely accepted that prominent Nazis were operating within those organisations, and until now, no one wonders why this was the case.

And yet, if you start looking into the post-war archives, you will find some surprising snippets of information. For example, the fact that prior to 1948 the US-military government tried to encourage the political integration of these "new citizens" into the newly emerging democratic political structures of Western Germany, whilst preventing them from re-establishing their old networks.

"Assimilation" and not "segregation" was the earliest principal in US-policy in dealing with these newly arrived Germans.[39]

This means that the Americans were preventing any sort of "Sudeten German political representation" being formed and older undemocratic parties and organisations from re-emerging. They disliked their nationalistic chauvinism, their unwillingness to accept the transfers and they feared their irredenta.[40]

The Sudeten German Social Democrat, Wenzel Jaksch, provides a good example of these changing attitudes. At first Jaksch, who had lived in London during the war, was not allowed to return to the Continent. The British and American authorities felt he might undermine their efforts to integrate the Sudeten Germans into Western Germany as fast as possible.[41]

It was only after February 1948 that Western attitudes changed radically. Immediately after the Communist take-over German Social-Democrats increased their demands on the American authorities for his return. At a time when these authorities still saw Jaksch as "a man who has apparently been an irredentist rallying point even though he is a good Social Democrat."[42] However, although the Allies used to take Czech criticism of Jaksch into account before February 1948, they dismissed it once Czechoslovakia became a Communist state.

The Czechoslovaks, once Allies, had now become an enemy, while the Allies’ attitude toward Western Germany had also changed. After dramatic negotiations Jaksch was allowed to settle in Germany in January/February 1949. He began to rally the Sudeten Germans in new organisations (Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft completed its establishment on federal level in January 1950), in co-operation with his pre-war enemies, former adherents of Henlein and Hitler.

After 1948, Sudeten German organisations were established in exactly the way that the Americans had originally tried to prevent. They were richly supported as spearheads of anti-Communism, at a time when their anti-Communist view were, in fact, no different to those previously preached by Hitler and his Regime.

Here too, I can refer you to another exemplary story. One well-known expert on the theory of Nationalism, the history of Communism and Eastern Europe in the Federal Republic, was Eugen Lemberg (1950-1980), a Sudeten German. Lemberg participated in anti-Czechoslovak activities during the 1930s in Germany and joined the Nazis soon afterwards. He later became a German POW in the USA. He was then chosen to lecture on the History of Eastern Europe and on Communism whilst still in the USA. He published his lectures after his return to Germany in Stuttgart in 1950 and established his reputation as a scholarly expert on Eastern Europe.[43]

If you look into the history of those parts of the Sudeten German population, which participated in the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, then you will find fewer complaints about the odsun, but rather more continuity between their activities before and after World War II. This was just one particular sort of cultural milieu which had received the chance to "represent" the aggrieved Sudeten Germans. This was the reason why the democratic opponents of Henlein and Hitler were not well represented in these organisations.

This is not only very important for understanding the statistical figures that pretend to represent the "victims of the odsun," but also for understanding numerous other myths that have become so popular. Those critics of these developments never had the chance to make their views heard in post-war Germany and elsewhere; and if they did publish their criticisms in the GDR, they were swiftly denounced as "Communists."

MDB: It's interesting you mention Jaksch, because throughout the war he enjoyed quite close contacts with the British Foreign Office (FO), especially with the young Frank Roberts.

Roberts felt that Britain "owed" a debt of support to the Social Democratic Sudeten Germans because they'd been forced to leave their homes as a result of British actions at Munich, a debt that did not extend to the Czechs in Britain. Even after the British government had officially recognised the Czecholsovak government in exile it always maintained reservations, which meant the Czechoslovaks could not exercise full authority over those Sudeten Germans in Great Britain.[44]

Roberts regularly met with Jaksch and did what he could to help him gain access to broadcast time on the BBC until protests from the Czechoslovak government, backed by pro-Czechoslovak elements in the FO, forced him off the air in June 1942. However, the success of these contacts deteriorated as the Czechoslovak government in exile formulated their plans for the transfers from 1942 onwards - crucially gaining acceptance from all three Great Powers for the "principle of transfers" by early 1944.

I recently came across a letter from Jaksch, dated January 1945, in the FO files in the Public Records Office, Kew. He enquires whether Roberts still worked in the Central Department after the recent re-organisation of the FO. Unfortunately for Jaksch, Roberts had already been transferred to the Moscow Embassy.[45]

It was here, in parallel with the American George Kennan, that Roberts helped formulate new western attitudes towards the Soviet Union when he wrote his "long despatch," which paralleled Kennan's "long telegram." These two messages were to crucially shape the west's post-war attitudes towards Russia.[46]

As the wartime alliance gradually turned to Cold War, deep-seated British sympathies for Germany, prevalent in the inter-war period and that had underpinned the Appeasement policies of the 1930s, returned to the fore. Unlike East European Slavs, Germans were seen as people that the British could "do business with," they became the obvious choice for a suitable bulwark against westward Communist expansion. West Germany eventually becoming the front line in the new cordon sanitaire established after 1947.

Remarkably Hitler foresaw this development in his last Testament written on 2 April 1945:

"With the defeat of the Reich and pending the emergence of the Asiatic, the African and, perhaps, the South American nationalisms, there will remain in the world only two Great Powers capable of confronting each other—the United States and Soviet Russia. The laws of both history and geography will compel these two powers to a trial of strength, either military or in the fields of economics and ideology. These same laws make it inevitable that both Powers will sooner or later find it desirable to ask the support of the sole surviving great nation in Europe the German people."[47]

It is a chilling, yet insightful passage that reveals how, to a certain extent, the West continued the Nazis anti-Bolshevik crusade in 1947-48. In the former Third Reich they found a pre-indoctrinated and enthusiastically anti-Communist population that was to prove a valuable asset in the looming Cold War. Presumably the Sudeten German populations in West Germany proved to be a useful additional resource.

Czech dissidents in the West

But, having said that I was wondering if you could say some more about the role of Czechoslovak dissidents in the West during the 1970s, I'm thinking especially about the essays by Danubius and Bohemus and the output of Pavel Tigrid's journal Svědectví. How did they contribute to the "Sudeten German Question" during the later Cold War, especially the linking of the Communist take-over in 1948 to the transfers?

EH: You're highlighting one of the most interesting developments in Czech intellectual life during the 1970s and 1980s. It is usually known as the diskuse o odsunu, (odsun Discussions) even though these discussions were not limited to the odsun , but also covered a whole range of issues concerning Czech-German historical relations. Usually, they have been perceived in the West as discussions about the re-evaluation of Czech attitudes. That is discussions between those Czech intellectuals who were departing from the so called traditional Czech anti-German attitudes on the one hand, and their critics who were held as proponents of traditional Czech nationalism and the Communist version of it.

These "new" attitudes were represented by famous names like Jan Patočka, Petr Pithart, Petr Příhoda, Jan Křen, the Slovak historian Ján Mlynárik, alias Danubius, as well as the group known as Bohemus, whom you mention. The common theme with all these authors was a criticism of the odsun, of ethnic forms of Czech national consciousness as well as a rejection of all hostile Czech attitudes towards Germany and her history.

However, their attitudes were not as new as has been generally assumed. First of all, the concept of "traditional Czech anti-Germanism" was taken from right-wing Sudeten German intellectual constructs of the late Nineteenth century onwards, which saw the Czechs as enemies of the Germans. This concept is an ideological construction which has not even been examined by historians thus far, but it just does not stand up to any, even superficial, scrutiny.

Take for example Czech historians: in general, they were far from being "anti-German." One has to remember that for generations, they mostly studied and worked in the milieu of German historiography, which they considered—as with all other historians of the time—as the most intellectually dynamic and inspiring method of historical study.

Apart from that, Czech professors depended on the Habsburg administration for their careers, so they could hardly afford any kind of "Anti-Germanism" in their publications. Even during the 1920s and 1930s, you will find surprisingly lenient attitudes towards the worst products of Sudeten German nationalistic excesses in Český časopis historický and elsewhere. In fact, much of the collaboration and lack of open resistance by the Czech public during WW II was probably a result of these traditions.

So, it is a myth to believe that you will find nationalist excesses in most Czech publications on Germany, or even on the Sudeten Germans, with the exception of the first few years after WW II. Similarly, the odsun and the treatment of the Germans in post-war Czechoslovakia has been criticised in Czech publications in the West ever since 1948. For example, in the 1950s journal Skutečnost you will find every idea and argument used in the debates of the 1980s. The journal was published by young Czech exiled emigrants, and such well-known authors as Peter Demetz, Pavel Tigrid or Hanuš Hájek who were amongst the most prominent critics of the odsun at that time.

Moreover, as we know today, the American authorities that financed the exiled Czech political organisations during the 1950s, were putting pressure on them to renounce their approval of the odsun. Those Czech politicians who were active in post-war Czechoslovakia and considered the odsun a lawful action, sanctioned by the Potsdam Agreement, were reminded by the National Committee for a Free Europe in 1951, that Potsdam belonged to the past and that they should pay respect to the West German public and admit the "terror" against the Germans, and admit that mistakes were made in post-war Czechoslovakia as well as at Potsdam.[48]

Unsurprisingly, Czech exiled politicians did not react well to these propositions. Yet attempts to achieve "reconciliation with the Sudeten German organisations" were repeatedly made. Usually, they failed because of the intransigent attitudes of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft.[49]

It was only during the 1970s and 1980s that the Czech critics of the odsun received any public attention. This made the timing of these debates, which you have mentioned, more interesting than their actual content. On the whole, you can see that after 1968, many leading Czech non-Communist intellectuals accepted the, by then, common West German interpretations of Czech-German history.

However, neither the Americans nor the "revisionist" Czech intellectuals could find a suitable recipe on how to deal with the remnants of the Sudeten German organisations that had been established during the Cold War and which had not adapted themselves to the changing political climate. Moreover, the debates did not open up any discussions of the older stereotypes, myths and prejudices present on both sides of the Czech-German border.

Rather than re-examining history then, the debates of the 1970s and 1980s brought in new myths, linking the transfer with Communism. By doing so, they covered up the role of both, the non-Communist parts of Czech society as well as their Western allies in the odsun and its aftermath.

MDB: It's interesting that you focus on the lack of novelty in the Czech dissidents's approach to this issue in the 1970s. It certainly hammers home the fact that Czech-German relations can only be fully comprehended with reference to the totality of their long history, not solely through the distorted prism of the last 50 years.

But, I wanted to draw this discussion to a close by returning to that very period and the first frosts of the approaching Cold War. Turning to what I feel is perhaps one of the most important aspect of recent Czech-German relations: The role of the Potsdam Conference.

There are three reasons, I think, why this meeting is so central to these relations; firstly, because it was under Article XIII [50] of the conference that America, Great Britain and the Soviet Union agreed to the transfers of German minorities from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

The exact phrase used was,

"The three governments, having considered the question in all its aspects, recognise that the transfer to Germany of German populations, or elements thereof, remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, will have to be undertaken. They agree that any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner.
they consider that the Control Council in Germany should, in the first instance, examine the problem, with special regard to the question of the equitable distribution of these Germans among the several zones of occupation."[51]

Secondly, because the Conference marked a turning point in relations between the members of the Grand Alliance. As A J P Taylor stated in his essay "Christ Stopped at Postdam" [52] this final Allied meeting saw a shift away from President Franklin D Roosevelt's "Yalta axioms," that held out the promise of a negotiated settlement with Russia, and a return to the "Riga axioms" which held that the Soviet Union was bent on world revolution and had to be contained. A view favoured by President Harry S Truman, and one that Kennan was to echo in his "long telegram" of 1946.

Thus, the Cold War started earlier for the West than for the East and, clearly, as we've already discussed, the transfers, and thus Czech-German relations, were at the very heart of this changing relationship from the outset.

Thirdly, we should remember that Article XIII was the end result of a five-year long campaign by Dr Edvard Beneš and the exiled Czechoslovak government,[53] to get the transfers internationally sanctioned.[54] As Timothy Burcher explains, "Contrary to the popular Czech myth of Potsdam, the odsun was therefore a Czech plan which subsequently received the sanction of the powers, not a solution imposed from the outside."[55] This had been a concerted, and legalistic, process designed to embed the transfers in international law and ensure (theoretically at least) that they were immune to reversal.

The obsession of the Czechoslovak government in exile with juridical and legal questions during the war should not be underestimated. One might think that Munich would have taught Czechs that international law was in fact subject to the whims of the Great Powers, as it still is today, but instead every move the exiled government made was rigorously defended in legal terms. Nothing reveals this obsession more clearly than Eduard Táborský's The Czechoslovak Cause: An account of the problems of International Law in relation to Czechoslovakia[56] a detailed legalistic description of every move made by the exiled government between 1939 and the end of 1942.

This legalistic aspect of the transfers is clearly important as the three million Sudeten Germans moved from Czechoslovakia were in fact only a small proportion of the estimated 14 million ethnic Germans [57] who were, in one way or another, removed from their homes in eastern Europe after the war. It seems to me that Czechoslovakia had ample opportunity to "expel" her Germans to the Russian Zone,[58] if she wanted to, but Beneš resisted this option in order to comply with wishes of the Western Allies, in order to have the transfers wreathed in the respectability of legality.

Indeed at the Potsdam conference, Stalin thought that the Sudeten Germans had already been expelled, as this extract from discussions on 25 July 1945 indicates,

Churchill said there were a large number of Germans to be moved out of Czechoslovakia. It was necessary to consider where they would go.
Stalin said that the Czechs had evacuated these Germans and that they had gone to Leipzig, Dresden and other cities.
Churchill asked Stalin if they were all being moved into the Russian Zone.
Stalin replied in the affirmative.
Churchill hastened to add that the British did not want them.
Stalin said he did not suggest that the British take them.
Churchill observed that they had brought their mouths with them. He said that he understood that emigration had not began on a large scale.
Stalin said his information was that the Czechs gave them two hours notice and then threw them out

This obviously raises the question of why Beneš stuck so rigidly to an organised, international, transfer when so few neighbouring states did like wise. The only logical answer, I think, has to be the legal aspect of the transfers.

Lastly, I think it should also be remembered that in their original submissions to the European Advisory Commission (EAC) in London in November 1944 the Czechoslovak government clearly stated that it wanted to retain 800,000 to one million Sudeten Germans and also possibly exchange Sudeten Germans for 150,000 Lusatain Sorbs in Germany.[60] As far as I'm aware this remained the proposed plan at the conference, only changing to a total removal of the Sudeten German population at a later date.

Competing interpretations

There are many questions raised by the conference and competing Czech and Sudeten German attitudes towards it. Perhaps, you could start by outlining what the competing interpretations are, with reference to the various issues I've outlined above?

EH: Well, thinking about Czech, German and Sudeten-German attitudes towards Potsdam the first observation I have to make is on the striking similarities in Czech and Sudeten-German attitudes towards 1945 and the Versailles settlements of 1919. The Germans seem to be imprisoned in their habit of starting a war, loosing it and then fighting the post-war settlements. In comparison, the Czechs seem to get involved in wars against their will, end up as a part of the victorious alliance and stick to the settlements that emerge afterwards.

This seemingly banal idea might not be so far off if we remember that only twenty years elapsed between the Versailles and Potsdam conferences, and that personalities like—Beneš, Konrad Adenauer or the Sudeten German Rudolf Lodgman von Auen, to name only three leading figures of the first post-Potsdam period, were already politically active in the Post World War I era (Lodgman von Auen, the leader of the Sudeten German separatist movement in 1918/19 and the first Chief of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft in 1950). So why shouldn't they, and others, have been guided by the same mental patterns?

This similarity in the Czech, German and Sudeten German attitudes did not make things easier, on the contrary it made them more complex. The lack of any ability to adapt to political realities might have been one of the crucial problems.

The first West German hancellor, Konrad Adenauer, was obviously the most flexible of our trio. Although he opposed the losses Germany experienced, the loss of territory to Poland and the transfer of Germans from Eastern Europe, he did not seem to have the post-World War I losses on his mind; he accepted in real terms—though not verbally—the division of Germany, and he lead West Germany towards a firm alliance with the Western victors. He obviously understood the changes brought upon Germany by the Nazi Regime as well as by the emergence of Cold War.

Rudolf Lodgman von Auen vigorously opposed the existence of Czechoslovakia, stressing the "injustice" of its creation after World War I and claiming, until the end of his life, that the Munich Agreement of 1938 was valid. His political practices were authoritarian, his rhetoric völkisch and his cultural habits inherited from Sudeten German social life during the inter-war period (even though he himself belonged to sympathisers that backed Hitler rather then Henlein). So really, Potsdam was not really uppermost in his mind either, and his references to the "expulsions" were not much more than a rhetorical devise.

Why Beneš, as you have observed, stuck so rigidly to an organised, international transfer and laid so much weight upon the legal aspect of the transfers, whilst undertaking an action so "unknown" in traditional legal practices, might also become more comprehensible from the perspective I have just proposed. He just continued the same kind of practices as he was used to without paying much attention to reality, which he believed he could change by getting "legal approval" from the Allies. Maybe these old habits prevented him from taking reality into consideration.

This scenario would explain why Beneš—and most Czech commentators up to the present day—seem to be hardly interested in the link between Potsdam and the Cold War, at which you have been hinting. In fact, this link is crucial: can you imagine how the transferred Sudeten Germans would have been kept in Germany and made to accept their new homes without the Iron Curtain? Can you imagine free flowing traffic between Germany and Czechoslovakia in the late 1940s or afterwards? To me, it does not sound like a realistic proposition.

For the Germans, the verbal non-acceptance of Potsdam—and no German government has ever acknowledged its validity—was accompanied by the real acceptance of its provisions so that is has become a kind of bulwark of German "rights" despite all losses they have "suffered." For the Czechs, the Potsdam agreement stands as proof that they were a "Victorious power," and the Sudeten German organisations are really concerned with striving for rights which they believe they were deprived of after World War I. This seems to me to be the main reason for why all the discussions about the odsun and Potsdam are so short of any real political and historical content.

MDB: Yes, I think you're quite right to suggest that Beneš, Adenauer and Lodgman von Auen were all operating on the basis of lessons learnt during the post 1919 period. But, in addition, the British government was also operating on these assumptions; its resistance to confirming any pre-war borders in Europe prior to the planned, but never convened, Armistice Settlement was a direct response to what it viewed as the mistakes of 1919.

There was always an undercurrent of suspicion in the upper echelons of the FO towards what was called, by some, the "Professors Peace,"[61] the whole sale creation of "synthetic" multi-ethnic nation states in Eastern Europe at Versailles, based on President Woodrow Wilson's 14-points. Indeed, such attitudes helped under-pin the policies of Appeasement. It was this view that saw the likes of Robert Seaton-Watson and Elisabeth Wiskemann [62] effectively sidelined in the consultation process over the reconstruction of Europe.

In a nutshell this attitude viewed the reconstruction of Czechoslovakia, complete with all her constituent ethnic minorities, as a recipe for future conflict - as with the 1920s/30s. The British, acknowledged masters in ethnic management across their world-wide Empire, felt that Eastern Europeans were incapable of replicating these techniques so more radical, and permanent, solutions had to be found.

To begin the British backed the creation of large, multi-ethnic, Federated states in Eastern Europe, a Polish-Czechoslovak Confederation and a Yugoslavian-Greek Federation.[63] Once that idea failed, not least as a result of deteriorating Russo-Polish relations, the only alternative was large-scale transfers of populations in order to create homogenous, mono-ethnic, states.

However, the British felt there was a precedent for such a solution. Throughout the consultation process with the Czechoslovak exiled government on the matter of transfers reference was continually made to the Greek -Turkish exchanges [64] of 1925, carried out under the auspices of the League of Nations.[65] Although most contemporary historians now agree that these exchanges were less successful than thought at the time, it should be recalled how the Turkish state dealt with the problem of its Armenian minority (Events that were later used by Hitler as a partial justification for the "Final Solution"). So perhaps these exchanges did prevent a far bloodier outcome.

Whatever the view they were certainly seen by the British as a suitable way in which to solve Eastern Europe's minority problems. Even if they always accepted that they would never be quite as "Orderly and Humane" as the previous, League sponsored, transfers.

Clearly, Beneš, with his close links to the League, would have been aware of this precedent too. So, in fact, the historical basis for transfers, as a solution to Czechoslovakia's minority problems, stemmed from the inter-war period. Equally the lasting success of such an option in a world without a Cold War stand off would have been, as you point out, far more questionable. But that's getting into the realms of "Counter-factual history."

I think one thing, above all others, is obvious from our debate—that the Cold War and the resultant East-West dynamic is at the heart of contemporary Czech-German relations, possibly more so than the Second World War and odsun itself. Baring that it mind what does this mean today in the search for a solution to the "Sudeten German Question?"

EH: Yes, I'd argue that it is not the memory of individuals who experienced suffering that causes us problems today. The reference to such "memories" has been misused for some very specific political purposes, the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft looks for revision of Potsdam (and Versailles) and the restitution of property, whilst the discourse itself was carried out in terms of "political correctness" which inhibited the open articulation of certain attitudes and has always been more concerned with questions of identity in both countries.

Attempts to foster open discussions are extremely rare, yet they are revealing. In Lidové noviny, for example, three Czech authors have recently presented their views in this way:

The director of the Czech Centre in Munich, funded by the Czech Foreign Ministry, Jan Šícha, a young historian, wrote a brilliant essay on the so-called Sudeten German cultural milieu from the position of a self-assured observer, looking at the situation from the early Twenty-First century without having any involvement in the perspectives and sentiments of the past. In his conclusion, he suggested that either the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft reforms itself, or it will gradually cease to play any role in the Czech-German relations.

And the reaction? Pavel Macháček, known as a notorious "Czech nationalist" because of his outspoken criticism of the Landsmannschaft, yet a firm advocate of the "Reconciliation Proposals" of the Sudeten German Social Democrats, warmly supported the idea that Czechs should feel free to cooperate with Landsmannschaft once it reformed itself.

The second author that responded to Šícha was an outspoken supporter of the Landsmannschaft in the Czech media, Emanuel Mandler, once again he repeated the view that the Czechs should not look beyond the Czech-German border, but rather pay attention to their own moral obligation as perpetrators of the odsun.

In these three contributions to the debate, you can see the main problems embedded in Czech attitudes towards the so-called "Sudeten German Question". None of these three authors is justifying the odsun in any way, and they only differ in their attitudes towards the organisation that pretends to represent the Sudeten Germans. Once we realise that this organisation was founded as a result of the Cold War on the basis of cultural continuity with right-wing pre-World War II traditions, we can only hope that post war developments will now be studied more closely, that consequently a greater depth of understanding will emerge and that people will realise what Czech-German problems are really about.

The questions of national identity, of myths and stereotypes, forms of collective memory and all other facets of historical consciousness will only then be able to be discussed in relaxed intellectual debate on both sides of the Czech-German border. Both Czechs and Germans are like any other nation—highly sophisticated plural societies with all kinds of political and cultural inclinations - so why should they need some special political or governmental institution to organise their relations? What they seem to need most is a free public discourse and a firm grasp of the concept of normality.

MDB: Finally then, I suppose the obvious question is: are you optimistic about the future of Czech-German relations or not?

EH: Yes, I am. You might think that I would be the last person to feel optimistic in view of my recent experiences; being sacked from my job at the Sudetendeutsches Haus in Munich, where I worked for 18 years, because I wrote a cricial article.[66]

But, I do feel that those elderly professors who took this decision, and who still seem to be very emotional about their own Sudeten German traditions are now loosing ground, and sooner or later they will start loosing money from the German tax-payer for their subsidised publications. Life goes on, and even the Cold War has become history and with that, so too are the stubborn ideological constructs that see Czech-German animosity as a kind of "natural" instinct of people living on both sides of the Czech-German border. Why should the Czech-German relations be different from the relations between the Dutch or Danes and the Germans?

You might say because of the odsun. But this does not sound logical. Surely, far worse artrocities were committed by the Germans during the Nazi occupaition of Europe and these have not prevented the Dutch, Danes or other Europeans from establishing peaceful relatrions with the Germans, so why should the odsun prevent similar developement along the Czech-German border?

MDB: Thank you very much.

Read the first part of the dialogue.

Dr Eva Hahn and Martin D Brown, 7 May 2001

Moving on:


10. Pánek J, "Česká historická věda a české historické vědomí (Několik námětů do diskuse)," in: český časopis historický 97/2, 1999, pp. 311-320, here p. 319.
11. Křen J, "Česká a německá historická pamět‘–včerejšek a dnešek," ibid. pp. 321–351, here p. 351
12. My definition of myths is based on the work of French philosopher Roland Bathes, see Bathes R, Mythologies, London, 1967 also on the definitions in Buffet C, and Hauser B (Eds.), Haunted by History, Myths in International Relations, 1998. Where they state that, "Myth is used in this book primarily as a shorthand for a particular interpretation of a historical experience or policy, or a policy with some acknowledged historical antecedents, that is invoked in the present to justify certain policies." (Buffet & Hauser, 1998, p. ix) see also Hoskins G and Schöpflin G, (Eds.) Myths and Nationhood, London, 1997
13. Míšková A, in Dějiny a současnost, 22/2, 2000, p.62 f.
14. Compare Seibt F, Deutschland und die Tschechen, Geschichte einer Nachbarschaft in der Mitte Europas, München 1974 and Seibt F, Německo a Češi, dějiny jednoho sousedství uprostěd Evropy, Praha 1996; Křen J, Konfliktní společenství, Češi a Němci 1780-1918, Praha 1990 and Křen J, Die Konfliktgemeinschaft, Tschechen und Deutsche 1780-1918, München 1996 (this book was written—according to the introduction in the 1990 edition—between 1974-1986)
15. Judt T, "The Past is Another Country: Myth and Memory in Postwar Europe," in Daedelus 121/4, 1992, pp. 83-118.
16. Brandes D, "Das Bild des Zweiten Weltkriegs und der Vertreibung in der Tschechoslowakei 1945-1995," in: Sieger und Besiegte, Materielle und ideelle Neuorientierungen nach 1945, ed. by Afflerbach H and Cornelißen C, Tübingen-Basel 1997, pp. 165-181.
17. For more about this see my book Sudetoněmecký problém pp. 158-189. And my forthcomming essay "Vytváření identity a její legitimizace jako postoje 'proti': Češi v konfrontaci s 'Německou otázkou' od roku 1945 po dnešek," in: Les formes de la légitimité dans la construction démocratique, ed. by Blaive M.
18. For further details see Hahn E, "Deutsche Bohemistik—von außen gesehen," in: Osteuropa 4, 1999, pp. 387-396, and Hahn E, "Deutsche Bohemistik—wie?" in: Osteuropa 4, 1999, pp. 957-974.
19. Hahnová E, "Wenzel Jaksch a jeho kritici," in: Lidové noviny, 5 August 2000 (see also the "Oprava" in Lidové noviny, 7 August 2000) and Hahnová E, "Co vlastně kritik Jaksche Brügel kritizoval?" in: Lidové noviny, 2 September 2000.
20. Wiskemann E, Czechs and Germans. A Study of the Struggle in the Historic Provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, London et al. 1967, (First edition 1938). Wiskemann E, Germany‘s Eastern Neighbours. Problems Relating to the Oder-Neisse Line and the Czech Frontiers Regions, London et al. 1956.
21. My survey was presented and discussed at the panel "Elizabeth Wiskemann's 'Czechs & Germans': Sixty Years After" at the annual convention of AAA SS in Boca Raton in September 25, 1998 (together with further contributions on "The Significance of 'Czechs and Germans'" by Mark Cornwall and Comments by Garry B. Cohen). Unfortunately these papers have not been published yet.
22. I was reliably informed on my most recent visit to Praha, just before Christmas 2000, that the IMF protestors were, "professional revolutionaries paid for by the Italian Communist Party" and intent on destroying Czech democracy—this from a Czech academic who should really know better.
23. See Jan Čulik's articles on these events in CER.
24. Die deutschen Vertreibungsverluste, Bevölkerungsbilanz für die deutschen Vertreibungsgebiete 1939-50, Wiesbaden 1958, p. 355.
25. Sladek P, "Die Zahl der sudetendeutschen Mordopfer," in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 7 April 1988.
26. The Annual Register. A Review of Public Events at Home and Abroad for the Year 1946. Ed. by H.T. Montagu Bell, New Series, London-New York-Toronto 1947, p. 244.
27. This was the case not only within the historiography of the communist regime, but also among the exiled historians, for an example see Luza R, The Transfer of the Sudeten Germans, a Study of Czech-German Relations, 1933-1962. New York, 1964, p. 300.
28. "Gemeinsame Deutsch-Tschechische Historikerkommission: Stellungnahme der Deutsch-Tschechischen Historikerkommission zu den Vertreibungsverlusten," Pressemitteilung, 17 December 1996.
29. For the state of this "debate" throughout the 1990s compare the studies by the Czech historian Jaroslav Kučera (Kučera J, Odsunové ztráty sudetoněmeckého obyvatelstva. Problémy jejich přesného vyčíslení, Praha 1992, and "Statistische Berechnungen der Vertreibungsverluste—Schlußwort oder Sackgasse," in: Brandes D & Kural V, (Eds), Der Weg in die Katastrophe, Deutsch-tschechoslowakische Beziehungen 1938-1947, Essen 1997, pp. 187-200) and the article by the press spokesman for the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft Konrad Badenheuer in Sudetendeutsche Zeitung, 27 August 1999.
30. Eisenhower DW, D Day to VE Day: General Eisenhower's Report on the Invasion of Europe 1944-45, London, 2000, pp. 346-347. Also Pogue F, The Supreme Command, United States Army in World War Two, The European Theatre of Operations, Washington, 1954.
31. FO 371 47097, N 7907/233/12 Ambassador P Nichols, Praha, to Foreign Office 10 June 1945. Public Records Office (PRO), Kew.
32. See HS4/51 Nuremberg/Chequebook Liaison missions and CAB 102/641 Cabinet Office Historical Section, History of the Special Operations Executive by W.J.M.Mackenzie both in the PRO, Kew.
33. FO 71 47086, N5255/207/12, Minute for Prime Minister by Orme Sargent, 8 May 1945. PRO, Kew.
34. See Yitzhak A, Krakowski S and Spector S, (Eds.) The Einsatzgruppen Reports, Selection from the Dispatches of the Nazi Death Squads, Jerusalem, 1989.
35. I'm thinking here particularly of the work of Gitta Sereny and Professor Christopher Browning.
36. See Daily Mail, 6 August 1945, Manchester Guardian, 3 August 1945, The Times, 15 October 1945 and Nineteenth Century and After Nos DCCCXXV 11.45 and CXXXIX 02.46.
37. Holý L, The Little Czech and the Great Czech Nation, Cambridge, 1996, p.122.
38. Burcher T, The Sudeten German Question and the Czechoslovak Relations Since 1989, London, 1996, p.10.
39. Grosser T, & Schraut S, (Eds.), Flüchtlinge und Heimatvertriebene in Württemberg-Baden nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg, Dokumente und Materialien zu ihrer Aufnahme und Eingliederung, vol. 1, Mannheim 1998, p. 47f.
40. Bauer FJ, Flüchtlinge und Flüchtlingspolitik in Bayern 1945-1950, Stuttgart 1982 (about the first Sudeten German organisation and its ban by the Americans see pp. 257-268).
41. Martin HW, "...nicht spurlos aus der Geschichte verschwinden." Wenzel Jaksch und die Integration der sudetendeutschen Sozialdemokraten in die SPD nach dem II. Weltkrieg (1945-1949), Frankfurt am Main et al. 1996, pp. 249-292.
42. Martin, p. 281.
43. See Lemberg’s memoirs (Lemberg E, Ein Leben in Grenzzonen und Ambivalenzen. Erinnerungen, niedergeschrieben 1972, mit einem Nachtrag von 1975, in Eugen Lemberg 1903-1976, hrsg. im Auftrag des Collegium Carolinum von Ferdinand Seibt, München 1986, S. 131-278) and my forthcoming essay "Das postvölkische Stereotyp 'Osteuropa' im Kalten Krieg: Eugen Lembergs 'Osteuropa und die Sowjetunion' und die historische Stereotypenforschung," in: Hahn HH, and Mannová E, (Eds.), Nationale Wahrnehmungen und ihre Stereotypisierungen im Vergleich, Frankfurt am Main 2002.
44. See FO 371 26394, C7992/1320/12, 15 July 1941, War Cabinet Conclusions 69(41) & C7992/1320/12, 18 July 1941, Letter from A Eden to E Beneš recognising the Czecholsovak Government in exile, which also reserved HMG's position over the Czechoslovaks' exercise of jurisdiction over certain minorities, explicitly the Sudeten Germans, PRO, Kew.
45. FO 371 47083, N1801/133/12, Jaksch to Roberts 1 February 1945. PRO, Kew.
46. Roberts F, Dealing with Dictators, London, 1991, Chapter 14
47. Reynolds D,(Ed), The Origins of the Cold War in Europe, International Perspectives, London, 1994, Introduction.
48. Čelovský B, Politici bez moci. První léta exilové rady svobodného Československa, Ostrava 2000, p. 111.
49. Lisicky K, "Das deutsch-tschechische Verhältnis gestern und morgen," in: Internationales Recht und Diplomatie 3/4, 1956, pp. 181-190.
50. Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam Conference), Two Volumes, Washington, 1960, Appendix 3.
51. Protocol of the Proceedings of the Berlin Conference, Berlin, 2 August 1945, London, 1947, p13.
52. Taylor AJP, From the Boer War to the Cold War. Essays on Twentieth Century Europe, London, 1995, pp. 402-407.
53. I think it's important to remember that the Transfers were not solely Beneš's idea and that they had wide support amongst all Czecholsovak political parties. Hubert Ripka in particular was a supporter of the transfers: See Ripka H, The future of the Czecholsovak Germans (with an introduction by Beuer G.), London, 1945.
54. See for example Novotný K, Edvard Beneš. Odsun Němců z Československa, Praha, 1996. Though this book does underline Beneš's involvement, rather than illustrating the wide cross-party support it enjoyed.
55. Burcher T, The Sudeten German Question and the Czechoslovak Relations since 1989, London, 1996, p.6.
56. Táborský E, The Czechoslovak Cause. An account of the problems of International Law in relation to Czechoslovakia, London, 1944.
57. Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross on its activities during the Second World War, 17th International Red Cross Conference in Stockholm, August 1948, Vol. 1, p.673.
58. See General Zhukov's, Russian military Commander of the Russian zone of occupied Germany, comments in the summer of 1945. Kaplan K, The Short March, London, 1987, p27.
59. Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam Conference), Two Volumes, Washington, 1960, Extract from 25 July 1945, p.383
60. 371 38946, C16563/1347/12, Nichols to FO 28 November 1944, Czechoslovak Memorandum on the Transfer of Sudeten German Population for EAC. PRO, Kew.
61. A term used by Gladwyn Jebb A Foreign Office Counsellor and later Acting Secretary General at the United Nations and repeated by the Labour Minister Hugh Dalton in his diaries. Pimlott B, (Ed.) The Second World War Diary of Hugh Dalton 1940-45, London, 1986, entry for 18 Jume 1941, p. 230.
62. Both were members of the Foreign Office Research Department (FORD) later headed by Professor Arnold Toynbee (Arnold J. Toynbee-Royal Institute for Foreign Affairs (Chatham House) 1939-1943, Director FORD 1943-46.) But Seaton-Watson was removed early in the war, and, unlike the 1914-18 war played no significant role in governmental decision making. Basically, he was thought to have gone "native"—the most heinous crime any Britain involved in Foreign relations could commit. See Young K, The Bruce Lockhart Diaries 1939-1965, London, 1980, entry 5 April 1940, p.50
63. See Mazower M, Dark Continent, London, 1998, pp. 202-205 and Šťovíček I, a Valenta J, (Vydali), Československo-polská jednání o konfederaci a spojenectví 1939-1944, Československé diplomatické dokumenty, Praha, 1995.
64. In 1925 a million Greek Orthodox Anatolians were sent to Greece and some 380,000 Muslims made the return journey
65. See for example FO 371 39012 C17689 FORD Memorandum on The Transfer of Minorities, 20 November 1945, PRO, Kew.
66. For more details see "Support Eva Hahn and the Academic Freedom" at http://mitglied.tripod.de/storck/index.htm


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