The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia[a] was a partially annexed territory of Nazi Germany established on 16 March 1939 following the German occupation of the Czech lands on 15 March 1939. Earlier, following the Munich Agreement of September 1938, Nazi Germany had incorporated the Czech Sudetenland territory as a Reichsgau (October 1938).
The protectorate's population was majority ethnic Czech, while the Sudetenland was majority ethnic German. Following the establishment of the independent Slovak Republic on 14 March 1939, and the German occupation of the Czech rump state the next day, Adolf Hitler established the protectorate on 16 March 1939 by a proclamation from Prague Castle.
The German government justified its intervention by claiming that Czechoslovakia was descending into chaos as the country was breaking apart on ethnic lines, and that the German military was seeking to restore order in the region.
Czechoslovakia at the time under President Emil Hácha had pursued a pro-German foreign policy; however, upon meeting with the German Führer Hitler (15 March 1939), Hácha submitted to Germany's demands and issued a declaration stating that in light of events he accepted that Germany would decide the fate of the Czech people; Hitler accepted Hácha's declaration and declared that Germany would provide the Czech people with an autonomous protectorate governed by ethnic Czechs. Hácha was appointed president of the protectorate the same day.
The Protectorate was a nominally autonomous Nazi-administered territory which the German government considered part of the Greater German Reich.
During the Second World War, the well-trained Czech workforce and developed industry was forced to make a major contribution to the German war economy. Since the Protectorate was just out of the reach of Allied bombers, the Czech economy was able to work almost undisturbed until the end of the war.
The state's existence came to an end with the surrender of Germany to the Allies in 1945.
After Czechoslovakia was forced to accept the terms of the Munich Agreement of September 30, 1938, Nazi Germany incorporated the ethnic German majority Sudetenland regions along the German border directly into its Third Reich. Five months later, when, with Nazi German support, the Slovak parliament declared the independence of the Slovak Republic, Hitler summoned Czechoslovak President Emil Hácha to Berlin and intimidated him into accepting the German occupation of the Czech rump state and its reorganisation as a German protectorate.
When the protectorate was proclaimed, there was no real precedent for this action in German history. The Nazi German authorities intentionally allowed the protectorate "all the trappings of independence" in order to encourage the Czech inhabitants to collaborate with them. However, despite the protectorate having its own postage stamps and presidential guard, real power lay with the Nazi German authorities. The model of political control was similar to the princely states of the Raj, where although the Indian maharajahs were the nominal heads of state, real power was in the hands of the installed resident. Hácha was implied to have received avuncular guidance from Baron Konstantin von Neurath, the Reich protector of the protectorate.
The population of the protectorate was mobilized for labor that would aid the German war effort, and special offices were organized to supervise the management of industries important to that effort. The Germans drafted Czechs to work in coal mines, in the iron and steel industry, and in armaments production. Consumer-goods production, much diminished, was largely directed toward supplying the German armed forces. The protectorate's population was subjected to rationing.
First issue of currency in Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (an unissued 1938 Czechoslovak note with a validation stamp for use in 1939)
German rule was moderate by Nazi standards during the first months of the occupation. The Czech government and political system, reorganized by Hácha, continued in formal existence. The Gestapo directed its activities mainly against Czech politicians and the intelligentsia. The eventual goal of the German state under Nazi leadership was to eradicate Czech nationality through assimilation and deportation and to exterminate the Czech intelligentsia; the intellectual élites and members of the middle class made up many of the 200,000 people who were sent to concentration camps and of the 250,000 who died during the German occupation. In 1940, in a secret plan on Germanization of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, it was declared that those considered to be racially Mongoloid and the Czech intelligentsia were not to be Germanized, and that about half of the Czech population were suitable for Germanization. Generalplan Ost assumed that around 50% of Czechs would be fit for Germanization. The Czech intellectual élites were to be removed from Czech territories and from Europe completely. The authors of Generalplan Ost believed it would be best if they emigrated overseas, as even in Siberia, they were considered a threat to German rule. Just like Jews, Poles, Serbs, and several other nations, Czechs were considered to be untermenschen by the Nazi state.
1939 amended Czechoslovakian passport to a Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia sample
The Czechs demonstrated against the occupation on 28 October 1939, the 21st anniversary of Czechoslovak independence. The death on 15 November 1939 of a medical student, Jan Opletal, who had been wounded in the October violence, precipitated widespread student demonstrations, and the Reich retaliated. Politicians were arrested en masse, as were an estimated 1,800 students and teachers. On 17 November, all universities and colleges in the protectorate were closed, nine student leaders were executed, and 1,200 were sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp within Nazi Germany; further arrests and executions of Czech students and professors took place later during the occupation. (See also Czech resistance to Nazi occupation)
Announcement of the execution of Czechs
, who improved radio receivers to listen to foreign broadcasts, 1944
During World War II, Hitler decided that Neurath was not treating the Czechs harshly enough and adopted a more radical policy in the protectorate. On 29 September 1941, Hitler appointed SS hardliner Reinhard Heydrich as Deputy Reichsprotektor (Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor). At the same time, he relieved Neurath of his day-to-day duties. For all intents and purposes, Heydrich replaced Neurath as Reichsprotektor. Under Heydrich's authority Prime Minister Alois Eliáš was arrested (and later executed), the Czech government was reorganized, and all Czech cultural organizations were closed. The Gestapo arrested and killed people. The deportation of Jews to concentration camps was organized, and the fortress town of Terezín was made into a ghetto way-station for Jewish families. On 4 June 1942, Heydrich died after being wounded by Czechoslovak Commandos in Operation Anthropoid. Directives issued by Heydrich's successor, SS-Oberstgruppenführer Kurt Daluege, and the martial law en force brought forth mass arrests, executions and the obliteration of the villages of Lidice and Ležáky. In 1943 the German war-effort was accelerated. Under the authority of Karl Hermann Frank, German minister of state for Bohemia and Moravia, within the protectorate, all non-war-related industry was prohibited. Most of the Czech population obeyed quietly until the final months preceding the end of the war, when thousands became involved in the resistance movement.
For the Czechs of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, German occupation represented a period of oppression. Czech losses resulting from political persecution and deaths in concentration camps totalled between 36,000 and 55,000.
The Jewish population of Bohemia and Moravia (118,000 according to the 1930 census) was virtually annihilated, with over 75,000 murdered. Of the 92,199 people classified as Jews by German authorities in the Protectorate as of 1939, 78,154 perished in the Holocaust, or 85 percent.
Many Jews emigrated after 1939; 8,000 survived at the Terezín concentration camp, which was used for propaganda purposes as a showpiece. Several thousand Jews managed to live in freedom or in hiding throughout the occupation. The extermination of the Romani population was so thorough that the Bohemian Romani language became totally extinct. Romani internees were sent to the Lety and Hodonín concentration camps before being transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau for gassing. The vast majority of Romani in the Czech Republic today descend from migrants from Slovakia who moved there within post-war Czechoslovakia. The Theresienstadt concentration camp was located in the Protectorate, near the border to the Reichsgau Sudetenland. It was designed to concentrate the Jewish population from the Protectorate and gradually move them to extermination camps, and it also held Western European and German Jews. While not an extermination camp itself, the harsh and unhygienic conditions still resulted in the death of 33,000 of the 140,000 Jews brought to the camp while a further 88,000 were sent to extermination camps, and only 19,000 survived.
Standard of the Reich Protector (1939–1944).
Standard of the State President.
After the establishment of the Protectorate all political parties were outlawed, with the exception of the National Partnership (Národní souručenství). This local Czech Fascist party was led by a ruling Presidium until 1942, after which a Vůdce (Leader) for the party was appointed.
Ultimate authority within the Protectorate was held by the Reich Protector (Reichsprotektor), the area's senior Nazi administrator, whose task it was to represent the interests of the German state. The office and title were held by a variety of persons during the Protectorate's existence. In succession these were:
- 16 March 1939 – 20 August 1943:
Konstantin von Neurath, former Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany (1933 - 1938) and Minister without Portfolio (1938 - 1945). He was placed on leave in September 1941 after Hitler's dissatisfaction with his "soft policies", although he still held the title of Reichsprotektor until his official resignation in August 1943.
- 27 September 1941 – 30 May 1942:
Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office) or RSHA. He was officially only a deputy to Neurath, but in reality was granted supreme authority over the entire state apparatus of the Protectorate.
- 31 May 1942 – 20 August 1943:
Kurt Daluege, Chief of the Ordnungspolizei (Order Police) or Orpo, in the Interior Ministry, who was also officially a deputy Reich Protector.
- 20 August 1943 – 5 May 1945:
Wilhelm Frick, former Minister of the Interior (1933 - 1943) and Minister without Portfolio (1943 - 1945).
Next to the Reich Protector there was also a political office of State Secretary (from 1943 known as the State Minister to the Reich Protector) who handled most of the internal security. From 1939 to 1945 this person was Karl Hermann Frank the senior SS and Police Leader in the Protectorate. A command of the Allgemeine-SS was also established, known as the SS-Oberabschnitt Böhmen-Mähren. The command was an active unit of the General-SS, technically the only such unit to exist outside of Germany, since most other Allgemeine-SS units in occupied or conquered countries were largely paper commands.
The Czech State President (Státní Prezident) under the period of German rule from 1939 to 1945 was Emil Hácha (1872–1945), who had been the President of the Second Czechoslovak Republic since November 1938. Rudolf Beran (1887–1954) continued to hold the office of Minister President (Předseda vlády) after the German take-over. He was replaced by Alois Eliáš on 27 April 1939, who was himself also sacked on 2 October 1941 not long after the appointment of Reinhard Heydrich as the new Reich Protector. Because of his contacts with the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile Eliáš was sentenced to death, and the execution was carried out on 19 June 1942 shortly after Heydrich's own death. From 19 January 1942 the government was led by Jaroslav Krejčí, and from January to May 1945 by Richard Bienert, the former police chief of Prague. When the dissolution of the Protectorate was proclaimed after the Liberation of Prague, a radio call was issued for Bienert's arrest. This resulted in his conviction to a three-year prison term in 1947, during which he died in 1949.
Aside from the Office of the Minister President, the local Czech government in the Protectorate consisted of the Ministries of Education, Finance, Justice, Trade, the Interior, Agriculture, and Public Labour. The area's foreign policy and military defence were under the exclusive control of the German government. The former foreign minister of Czechoslovakia František Chvalkovský became a Minister without Portfolio and permanent representative of the Czech administration in Berlin.
The most prominent Czech politicians in the Protectorate included:
Memorial to the murdered children of Lidice
. Some Lidice children were spared because they were considered suitable for "Germanization
The area of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia contained about 7,380,000 inhabitants in 1940. 225,000 (3.3%) of these were of German origin, while the rest were mainly ethnic Czechs as well as some Slovaks, particularly near the border with Slovakia. Ethnic Germans were offered Reich citizenship, while Jews and Czechs were from the outset second-class citizens ("Protectorate subjects", German: Protektoratsangehörige).
In March 1939, Karl Frank defined a "German national" as:
Whoever professes himself to be a member of the German nation is a member of the German nation, provided that this profession is confirmed by certain facts, such as language, upbringing, culture, etc. Persons of alien blood, particularly Jews, are never Germans. . . . Because professing to be a member of the German nation is of vital significance, even someone who is partly or completely of another race—Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian, Hungarian, or Polish, for example—can be considered a German. Any more precise elaboration of the term "German national" is not possible given current relationships.
The Nazis aimed for the protectorate to become fully Germanized. Marriages between Czechs and Germans became a problem for the Nazis. In 1939, the Nazis did not ban sexual relations between Germans and Czechs and no law prohibited Jews from marrying Czechs. The Nazis made German women who married any non-Germans lose their Reich citizenship whereas Czech women who married German men were accepted into the German Volk. Czech families aiming to improve their lives in the protectorate encouraged their Czech daughters to marry German men as it was one way to save a family business.
Hitler had approved a plan designed by Konstantin von Neurath and Karl Hermann Frank, which projected the Germanization of the "racially valuable" half of the Czech population after the end of the war. This consisted mainly of industrial workers and farmers. The undesirable half contained the intelligentsia, whom the Nazis viewed as ungermanizable and potential dangerous instigators of Czech nationalism. Some 9,000 Volksdeutsche from Bukovina, Dobruja, South Tyrol, Bessarabia, Sudetenland and the Altreich were settled in the protectorate during the war. The goal was to create a German settlement belt from Prague to Sudetenland, and to turn the surroundings of Olomouc (Olmütz), České Budějovice (Budweis), Brno (Brünn) and the area near the Slovak border into German enclaves.
Further integration of the protectorate into the Reich was carried out by the employment of German apprentices, by transferring German evacuee children into schools located in the protectorate, and by authorizing marriages between Germans and "assimilable" Czechs. Germanizable Czechs were allowed to join the Reich Labour Service and to be admitted to German universities.
The Czechs responded with humor, sarcasm and satire, so the Germans began referring to Czech citizens as "laughing beasts".
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
This section needs additional citations for verification
. (February 2013)
For administrative purposes the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was divided into two Länder: Böhmen (Bohemia) and Mähren (Moravia). Each of these was further subdivided into Oberlandratsbezirke, each comprising a number of Bezirke.
||Budweis, Gumpolds, Ledetsch, Pilgrams, Tabor, Wittingau
||Chrudim, Hohenmauth, Jitschin, Königgrätz, Königinhof, Leitomischl, Nachod, Neu-Bidschow, Neuenburg, Pardubitz, Reichenau, Semil
||Klattau, Kralowitz Pilsen-Land, Pilsen-Stadt, Pisek, Schüttenhofen, Strakonitz, Taus
||Beneschau, Beraun, Böhmisch-Brod, Brandeis, Jungbunzlau, Kladno, Kolín, Laun, Melnik, Pibrans, Prag-Land-Nord, Prag-Land-Süd, Prag-Stadt, Rakonitz, Raudnitz, Schlan, Seltschan, Tschaslau
||Boskowitz, Brünn-Land, Brünn-Stadt, Gaya, Göding, Ungarisch-Brod, Ungarisch-Hradisch, Wischau, Zline
||Groß-Meseritsch, Iglau, Mährisch-Budwitz, Neustadtl, Trebitsch
||Friedberg, Kremsier, Littau, Mährisch-Ostrau, Mährisch-Weißkirchen, Olmütz-Land, Olmütz-Stadt, Prerau, Proßnitz, Wallachisch-Meseritsch, Wesetin
For party administrative purposes the Nazi Party extended its Gau-system to Bohemia and Moravia when the Protectorate was established. This step divided the remaining parts of Bohemia and Moravia up between its four surrounding Gaue:
The resulting government overlap led to the usual authority conflicts typical of the Third Reich era. Seeking to extend their own powerbase and to facilitate the area's Germanization the Gauleiters of the surrounding districts continually agitated for the liquidation of the Protectorate and its direct incorporation into the German Reich. Hitler stated as late as 1943 that the issue was still to be decisively settled.
Like in other occupied countries, the German military in Bohemia and Moravia was commanded by a Wehrmachtbefehlshaber. Through the year, the headquarter received several different names because of the complex structure of the Reichsprotektorat : Wehrmachtbevollmächtigter beim Reichsprotektor in Böhmen und Mähren, Wehrmachtbefehlshaber beim Reichsprotektor in Böhmen und Mähren and Wehrmachtbefehlshaber beim deutschen Staatsminister in Böhmen und Mähren.
The commander also held the position of the Befehlshaber im Wehrkreis Böhmen und Mähren.
- ^ German: Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren; Czech: Protektorát Čechy a Morava; its territory was called by the Nazis Resttschechei ("the rest of Czechia").
- ^ a former Czechoslovak General who was executed for his secret contacts with the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile in 1942
- ^ Joined the London-based Czechoslovak government in 1940.
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- ^ Axis History
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