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The New International, January 1947


W. Williams

The Tragedy of a People


From New International, Vol. XIII No. 1, January 1947, p. 32.
Transcribed &; marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Tragedy of a People. Racialism in Czechoslovakia
With an appeal by John Dewey, Sidney Hook, etc.
Published by the American Friends of Democratic Sudetens. Twenty-five cents. New York

This pamphlet [1] is one of the first published documents to east some light on the unbelievable atrocities which are now turning Europe into an inferno. Some material has appeared in the British press; virtually none in this country. Here an infamous conspiracy of silence withholds information from the American public on the planned, gruesome sequel to Potsdam where the principle was laid down of holding a people “collectively responsible” for the oceans of misery created by “their” government.

The present “democratic” government of Czechoslovakia provided that “all persons of German or Hungarian race” were to be expelled with the exception of those “who took an active part in the fight for the maintenance of the integrity and for the liberation of the Republic.” Children, the sick, and the aged are therefore not exempted (for reason of their inability to take any “active part”), nor are those anti-Nazis who had no opportunity to take an “active part.” Moreover, anyone who desires exemption must prove his “active part,” and this is rarely possible. Practically all members of the German and Hungarian “race” fell victim to this infamous law, and, for reasons of some fine definitions, a considerable portion of the surviving Jews.

The conditions of deportation are reminiscent of Hitler. A clergyman reported “... 4,200 women, children and aged people were counted before the transport departed from Troppau. 1,360 were left when the transport arrived in Berlin.” The others had died of disease and starvation. Before their deportation the victims were forced to wear an equivalent of the yellow badge with which the Nazis had branded the Jews. A large number have been incarcerated in former Nazi horror camps or similar Czech institutions; food rations are as meagre as those given the Jews by the Nazis. As a result almost all of the infants have died. The law confiscated the property of these people without compensation, and in consequence they have been forced to leave their homes with only a few articles of clothing and a few pounds of luggage.

Under the deportations about one-quarter of the population of Czechoslovakia has been expelled. The author of the pamphlet exposes the propaganda-distorted figures of the Czech government. According to the official census of 1930 3,300,000 Germans were counted in Czechoslovakia. In January 1946 the Czech Minister, Dr. Ripka, put the number of Germans to be deported at 800,000 to 1,000,000. Shortly after President Benes declared that 300,000 to 600,000 would be allowed to remain, Minister Kopetzky (Stalinist) on July 25, 1945 stated that not even a hundred thousand would be permitted to stay. By the end of August, Premier Fierlinger’s organ put the exemptions at 30,000. The total number of Germans to be expelled (not to mention the three-quarter of a million Hungarians) equals the German population of Switzerland and is greater than the whole population of Norway.

In a letter to the New York Times the Czech Minister Papanek attempted to justify the expulsions by arguing that 92 per cent of the Sudetens in June 1938 voted for Hitler’s henchman, Conrad Henlein, and were, therefore, Nazis. In trying to deny this contention, the liberal and social-democratic viewpoint of the author, only serves to weaken the Sudeten case. He states: Not all pro-Henlein voters were Nazis inasmuch as Henlein’s program at that time was not for unification with Germany but for autonomy. The number of Czech-Germans who voted Communist is not shown in the above figure as the Communist ticket comprised all nationalities of the Republic. By 1938 the Western Powers had abandoned the Czech cause, thus throwing fear into the hearts of the Czech authorities. In their anxiety not to “provoke” Hitler they conciliated and worked for Henlein. The author produces numerous quotations wherein highly-placed Czech officials acknowledge that, in the area of Munich, the great majority of Sudetens did not want to join Hitler. (Hitler later put 42,000 Sudeten anti-Nazis into concentration camps.)

The pamphlet, however, omits the main issue. “Why did a large number of Sudetens turn Nazi? Why did many of these unhappy people throw themselves into Hitler’s arms? Among them were the cream of the pre-1918 Austrian revolutionary labor movement. They formed the backbone of the trade union and parliamentary organizations led by the Austrian socialist leaders since Victor Adler. The answer is simple. First, there was the swinish policy of the Stalinists who, having failed in the competition with Hitler for first place as German nationalists, became the most stupid Czech chauvinists after Hitler came to power in Germany. Second, and more important, there was the abject policy of the Sudeten social-democratic leaders. They appealed to the clubs of the dreaded Czech police for protection against the Nazis and to the government for a more lenient attitude toward themselves. The fruits of this policy left the exploited, half-starved, nationally-oppressed German workers, peasants and petty-bourgeois defenseless, faced with the choice either of the Czech devil or the Hitler Beelzebub. In desperation they chose the latter.

The Czech premier, Fierlinger, a member of the Second International, presents his apologia for the recent expulsions in an historical form: “... thus [by the expulsion of the Germans] the injustice which our nation suffered after the Battle of the White Mountain [1620] ... will be wiped out ...” Here it is necessary to remark that at the battle of the White Mountain – almost two hundred years before the development of a modern national consciousness – the Protestant, decentralized, feudal Bohemian Estates were defeated by the Catholic, centralizing power of the Hapsburgs, who consolidated their victory by the extermination of the revolting Czech and German feudal lords, replacing them by obedient creatures. This was followed by the burning of the Protestant Czech and German Bibles as had been done in the German Tyrol, Salzburg; and in other non-Czech Protestant regions.

The section of the pamphlet which deals with what the author calls the “pre-war grievances” of the Sudetens against their Czech masters is a masterpiece of understatement. An expert an the art of swallowing “accomplished facts,” the author does not even dare to question seriously Czechoslovakia’s crazy frontier lines which were drawn by feudal robberies, historic accidents and the rascals of Versailles. The author emphasizes the ideal unit which he says Bohemia represents with respect to economy (a plane ride from Prague to Paris takes two hours); to culture (why?); to strategy (Bear Mountain in New York State is a more serious strategic obstacle than most of Bohemia’s border ranges!); and to history (which adorned the frontiers with bizarre ornaments, such as the remainders of feuds, unredeemed pawns, marriages, forgeries, etc.!).

Most annoying are the continuous bows to the late Thomas G. Masaryk, whom the author considers a great humanitarian, philosopher and statesman, and whose spirit had been allegedly shared by his devout pupil, Benes, before the latter, as the author states, abandoned it. Surely Masaryk was not only a shrewd but also a “successful” politician, and it is the “success” that impresses the petty-bourgeois. But what impresses him more is the admittedly excellent advertising which blew this incarnated commonplace up into a gigantic figure and his republic, a cancerous growth artfully implanted by Versailles in Europe’s tissue, into a “model democracy.” Just read some lines of Masaryk’s philosophy. His book World Revolution implies that the world revolution culminated at ... Versailles! Trotsky’s My Life recounts the atrocities committed in Russia by Masaryk’s counter-revolutionary legions, acts which he never disavowed. These legions later served as honor guards in front of the Presidential palace.

The pamphlet is well written and full of useful data. There is valuable information on the destruction of Czechoslovakia’s wealth and the bloody wounds inflicted on European economy by the extermination of the highly skilled inhabitants of one of Europe’s most industrialized regions. In spite of the social-democratic point of view which tends to water down some of the arguments, The Tragedy of a People exposes the tyrannical rule of the victorious “democracies” against minority peoples and highlights an important aspect of the national question in Europe.


1. The pamphlet, although unsigned, was probably written by Wenzel Jaksch, a former Sudeten Social-Democrat and M.P. now living in London.

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