|Alliance||Axis - Minor Member Nation or Possession|
|Entry into WW2||1 Sep 1939|
|Population in 1939||15,300,000|
|Military Deaths in WW2||25,000|
|Civilian Deaths in WW2||320,000|
|- Civ Deaths from Holocaust||277,000|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Czechoslovakia was founded in Oct 1918 at the end of WW1, carved out of the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire, inheriting some of Austria-Hungary's heavy industries. In the 1930s, as the Nazi Party gained power in Germany, the ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia began aligning themselves toward their mother country, which added to the already-present ethnic tension between the majority Czech and minority Slovak populations.
In 1938, German ambition fell on Czechoslovakia. Using the ethnically-German northwestern regions of Czechoslovakia (which the Germans called Sudetenland) as an excuse, Germany asserted unreasonable demands. Hitler's original intention was to create the situation where Czechoslovakia would be unable to accept the demands, thus allowing the German Army an excuse to march on Prague, but appeasement efforts from British leaders Neville Chamber and French leader Édouard Daladier ended up forcing Czechoslovakia to accept a German annexation of Sudetenland in Oct 1938 per results of the Munich Conference. Even before the Germans had fully occupied the newly gained territory, however, Germany already initiated a new round of intrigues and military preparations to try taking all of Czechoslovakia once again, this time attempting to divide Czechoslovakia from the inside, funding the independence movements of various nationalist groups.
In early Mar 1939, Czechoslovakian President Emil Hácha began to clamp down on the various nationalist groups, and Germany was forced to move up its timetable. Slovakia and Ruthenia were forced by Germany to proclaim independence, while Hácha was bullied into submission. Czechoslovakia ceased to be a sovereign nation on 15 Mar; the western portion became a German protectorate, the eastern portion divided up between the newly proclaimed Slovakia and Hungary, while Poland took a small piece of territory in the fray as well.
In occupied Sudetenland, ethnic Germans were generally cooperative with the new occupation administration. In fact, skilled in the Czech language, many were employed by the Germans in other portions of occupied Czechoslovakia. Czechs and Slovakians, though considered a lower class than Germans in Nazi philosophy, were considered candidates to be Germanized. Jews in the former Czechoslovakia, however, suffered the same fate as Jews in other German-occupied countries; almost all of the Jews who were unable to flee the country were deported to concentration camps or ghettos, and only a few thousand survived in hiding. The Czechoslovakian economy was exploited immediately after occupation as Germany artificially maintained a favorable exchange rate with the Czechoslovakian currency, thus bringing in large quantities of consumer goods into Germany. The thriving Czechoslovakian pre-war armaments industry remained in operation after the German occupation began, albeit under German supervision, to supply the Germany Army with tanks, small arms, and field guns. As the war went on, the German industries were pressured more and more; to alleviate this, an estimated 350,000 Czechoslovakians were sent to Germany to serve as forced laborers, serving beside forced laborers of other nationalities.
There were many resistance groups in the former Czechoslovakia, but the largest were the Obrana národa (coalition of many smaller groups willing to cooperate with the military command of the Czechoslovakian government-in-exile), the Politické ústredí (politicians sympathetic to Edvard Benes), Peticní vybor Verni zustaneme (social democrats and leftists), and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The most successful resistance operation was the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, which led to brutal reprisals that saw the complete destruction of the villages of Lidice and Lezáky; though this particular episode of reprisal was severe, it was not unlike how events typically unfolded after successful partisan operations. Through out the war, these groups gathered intelligence for both the Western Allies and the Soviet Union.
During the war, thousands of ethnic Czechs and Slovakians fought for the Western Allies. Early in the war, a Czechoslovakian branch was formed under the French Army, with its 1st Infantry Division seeing action in the German invasion of France. Later in the war, as many made their way to the United Kingdom, many Czechoslovakians joined the British military and fought in North Africa, Middle East, and Europe; the No. 310 Squadron of the British Royal Air Force, active participants of the Battle of Britain, was famously all-Czech.
On 4 Apr 1945, near the end of the European War, a provisional Czechoslovakian government was formed in Kosice in the Slovak Republic, sponsored by the Soviet Union; on the same day, Red Army troops entered Bratislava. On 5 May, a national uprising began in Prague, and the newly formed Czech National Council found itself as the leader of the uprising, fighting against the 40,000 German occupation troops in the former capital city. On 8 May, German troops in the former Czechoslovakia surrendered, and Soviet troops entered Prague on the following day.
After the war, Czechoslovakia was restored as a sovereign nation, although its territory had shrunken after Subcarpathian Ruthenia was forcefully taken by the Soviet Union and given to Ukraine. Anti-Axis sentiment in the country ran rampant during the period immediately after the war. Ethnic Germans and ethnic Hungarians who accepted German or Hungarian citizenship during the war lost their Czechoslovakian citizenship and were forcefully deported; while some ethnic Hungarians had their citizenship restored by 1948, the ethnic Germans were never given such forgiveness, and as a result about 1,600,000 ethnic Germans were deported to the American-occupied zone of Germany and about 750,000 to the Soviet-occupied zone. Somewhere between 20,000 to 250,000 ethnic Germans died during this period, most from starvation and illness, but there were reports of many murders and suicides. Ethnic Germans who were known to be resistant to the occupation, those who worked in key industries, and those who married ethnic Czechs or Slovakians were allowed to remain in the newly reformed nation. In 1948, the Third Republic was removed from power, and Czechoslovakia entered a communist era that lasted until 1989. On 1 Jan 1993, Czechoslovakia was divided into two nations, the new Czech Republic in the west and the restored Slovak Republic in the east (sometimes Second Slovak Republic, to differentiate from the 1939-1945 German-sponsored First Slovak Republic).
William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
|Beneš, Edvard||Haas, Pavel||Tiso, Jozef|
|Catlos, Ferdinand||Henlein, Konrad||Tuka, Vojtech|
|Frantisek, Josef||Hácha, Emil|
Events Taken Place in Czechoslovakia
|Munich Conference and the Annexation of Sudetenland||29 Sep 1938 - 10 Oct 1938|
|Dismemberment of Czechoslovakia||14 Mar 1939 - 17 Mar 1939|
|The Slovak-Hungarian War||23 Mar 1939 - 31 Mar 1939|
|Discovery of Concentration Camps and the Holocaust||24 Jul 1944 - 29 Apr 1945|
|Slovak National Uprising||29 Aug 1944 - 28 Oct 1944|
|Prague Strategic Offensive||6 May 1945 - 11 May 1945|
|Jagdpanzer 38(t)||PzKpfw 38(t)|
|10.5 cm hrubý kanon vz. 35 Field Gun||ZB vz. 26 Machine Gun||ZK-383 Submachine Gun|
|CZ vzor 38 Handgun||ZB vz. 37 (BESA) Machine Gun|
|K4 Field Gun||ZH-29 Rifle|
|Plzen Skoda Works Complex||Factory|
|Theresienstadt Concentration Camp||Prison Camp|
Visitor Submitted Comments
All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.
- » Chester Nez's Passing (4 Jun 2014)
- » Bill Guarnere's Passing (9 Mar 2014)
- » WW2DB's Ninth Anniversary (29 Dec 2013)
- » See all news
- » 788 biographies
- » 309 events
- » 30,127 timeline entries
- » 699 ships
- » 307 aircraft models
- » 164 vehicle models
- » 271 weapon models
- » 80 historical documents
- » 66 facilities
- » 341 book reviews
- » 228 maps
- » 19,021 photos, 1,608 in color
George Patton, 31 May 1944