Geoff Walden

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Adolf Hitler Visits Czechoslovakia

   Hitler visited Czechoslovakia twice in 1938-1939. The first occasion was a series of one-day visits in early October 1938, after Germany had annexed the Sudetenland. This region of Bohemia, running along the German border and stretching for several miles into Czechoslovakia, had long been settled by ethnic Germans and had been part of Austria until 1919. These Sudeten Germans lived as their German neighbors across the border, speaking German and living in places with German names. After the economic recovery of Germany in the 1930s, the Sudeten Germans clamored to become part of the Reich. Accordingly, Hitler made a treaty with England, France, and Italy on 30 September 1938 (the infamous Munich Agreement, after which British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made his famous "peace in our time" statement), which gave the Sudetenland to Germany. The next day German troops entered the region, followed by Hitler's entourage, all being greeted by ecstatic crowds of Sudeten Germans.

 

Hitler crossed into the Sudetenland on 3 October 1938 at the old border crossing of Wildenau. The original German border control building is still there, along with stones marking the 1938 border, just on the German side of the present-day border crossing between Selb (Germany) and Asch (Aš in the Czech Republic).  (from Heinrich Hoffmann, "Hitler befreit Sudetenland" ("Hitler Liberates the Sudetenland"), Berlin, 1938)  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

Hitler's column traveled through Asch (Aš) to Franzensbad (Františkovy Lázně) and on to Eger (Cheb). In the spa town of Franzensbad Hitler and Himmler (above) were treated to glasses of the curative spring waters of the Francis Spring. The pavilion built over the spring in 1832 remains almost exactly as when Hitler visited in 1938. Below, the center of Franzensbad as it appeared as Adolf Hitler Platz in a period postcard, and the same view today.  (from Heinrich Hoffmann, "Hitler befreit Sudetenland" ("Hitler Liberates the Sudetenland"), Berlin, 1938)  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

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Hitler visits the Marktplatz in downtown Eger (now called Cheb), the capital of the Egerland district of the Sudetenland. To his left is Konrad Henlein, head of the Nazi Party in Czechoslovakia, and Reichskommissar for the Sudetenland. Henlein became Nazi governor of Czechoslovakia following the German takeover of the country in March 1939.  (from Heinrich Hoffmann, "Hitler befreit Sudetenland" ("Hitler Liberates the Sudetenland"), Berlin, 1938 (author's collection)  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

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Crowds of Sudeten Germans gather in the Eger (Cheb) Marktplatz to greet their liberator, and a corresponding view on a busy market day. The original spires of the St. Michael's Church (in the upper left) were severely damaged by Allied bombing in April 1945, and not rebuilt to their original height. However, the rest of the Cheb Marktplatz architecture is wonderfully preserved and very little changed.  ("Illustrierter Beobachter," 13 October 1938)

 

Above, Hitler walks along the famous street of "crooked buildings" near the Eger Marktplatz, on the way to the speaker's platform. Below, Hitler greets the crowd in Eger.  (Hans Quassowski, ed., "Zwölf Jahre: 1.Kompanie Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler," Rosenheim, Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1989) 

 

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View of the Eger Marktplatz during Hitler's speech. Little has changed today except the church spires.  (from Baldur von Schirach, "Das Reich Adolf Hitlers," Munich, Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1940 (author's collection)

 

In December 1938 the Reichs Arbeits Dienst (Labor Service) held a rally in the Eger Marktplatz.

 

On 4 October 1938 Hitler again entered the Sudetenland, to visit the famous spa town of Karlsbad (now called Karlovy Vary). In this view, Hitler leads a column between an honor guard and Pzkw. I and Pzkw. II tanks, along what is now Nová Louka street. The distinctive building on the left is the Atlantic House, with the Military Spa just behind it to the left. Across the street to the right is the famous Sprudel hot spring, around which Karlsbad was founded (the 1879 building seen in the period photo was replaced in the 1970s by a rather tasteless Communist-era concrete building).  (from Heinrich Hoffmann, "Hitler befreit Sudetenland" ("Hitler Liberates the Sudetenland"), Berlin, 1938)
(MapQuest Map Link)

 


 

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Hitler visited Czechoslovakia again in mid-March 1939, after the German takeover of the country. Here an honor guard forms up inside the first courtyard of the Prague Castle (Hradschin).   (Heinrich Hoffmann, "Hitler in Böhmen, Mähren, Memel," Berlin, 1939 (author's collection)  MapQuest map link to Prague

 

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Hitler arrives and reviews the honor guard inside the first courtyard of the Prague Castle (Hradschin). Later, the crowd cheers Hitler as he appears at one of the castle windows.   (left - U.S. National Archives, RG 242-HB; right - Heinrich Hoffmann, "Hitler in Böhmen, Mähren, Memel," Berlin, 1939)

 

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German troops march through the famous ornate gate into the first courtyard of the Prague Castle.  (Heinrich Hoffmann, "Hitler in Böhmen, Mähren, Memel," Berlin, 1939)

 

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German motorcycle troops outside the first courtyard of the Prague Castle.  (U.S. National Archives, RG 242-HB)

 

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In contrast to the German occupation of the Sudetenland in 1938, the takeover of Czechoslovakia was not entirely popular with the natives, especially in Prague. Here German Pzkw. II tanks parade in Wenceslas Square.  (U.S. National Archives, RG 242-HB)

 

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Here German armored cars patrol the main square in the old part of Prague. In the background is the Tyn Church, burial place of the astronomer Tycho Brahe.  ("Unser Führer," special edition of the "Illustrierter Beobachter" for Hitler's 50th birthday, 20 April 1939, Munich, Franz Eher Verlag (author's collection)

 


 

Hitler visited Brünn (modern Brno), the capital of Moravia, on 17 March 1939. German troops with Pzkw. I tanks had entered the city two days earlier (photo below). These photos were taken in the center of the city, on either side of St. Jacob's Church.  (Fritz Maier-Hartmann, "Dokumente des Dritten Reiches," Vol. 2, Munich, 1939; modern photos courtesy Mike Dolezal)

 

Adolf Hitler Platz (main city square) in Brünn (Brno), from a 1939-dated postcard. The modern view is from a slightly different perspective.  (modern photo courtesy Mike Dolezal)

 

The Faculty of Law building in Brünn (Brno) served during the period 1939-1945 as the seat of SS Einsatzkommando VI; the rooms were turned into offices and prison cells. Today the premises serve their original purpose, i.e. it is again the Faculty of Law, part of the Masaryk University of Brno.  (left - City of Brno Archive; info and photos courtesy Mike Dolezal)

 

   It should be noted that, following the end of World War II in 1945 as part of Allied agreements, the Czech government expelled some three million ethnic Germans from the Sudetenland. These people were forced to leave their homes and their property, and become refugees with nothing but what they could carry. This was one of the tragedies of 1945 that receives little notice now.

 

 

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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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