Destruction of the rest of the Czech Republic

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The smashing of Czechoslovakia was a military operation in which German troops took place on 15/16. March 1939 occupied the remaining (Czech) territory of the Czecho-Slovak Republic . In the parlance of Nazi propaganda , this act was referred to as "smashing the rest of the Czech Republic " , reaching for Prague or doing away with the rest of the Czech Republic . After the separation and independence of the first Slovak Republic took place on March 14th under pressure from Adolf Hitler , the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was established immediately after the invasion and a German jurisdiction was created there.

The territory of Czechoslovakia was already covered by the incorporation of the Sudetenland into the German Reich (October 2, 1938, to settle the Sudeten crisis ) as well as by parts of Slovakia in the course of its disintegration in 1938 and also by territorial losses to Poland (1938) and Hungary ( 1938/39) has been reduced in size. After threats of a bombing of Prague , the Wehrmacht marched into the - historically speaking - remaining areas of Bohemia and Moravia with almost no resistance .

Division of Czechoslovakia:

With this approach, Hitler went for the first time clearly beyond the Greater German objective based on the right to self-determination and broke his promise with which the Munich Agreement on the Sudetenland had been achieved.


Without being involved in the Munich conference that had been convened as a result of the Sudeten crisis , the Republic of Poland occupied the Olsa region of Teschen at the beginning of October and was later awarded further parts of the territory. Even Hungary aspired areas regain what the First Vienna Award was implemented from November 2, 1938 in part.

The Munich Agreement (September 29/30, 1938) brought the German Reich considerable territorial expansion, including the strong Czechoslovak border defense positions against Germany, which the Wehrmacht believed could not have been overcome militarily at the time. Nevertheless, Hitler was dissatisfied with what had been achieved. Just ten days later, he presented Wilhelm Keitel with a secret catalog of questions about the military options for occupying the rest of Czech territory, although he had previously denied seeking Czech territories in several speeches and in Munich had promised a guarantee of the borders of the remaining Czechoslovak state. On October 21, 1938, he gave the order to prepare the military "elimination of the rest of the Czech Republic".

Declaration of Independence of Slovakia

Division of Czecho-Slovakia with the participation of Germany, Poland and Hungary

As of February 1939, seven army corps were assembled waiting for the invasion. The hope of being called for help by the Slovaks , however, was not fulfilled. After the occupation of autonomous Slovakia on March 9, 1939 by Czech troops, Hitler urged the deposed Slovak Prime Minister Jozef Tiso , who had been appointed to Berlin on March 13, to sign a prefabricated Slovak declaration of independence , otherwise the Slovak territory would be divided between Poland and Hungary. According to Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop , Hungarian troops are already approaching the Slovakian border. But Tiso refused to make this decision alone. He was therefore allowed to consult with the members of the Slovak Parliament .

The parliament, which met the next day, decided unanimously to declare Slovakia independent. The independence manifesto of the Slovak state was read out in Pressburg .

In the meantime, a campaign has been staged in the German press , in which there was talk of the “Czech terror regime” against Germans and Slovaks. Hitler set the entry of German troops for March 15 at 6 a.m. On March 13th, Hermann Göring was ordered back from his vacation spot San Remo to Berlin by letter from Hitler , where he arrived on the afternoon of March 14th.

Hácha in Berlin

The Czech President Emil Hácha (second from left) on 14./15. March 1939 in the Reich Chancellery in conversation with Hitler and Goering

Also on March 14, 1939, the previous Czechoslovak President Emil Hácha and Foreign Minister František Chvalkovský arrived at the New Reich Chancellery in Berlin that evening . Hácha had asked for this conversation. The guests were received with all protocol honors, but only allowed in after a long wait between one and two o'clock at night. Hácha thanked Hitler, next to whom Göring and Keitel were sitting, for the reception. He distanced himself from his predecessors Masaryk and Beneš , but nevertheless asked for his people to be granted the right to an independent existence.

Hitler responded with a long speech in which he criticized, among other things, the hostility of the Czechs, which has often been attested, and the persistent Beneš spirit, against which the current government in his own country is powerless. He declared that his patience was now exhausted and that at six o'clock the German army would enter the Czech Republic. If the entry of the German troops turned into a struggle, this resistance would be broken. Should the invasion of the German troops take place in a tolerable form, a generous life of their own, autonomy and a certain freedom could be granted.

When Hácha asked how he could keep the entire Czech people back from the resistance within four hours, Hitler referred him to his Prague offices. After two o'clock, Hácha and Chvalkovský left Hitler's study and tried to establish the telephone connection to Prague. Conversations with Ribbentrop and Goering followed. On this occasion, Goering threatened an air raid on Prague and described its devastating consequences. Hácha suffered a heart attack. An injection from Hitler's personal physician Theo Morell stabilized his health.

At this early hour, Hácha and Chvalkovský instructed the Prague authorities not to offer any resistance to the impending German invasion. Shortly before four o'clock, Hácha signed a document that ended the sovereignty of the state. Immediately thereafter, Hitler was extremely pleased with Hácha's signature to those around him, in a very different way than after the Munich Agreement had come about.

Invasion of the Wehrmacht and SS disposable troops

Crowds as the Wehrmacht marched into Brno (March 1939)
Adolf Hitler at Prague Castle (March 15, 1939)

The Slovakia and the Carpathian Ukraine had been in the meantime granted for years denied autonomy, but the now independent Slovak Republic "placed himself under the protection of the kingdom"; henceforth it was a satellite state of National Socialist Germany . Hungary occupied the Carpathian Ukraine.

At six o'clock on March 15, German Wehrmacht units and SS troops advanced across the border and reached the capital Prague at around nine o'clock. The German army disarmed the Czech army . The Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler occupied the industrial area of Mährisch-Ostrau and, together with the SS-VT standard “Germania”, took over “guard duties” at Prague Castle . The Secret State Police (Gestapo) also moved in with the Wehrmacht and SS troops and began to persecute German emigrants and Czech communists . Several thousand people were arrested during this action, which became known as the " Operation Grid ". Hitler left Berlin at eight o'clock, arrived in Prague in the evening and spent the night on the Hradschin .

On March 16, he announced that Czecho-Slovakia had ceased to exist. The Bohemian-Moravian Lands had been reinserted into their old historical surroundings. A decree published at the same time proclaimed the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia now under German sovereignty and subordinate to a Reich Protector . Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath was appointed Reich Protector on the same day .

Political importance

The “reach for Prague” is considered Hitler's first serious foreign policy mistake. Previously, he had pursued the tactic of giving all critical situations such an ambiguous character that his opponents' will to resist broke. But now he was "for the first time clearly revealing his innermost being", as the historian Joachim Fest judged. Hitler himself later recognized this fatal mistake.

Gold affair

The Czechoslovak National Bank had already started to transfer most of its gold abroad before the Wehrmacht invaded the rest of the Czech Republic . At the time of the invasion, 88.4354 tons were already abroad, 6.3366 tons were still in Germany. The special representative of the Reichsbank at Army Group Command III, Dr. Through threats of execution, Müller forced the directors of the Czech National Bank to send two orders to the Bank of England to transfer the gold deposited in England. The first order demanded the transfer of 26.793 tons to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the second order demanded 23.0873 tons directly for the Deutsche Reichsbank. At the same time, they gave the British Embassy to understand that these orders had been enforced and were invalid. The second order with the 23 tons was immediately carried out by the Bank of England on March 22, 1939, while the first was held back with the note "pending clarification". The legal clauses of the BIS made it possible to execute the second order, as they required no transfer restrictions or confiscation even in the event of war. When the British press learned of the transfer a little later , a storm of indignation arose at a meeting of the House of Commons on May 18, 1939. Not only was the Bank of England's actions criticized, but the Treasury and the government were also accused of trying to appease the Germans with Czech gold. Winston Churchill was indignant that gold would strengthen German armaments and weaken British armaments . The historian Walther Hofer judges:

“Nonetheless, it is astonishing that the fortunes of a sovereign state have been surrendered to its conqueror without a single protest from the British government. Legal clauses alone cannot have been decisive. One explanation for this behavior lies in the interests of the British government vis-à-vis Germany in connection with the economic appeasement policy and the resulting attitude towards the standstill agreement of 1931 and towards the London banks. "


On March 17th, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain spoke of a shock that was more severe than ever before, referred to Hitler's numerous broken words and called Ambassador Nevile Henderson back from Berlin for an indefinite period.

When Henderson and the French ambassador Robert Coulondre presented protest notes in Berlin on March 18, Hitler had already left Prague for Vienna. The break-up of Czecho-Slovakia was seen as an open breach of the Munich Agreement and resulted in a worsening of the international situation. The United Kingdom , France , Poland , the United States of America and the Soviet Union did not recognize the de facto annexation of the Czech Republic. Great Britain deviated from its previous appeasement policy and on March 31, together with France, issued a guarantee to the Polish state , which later led to the two states entering into war against Germany.

The USA responded with a punitive tariff of 25% on all German imports on March 17, 1939 . For the German government this was tantamount to declaring an economic war .

The “removal of the rest of the Czech Republic” is regarded as Hitler's self-unmasking. Golo Mann wrote in his work German history of the 19th and 20th centuries : "Before all the world he stood there as a word-breaker and a liar". Joachim Fest remarked in his Hitler biography: "If up until then he had only taken on double roles and played the secret ally as an adversary or started the challenge of a state of affairs in the name of his defense, he now reveals his innermost being without any excuses." In his memoirs, Hans Kehrl reports on the “economic robber barons” during the invasion of the rest of Czechoslovakia, who “flooded” the country and wanted to appropriate Czech industrial companies.

Significance for the German military potential

According to the historian Walther Hofer , the break-up of Czechoslovakia led to an enormous increase in the strength of the German military potential. At that time, Czechoslovakia was considered a country with a strong and advanced engineering industry. Since 1918 (i.e. since its foundation), the country has been striving for independence in the equipment of its military (see, for example, Česká zbrojovka ; German: Czech arms factory ).

The equipment of 40 divisions of the disbanded Czechoslovak Army fell into the hands of the German Wehrmacht. In his speech to the Reichstag on April 28, 1939, Hitler named among other things as booty:

  • 1582 aircraft,
  • 501 anti-aircraft guns,
  • 2175 guns,
  • 785 mortars,
  • 469 tanks,
  • 43,876 machine guns,
  • 114,000 pistols,
  • 1,090,000 rifles.

Three of the ten German tank divisions that carried out the advance known as the sickle cut through Belgium and France to the Channel coast in the western campaign in 1940 were armed with Czech tanks . The Wehrmacht had hardly any heavy artillery . The captured heavy artillery pieces from Czech production strengthened their fighting power.

In addition, there was the capture of the Czechoslovak armaments industry , especially the Škoda works in Pilsen , whose production, according to Winston Churchill, "from August 1938 to September 1939 alone was almost as large as that of the entire British armaments industry". In summary, Hofer judged:

"Without this booty, the ' Blitzkrieg ' and thus the 'Blitzsieg' of 1940 would not have been possible."

In addition, the Czechoslovak State Railways - also in connection with the Austrian Federal Railways incorporated in 1938 - were valuable booty that was important to the war effort.


Hitler had not informed the Italian Duce Mussolini about the smashing of the rest of the Czech Republic (although the two had met personally two days earlier); According to a diary of Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano , Mussolini was clearly angry about this.

The Czechoslovak Wall was an extensive border fortification system of the (geographically elongated) Czechoslovakia along the national borders with the German Empire, Austria , Poland and Hungary , with further lines running inland. It was considered to be one of the best fortification systems of the 20th century. It was not fully completed and was never used for its original purpose. The model for this belt of fortifications was the Maginot Line . Numerous systems were used by the Wehrmacht as objects for shelling and bombing tests. These tests were used to train the attacks on the Maginot Line during the French campaign in June 1940. The armored domes and bells had very good material properties and were therefore relatively bulletproof. Some of them were removed here and reused in the Siegfried Line.

See also


  • Joachim Fest: Hitler. A biography (2 volumes). Volume two: The Führer. Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main / Berlin / Vienna 1976, ISBN 3-548-03274-5 .
  • Martin Broszat : The reaction of the powers to 15 March 1939. In: Bohemia . Volume 8, 1967, pp. 253-280 ( digitized version ).
  • Emil Hácha: Recording Dr. Háchas on the negotiations with Hitler on March 15, 1939. March 20, 1939, Prague. Translated from the Czech by Karl Havránek. In: Koloman Gajan, Robert Kvaček (ed.): Germany and Czechoslovakia 1918–1945. Documents on German politics. Orbis, Prague 1965, pp. 162-166.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See Rudolf Chmel: On the national self-understanding of the Slovaks in the 20th century , in: Alfrun Kliems (Hrsg.): Slovak culture and literature in self and foreign understanding , Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2005, pp. 36-38.
  2. According to three basic norms of April 14, 1939 - “Disposal of German jurisdiction in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia”, “Disposal of the criminal courts” and “How the courts act in matters of civil law” - were German citizens in the Protectorate of Imperial German jurisdiction and the rest of the population in the Protectorate, who were excluded from this regulation, were only treated according to these norms in criminal and civil cases in all matters relating to security in the Reich. On this Jan Gebhart, The Czech population during the occupation and the Second World War , in: Heiner Timmermann , Emil Voráček, Rüdiger Kipke (eds.): The Beneš decrees. Post-war order or ethnic cleansing: can Europe provide an answer? , Lit Verlag, Münster 2005, pp. 162–171, here p. 166 .
  3. ^ Treaty on the protection relationship between the German Reich and the Slovak State of 18/23 March 1939, RGBl. 1939 II, p. 607 .
  4. ^ Nazi archives: dealing with the rest of the Czech Republic from October 21, 1938 .
  5. See confidential protocol of March 23, 1939 on economic and financial cooperation between the German Reich and the state of Slovakia .
  6. ^ Decree of the Führer and Reich Chancellor on the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia of March 16, 1939 , RGBl. 1939 I, p. 485 ff.
  7. On incorporation cf. Daniel-Erasmus Khan : The German state borders. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2004 ( Jus Publicum , Vol. 114), ISBN 3-16-148403-7 , p. 90 f.
  8. See Joachim C. Fest: Hitler , 5th ed. 1973, p. 787.
  9. Walther Hofer : Hitler, the West and Switzerland. Zurich 2001, pp. 478-481; see. Marcus Theurer: Bank of England sold Nazi gold , FAZ from July 31, 2013; see. also Ben Quinn: How Bank of England ʻhelped Nazis sell gold stolen from Czechs' , The Guardian of July 31, 2013.
  10. Hofer: Hitler, the West and Switzerland , p. 481.
  11. Adam Tooze : Economy of Destruction. The history of the economy under National Socialism . Munich 2007, p. 359.
  12. ^ Golo Mann: German History of the 19th and 20th Centuries , Frankfurt am Main, 1958, p. 885.
  13. Joachim C. Fest: Hitler. Der Führer , Ullstein, 1976, p. 787.
  14. As an example, he describes the behavior of the Otto Wolff Group , cf. Hans Kehrl, Crisis Manager in the Third Reich , Düsseldorf 1973, p. 164 f., Although in this example this cannot be easily read off.
  15. Walther Hofer , Herbert R. Reginbogin: Hitler, der Westen und die Schweiz , NZZ , Zurich 2001, ISBN 3-85823-882-1 , p. 418 ff.
  16. See Part V of the Versailles Treaty .
  17. Quotation from ibid., P. 422.
  18. Ibid., P. 421.
  19. Hubert Neuwirth: Resistance and Collaboration in Albania 1939–1944 . Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2008, ISBN 978-3-447-05783-7 , p. 26 .