The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter IX
The Execution of the Plan to Invade Czechoslovakia<(Part 14 of 29)

H. The Campaign Within Czechoslovakia.

The military preparations for aggression against Czechoslovakia had not been carried out in vacuum. They had been preceded by a skillfully conceived campaign designed to promote civil disobedience to the Czechoslovak State. Using the techniques they had already developed in other ventures, the Nazi conspirators over a period of years used money, propaganda, and force to undermine Czechoslovakia. In this program the Nazis focussed their attention on the persons of German descent living in the Sudetenland, a mountainous area bounding Bohemia and Moravia on the north, west, and south.

The Czechoslovak government's official report for the prosecution and trial of German major war criminals, entitled "German Crimes Against Czechoslovakia," sows the background of the subsequent Nazi intrigue. (998-PS; 3061- PS)

Nazi agitation in Czechoslovakia dated from the earliest days of the NSDAP. In the years following the First World War a German National Socialist Workers Party (DNSAP), which maintained close contact with Hitler's NSDAP, was active in the Sudetenland. In 1932, ringleaders of the Sudeten Volksport, an organization corresponding to the Nazi SA, openly endorsed the 21 points of Hitler's program, the first of which demanded the union of all Germans in a Greater Germany. Soon thereafter they were charged with planning armed rebellion on behalf of a foreign power and were sentenced for conspiracy against the Czech Republic. Late in 1933 the National Socialist Party of Czechoslovakia forestalled its dissolution by voluntary liquidation, and several of its chiefs escaped across the frontier. For a year thereafter Nazi activity in Czechoslovakia continued underground. (998-PS; 3061-PS)

On 1 October 1934, with the approval and at the urging of the

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Nazi conspirators, Konrad Henlein, an instructor of gymnastics, established the "German Home Front" (Deutsche Heimatfront), which the following spring became the Sudeten German Party (sudetendeutsche Partei SDP). Profiting from the experience of the Czech National Socialist Party, Henlein denied any connection with the German Nazis. He rejected pan-Germanism, and professed his respect for individual liberties and his loyalty to "honest democracy" and to the Czech state. His party, none-the-less, was built on the basis of the Nazi Fuehrerprinzip, and he became its Fuehrer. By 1937, when the power of Hitler's Germany had become manifest, Henlein and his followers were striking a more aggressive note, demanding, without definition, "complete Sudeten autonomy". The SDP laid proposals before the Czech Parliament which would, in substance, have created a state within a state. (998-PS; 3061-PS)

After the annexation of Austria in March 1938 the Henleinists, who were now openly organized after the Nazi model, intensified their activity. Undisguised anti-Semitic propaganda started in the Henlein press; the campaign against "bolshevism" was intensified; terrorism in the Henlein-dominated communities increased. A storm troop organization, patterned and trained on the principles of the Nazi SS, was established, known as the FS (Freiwilliger Selbstschutz, or Voluntary Vigilantes). On 24 April 1938, in a speech to the Party Congress in Karlovy Vary, Henlein came into the open with his "Karlsbad Program". In this speech, which echoed Hitler in tone and substance, Henlein asserted the right of the Sudeten Germans to profess "German political philosophy?', which, it was clear, meant National Socialism. (998-PS; 3061-PS)

As the summer of 1938 wore on, the Henleinists used every technique of the Nazi Fifth Column. As summarized in the Czech official report, these included:

(1) Espionage. Military espionage was conducted by the SDP, the FS, and by other members of the German minority on behalf of Germany. Czech defenses were mapped, and information on Czech troop movements was furnished to the German authorities.

(2) Nazification of German Organizations in Czechoslovakia. The Henleinists systematically penetrated the whole life of the German population of Czechoslovakia. Associations and social and cultural centers gradually underwent "Gleichschaltung", i.e., "purification, by the SDP. Among the organizations conquered by the Henleinists were sport societies, rowing clubs, associations of ex-service men, and choral societies. The Henleinists

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were particularly interested in penetrating as many business institutions as possible and in bringing over to their side the directors of banks, the owners or directors of factories, and the managers of commercial firms. In the case of Jewish ownership or direction they attempted to secure the cooperation of the clerical and technical staffs of the institution.

(3) German Direction and Leadership. The Henleinists maintained permanent contact with the Nazi officials designated to direct operations within Czechoslovakia. Meetings in Germany at which Henleinists were exhorted and instructed in Fifth Column activity were camouflaged by being held in conjunction with Saenger Feste (choral festivals), gymnastic shows and assemblies, and commercial gatherings such as the Leipzig Fair. Whenever the Nazi conspirators needed incidents for their war of nerves, it was the duty of the Henleinists to supply them.

(4) Propaganda. Disruptive and subversive propaganda was beamed at Czechoslovakia in German broadcasts and was echoed in the German press. Goebbels called Czechoslovakia a "nest of Bolshevism" and spread the false report of "Russian troops and airplanes" centered in Prague. Under direction from the Reich the Henleinists maintained whispering propaganda in the Sudetenland, which contributed to the mounting tension and to the creation of incidents. Illegal Nazi literature was smuggled from Germany and widely distributed in the border regions. The Henlein press more or less openly espoused Nazi ideology to the German population.

(5) Murder and Terrorism. The Nazi conspirators provided the Henleinists, and particularly the FS, with money and arms with which to provoke incidents and to maintain a state of permanent unrest. Gendarmes, customs officers, and other Czech officials were attacked. A boycott was established against Jewish lawyers, doctors, and tradesmen. The Henleinists terrorized the non-Henlein population, and the Nazi Gestapo crossed into border districts to carry Czechoslovak citizens across the border to Germany. In several cases political foes of the Nazis were murdered on Czech soil. Nazi agents murdered Professor Theodor Lessing in 1933 and the engineer Formis in 1935. Both men were anti- Nazis who had escaped from Germany after Hitler came to power and had sought refuge in Czechoslovakia. (998-PS; 3061- PS)

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