Monday, August 27, 2007

Don't Mention What Happened AFTER the War!

My wife and I have bought, with friends, a house in the Czech northern mountains. (Krkonose Moutains). This area is smack dab in the middle of some contentious real estate at the end of WWII. Its known as the Sudetenland which is the region that was inhabited by Germans for quite a long period (I believe from the 17th century, or was it the 18th century?) up until they were summarily kicked out after the war.

I say smack dab in the middle - even though it is literally the northern part of the U-shaped region because - I also include in my generalization the area just north which was known as German official territory of Schleisen, or Silesia. That area was completely given to the Poles and the same eviction took place and official borders were changes. (I am well-versed in the Polish issue since I have researched extensively my grandfather's homeland just east of the old border of Silesial : prierfamily.blogspot.com ).

I am not taking sides on this issue (and dare not take the German side whilst I live in the Czech Republic). I will however make some criticism of both sides.

The political tool of settlement is a very strong one. Enticing citizens to go somewhere and make a claim is perhaps the most forward thinking thing any world leaders have ever done in terms of investment in a national identity. Sure, it does sometimes backfire when independence issues are raised. But instead of, say, investing in better education for their children, building better dams and levees, or preventing racial strife in later years, the efforts at colonization were quite effective and successful.

The Germans living in areas just over the border from Pommerania, Pozen and Silesia were really sticking their national necks out there when they decided to set up shop in the volatile Polish lands. They later had to live in neighborhoods surrounded by Poles but administered by Russian rulers (yes, the official documents I saw for my ancestors were in Russian!).

But the Germans in these places, and here I am also highlighting the Sudetenland, were crazed Cheerleaders when it came to the growing power of Hitler. They were, afterall, like the wild west settlers hoping for the calvary to help them from the local and often hostile natives. For these Germans-in-Czech-lands and in-Polish/Russian-lands, were not always the nicest neighbors.

For example, the area around Liberec, up north in Bohemia, was (still IS, even after the routs of communism) one of the most beautiful cities in the area. Seriously, it was funded by all the glass manufacuturing company successes in the area. There are some seriously beautiful and large 'villa' houses there. And this area had problems leadding up to WWII but also right after WWI when the Germans there pushed for something like secession into German property as a way of offering the Czechoslovak goverment to relieve them of a pending problem. In fact, there was a revolt at the time. But cutting away property is a very nasty issue and was quickly dealt with by sending troops in. I have read little about the life of Germans there from the 1918 until the mid 1930s, but later, up until the war, there was growing hostility and even real military violence akin to guerilla warfare.

Now the main point I set out to make when I started this post was something that I recently began to notice now that we have the cottage.

If one looks at the history of the towns (in the local brochures extolling the virtues of the skiing and other activities of the area) there usually is found something about the foundation of the town and areas. What is wierd and downright spooky is how they go through the history and from say, 1905 right up to 1990 and act as if the founders and the present day inhabitants are the same people, when we all know that roughly 90% of the people were Germans! They were basically kicked out and no mention in the historical brochures give credit to those German founders. Sure they might mention a German name or two, but they gloss easily over it.

What would I rather see? Something like this. "The beautiful town hall was built by the Schmidt family based on the success of their saw mill profits. This saw mill was then taken over by the state government and now owned by the Pospisal family since all those nasty Germans were kicked out and have no chance of getting it back."

It really is as if the locals don't even realize they are living in a German built house.

Like the one we bought.

I was sanding the walls the other day in preparation for painting an all I could think about were the Germans that lived there.

Kicking out a growing problem was a shocking way to treat them. But it was cruelly effective.


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