Bohemia and Moravia
Declaration of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Before World War II started, there was the Munich Treaty and the Declaration of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, which brought in a lot of changes and marked the end of the free Czechoslovak state lasting only 21 years. The citizens learned this fact from the morning radio on Wednesday 15 March 1939. All the people were very sad, because they did not know what would happen next.
German Occupation in March 1939
A few days after this event German soldiers started arriving in Czech towns and villages by cars and motorcycles. On 16th March 1939 at 16.30 the first German occupiers arrived in Vysoké Mýto. It was the 71st Battalion of Motorized Regiment under the command of Major Leschta. The next group of the regiment came on 19th March. The soldiers were accommodated in schools and at the Temnota hotel.
Shopping Spree in the Spring 1939
About 20th March people who had saved some money started shopping for fabrics and shoes because they expected that the goods would become more expensive or there would be a shortage of them . People were also afraid that the Germans would transfer abroad most of the goods. However, not everyone had enough money so he could get what he wanted. As a result, people enviously watched how many shoes and packages of fabrics some people carried back home. Nobody wanted to save money, on the contrary people wanted to take out their savings, but it was ordered that a bank couldn´t pay out more than 500 Crowns a week. This shopping spree lasted until the summer 1939. The shops sold out a lot of goods but the real shortage stated much later.
Shopping Spree in the Autumn 1939
When the war was declared in September 1939, the citizens started to make supplies of all that was available. People bought bicycles, agricultural machinery, soap, fabrics, threads, kerosene and food of all kinds. In front of stores there were queues of people. So as everything wasn´t sold out, it was announced that a draper can sell only 60% of the daily yield.
In October 1939 they began to regulate the supply of food and a system of ration cards was introduced – people got the coupons for 4 weeks in advance. The coupons were distributed for meat, eggs, potatoes, fats, bread, flour and milk. The age was also considered and children received less. The coupon had the stamp of the municipal office and the name and residence of the owner. But the ration for one person was very small and not enough for the people.
Regulations for Farmers
People who had a farm didn´t get any ration cards at all. For them there were regulations of how much food for person they could keep. They had to hand in part of the crops meat. Because the permitted amount was very small, these peple often hid some corn. There were also kind of special permissions needed for milling the corn. Some grinding was then carried out illegally - without the consent of the mayor, which always was necessary. It was the worst for the people in the towns who did not have this option. Therefore, sometimes they illegally bought up grain in the villages at very high prices.
At the same time, coupons for soap and coupons for clothing were introduced on 15th December. Each piece of clothing had several points - for example, a women's handkerchief 1 point, a men´s handkerchief 2 points, a bathrobe 25 points, a skirts 20 points, a shirt 20 points, a sweater 30 points, a men´s suit 60 points, a female costume 45 points. Anyone could buy what he wanted, but he had to manage with the number of points assigned to it.
Adapting to new conditions in 1939/1940
In addition to the fact, that the people had to get used to the limited rations, clothing, and hygiene products, there were other regulations. All public notices and regulations (including the names of the towns and villages, the names of the shops, the denominations of banknotes, school reports etc.) were bilingual with German text in the first place.
After the outbreak of the war, the blackout was compulsory. Public lights were turned off and the people´s windows had to have blackouts so that not a single beam of light could get out. The reason was to anable the enemy pilots navigate and throw bombs. Not everyone had the blinds, and so some people had to stick thick black paper on the windows. For breaking this regulation there were capital punishments.
Hanging out swastika
On April 20, 1939, less than a month after the declaration of the Protectorate, on the schools and the town halls, it was ordered to hang out the flag of former Czechoslovakia in honor of the celebration of 50th birthdy of the Führer and Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler. When Warsaw was coquerred on 3/10/1939, the flag had to be hung out again – then for the first time together with the swastika, in honor the German victory over Poland. Similarly, hanging out these two flags was ordererd to celebrate the 51st birthday of Adolf Hitler, the conquest of Belgium and the Netherlands in June 1940 or the fall of Paris and Norway, also in June 1940.
Primary and secondary schools
Since the beginning of 1941, the German languge became compulsory foreign language at primary and secondary schools. Children also had to learn by heart the German anthem. The teachers who couldn´t speak German, also had to attend courses of German and then they had to take exams. If a teacher refused to do it, he could lose his job. Every year, the pupils had to celebrate A. Hitler´s birthdays - there were a lot of speeches and also A. Hitler´s biography was read to the pupils. All the textbooks were checked and if there was something that didn´t support the new German policy, it had to be blackened.
Jewish children at school
In July 1939, the Jewish children were ordered out of all German elementary and secondary schools in the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. In August 1940 there was a prohibition of the acceptance of Jewish pupils in all Czech elementary and secondary schools teaching. These Jewish children had to stay at home and be home-educated by their parents. They had to wear yellow hexigrams (David´s five-point stars).
Closing Czech Universities
During late 1939 the Nazi authorities in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia suppressed a demonstration in Prague held by students of the Medical Faculty of Charles University. The demonstration was held on the 28th of October to commemorate the anniversary of the independence of the Czechoslovak Republic (1918). During this demonstration the student Jan Opletal was shot and died from wounds on the 11th of November. On the 15th of November his body was meant to be transported from Prague back to his home in Moravia. His funeral procession consisted of thousands of students, who turned this event into an anti-Nazi demonstration. However, this resulted in drastic measures being taken by the Nazis. All Czech Universities and Colleges were closed down, more than 1,200 students were arrested and sent to concentration camps, and nine students and professors were executed without trial on the 17th of November. Due to this, 17 November was chosen as International Students’ Day.
The population of the Protectorate was mobilized for labor that would aid the German war effort. The Czechs were drafted to work in coal mines, the iron and steel industry, and armaments production; some young people were sent to Germany. It is estimated that 640,000 Czechs and Moravians from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia were forced to labor in Germany. Those who refused to work, could get a fine, get into prison or be deported to a concentration camp. Working and living conditions were very difficult. People were mostly accommodated in collective camps with inadequate sanitary facilities, working up to 72 hours a week, and they often didn´t have enough to eat. So their families in the Protectorate sent them packages with bread and other food. The factories and nearby hostels frequently became the targets of the Allied air raids, which were supposed to cripple the German economy and so some of the workesr also died during the bombing. About 6,000 Czechs did not return from the total deployment , approximately 60,000 Czech citizens died within two years after returning home as a result of exhaustion or infectious diseases.
During the years, the Reich adopted a more radical policy in the protectorate. On 29 September 1941, Hitler appointed SS hardliner Reinhard Heydrich as Deputy Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia. Under his authority the Czech government was reorganized, and all Czech cultural organizations were closed. The Gestapo indulged in arrests and executions. The deportation of Jews to concentration camps was organized. Due to his brutal efficiency, Heydrich was nicknamed the Butcher of Prague, the Blond Beast, and
the Hangman. In London, the Czechoslovak government-in-exile resolved to kill Heydrich. Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík headed the team chosen for the operation. Trained by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), the pair returned to the Protectorate by parachute. They lived in hiding, preparing for the assassination attempt. The operation (called Anthropoid) was carried out in Prague on 27 May 1942. Although only wounded in the attack, Heydrich died from his injuries on 4 June 1942. His death led to a wave of vicious reprisals, including the destruction of villages and killing of civilians, by German troops.
The village of Lidice
Lidice was a village northwest of Prague. On orders from A. Hitler, it was completely destroyed by German forces in reprisal for the assassination of Reich Protector R. Heydrich. On 10 June 1942, all 173 men over 16 years of age from the village were shot to death. 203 women and over 100 children were deported to concentration camps; a few children considered racially suitable for Germanisation were handed over to SS families and the rest were sent to the Chełmno extermination camp where they were gassed to death. After the war ended, only 153 women and 17 children returned.
A sculpture from the 1990s stands today overlooking the site of the old village of Lidice. Entitled "The Memorial to the Children Victims of the War" it comprises 82 bronze statues of children (42 girls and 40 boys) aged 1 to 16 to honour the children who were murdered at Chełmno in the summer of 1942.
Czechoslovak Resistance (1939-1945)
Czechoslovak resistance was a resistance movement that began to take shape immediately after the German occupation of Bohemia and Moravia and ended with the defeat of Nazi Germany and the liberation of the last part of Czechoslovakia in 1945. The resistence is divided into "home resistence" (acting in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) and "foreign resistence" (working abroad).
Since the spring months of 1939, many people (especially young ones) went abroad in order to fight against Germany. On 17th October 1939 the Czechoslovak National Committee headed by Edvard Benes was established in Paris –Beneš became the representative of the Czechoslovak exile. After the fall of France, he moved to London, where he founded the Czechoslovak government in exile. The Czechoslovak Ministry of National Defence placed in London conducted activities in relation to the resistence in the Protectorate.
Domestic resistance in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
The domestic resistance was made up by several resistance groups. Shortly after the Munich Agreement the resistence group called Political Headquarters was established. Another resistence group was called the Committee of the Petition “We Remain Faithful”.
In March 1939 former Czechoslovak soldiers formed the resistence group called the Nation’s Defence. At the beginning of 1940 the Central Leadership of Home Resistance (Ústřední vedení odboje domácího, ÚVOD) was created which set itself the task of unification of local resistance and coordination of actions. Many smaller resistance movement groups were also founded with regional significance. After the attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the communist resistence movement started to be active.
Guerrilla movement in the Protectorate during the German occupation of 1939 - 1945 has become one of the components of the Czech resistance movement.
On 1st May 1945 the May Uprisin started in Přerov and in some other places – it was controlled by resistance and attended by guerrillas. The aim was to nake the retreat of the Nazi troops difficult. In this hopeless situation for the Nazis, still there was a lot of brutality and terror against the civilian population, while taking only a hint of suspicion of collaborating with the guerrillas. On 5th May the Moravian village of Javoříčko was completely demaged and leveled and all the men were shot. Murdering of the defenseless civilians in the context of resistance and guerrilla continued in the last days of the war in many other places. At the very end of the war there were also open combats of guerrilla groups and the German soldiers.