The Sudetenland: A Region of Decayp until only a few years ago, the entire Czech population unanimously considered the expulsion of the Germans to have been inevitable and just. No public voice spoke up to the contrary, no intellectual condemned the theory of German collective guilt and the crimes of 1945.
33 years had to go by before even one lone voice spoke out, abroad, in December 1978. In the Czech publication Svedectvi (Paris) a Slovak political scientist published a remarkable essay that may be regarded as a first call for soul-searching - even though one swallow doesn't yet make a summer, as the saying goes.
This publication revealed that in the early 1970s a domestic survey had been conducted about the expulsion. Its findings were kept strictly secret. Probably the survey had been prompted by the normalization of relations with the Federal Republic of Germany that had begun around that time.
In this survey, one-third of the persons polled had condemned the "transfer". "Transfer" is the term used in Czechoslovakia today to gloss over the criminal uprooting of an entire people out of a centuries-old civilization.
One-third called the "transfer" a "superfluous, economically and morally harmful fact". But publicly the topic is still strictly taboo in the Czechoslovakia of today.
The publication bluntly described the phase of mass liquidations and also criticized the hatred that led to such grotesque measures as changes in orthography: "German" and "Germany" had to be spelled without initial capitals. Hegel and Kant, Goethe and Schiller, Mozart and Beethoven were banned.
The mass expulsion of the Germans of Czechoslovakia was a flagrant violation of a fundamental human right: the right to one's homeland. If we today zealously proclaim support for human rights and fight to preserve them - the article stated - then we cannot take the right to one's homeland as pertaining only to the present; it must be a postulate of primary importance in the historical, retrospective sense as well.
Details of the "humane" genocide did not remain unknown to the state chancelleries in London and Washington. In August 1945 Churchill said in the House of Commons, "a tragedy of immense proportions is playing out behind the Iron Curtain." And as per the Times of November 5, 1945, England's Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin commented in the House of Commons with regard to the effects of the Potsdam Pact of July 17, 1945: "Great God, it's the height of human madness. It was a dreadful spectacle."
There were American voices too in 1946. But none of the governments involved thought for even a moment to put a stop to the "dreadful spectacle".
The expulsion revealed the fact that National Socialism was not the issue at all. The program of extermination was aimed at the Germans. It was not Nazis who were being resettled - it was everyone who happened to have been born of a German mother.
The decree of banishment inflicted by the democratic and Communist barbarians struck 2.3 million East Prussians, 0.6 million citizens of Danzig, 3.1 million Lower Silesians, 3.4 million Upper Silesians, 0.9 million from Brandenburg, 1 million Pomeranians, 0.3 million West Prussians, 1 million from Posen and 1 million from the Warthegau - a total of 13.6 million German people. Added to this were 3 million Sudeten Germans, and 1.5 million from Hungary, Yugoslavia and Romania. That makes more than 18 million Germans. More than 2.5 million of them lost their lives in the expulsion.
To truly get a sense of the extent of this Crime of Potsdam, it is necessary to see these figures in comparison to other countries. Austria has a population of 7 million; Denmark, Sweden and Norway together total about 15 million. Switzerland has 4.5 million inhabitants. Twice as many people as live in all of Austria were driven destitute from their homes.
It was fortunate for Europe that the beggared 15 million that were thrust into the sea of debris that was then Germany did not become a hearth of unrest, an explosive element such as the three million Palestinians became in more recent days. But the biological consequences of overpopulation do already cast dark shadows in the form of the rapid decline of the German birth rate.
In East and West alike, the subject of the expulsion is still a taboo. The Sudetenland is a wasteland. Czechoslovakia does feel the loss of the economic strength of three million inhabitants whose competence and unparalleled industriousness had ever been exemplary.
Countless Sudeten German voices have given a powerful echo to this publication. They had one central theme: a peaceable attitude, not a word of revenge. Certainly many of them are tired and resigned. But at the core of the Sudeten German people the will to preserve their ethnic substance beats strongly.
So does the demand for compensation.
This demand and the insistence on the right to one's homeland will no doubt pass on to the next generation. "The homecoming of the expelled," said Otto Habsburg, "is not only a postulate of common sense. It is also the prerequisite for a Christian renewal of our part of the world, for that practical application of the divine laws of justice in public and private life without which Communism can never be spiritually overcome."
As the late Dr. Lodgman, the Sudeten Germans' faithful Eckart, telegraphed Father Reichenberger, God's champion of justice: "God lives yet, and His day will come."
Now that the struggle for a new order at the heart of Europe is beginning, the great and
treacherous silence about the crimes of 1945 and 1919 must be broken at last. Europe is to
a Europe of regions. Why should there not be a German and a Czech region at the heart of
Europe? Hundreds of thousands of dead, thrown like dogs into sorry excuses for graves, without
a death certificate or even a cross, have a right to some last respects. The vast army of the
dead holding their admonitory vigil in the stolen soil of their native land calls out to us....