Until 1848

The Sudeten Germans 1848-1918

In the early 19th century, patriots in Bohemia, Moravia and Austrian Silesia, both Czechs and Germans, regarded the Ancien Regime their common opponent and each other as partners in the struggle. The Revolution of 1848 marks a change in attitude; Czech patrot Frantisek Palacky turned down an invitation to represent Bohemia at the German National Assembly in Frankfurt, and instead organized the first Pan-Slavic Congress in Prague. Radical Czech nationalists claimed the entirety of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown for a future Czech nation state, labelling the Bohemian, Moravian and Silesian Germans as "descendents of immigrants and Habsburg officials".
The later 19th century saw the appearance of numerous organizations - clubs and societies, later political parties, founded as being either Czech or German (and a few as being Jewish). The Habsburg administration was frustrated by the animosity prevailing between these groups, which turned every street dedication ceremony into a political event, as the language of the name was hotly disputed. The Habsburg administration generally favoured neither position, but occasionally tried to gain the support of one group for their own political ends. The political reforms of 1860 to 1861 had established the Reichsrat, which granted limited political power to the representatives. The Austrian chancellors needed the votes of the block of Bohemian representatives in order to get the budget pass, and in order to secure their support, occasionally made concessions. The extension of the franchise resulted in an increase of Czech representatives.
Simultaneously, the Industrial Revolution resulted in increased mobility. City walls were torn down; the population of cities began to expand. Cities which used to have an ethnic German majority, surrounded by Czech villages, attracted Czech migrants from the countryside, and the population balance shifted; this shift appeared all the stronger and more sudden when combined with the extension of the franchise.

The region known in history as the Sudetenland is shaped as a fragmented horse shoe and consists of four pieces - Southern Moravia, Southern Bohemia, Northern Bohemia (in 1918 called "German Bohemia") and the core Sudetenland (Northern Moravia and Western Austrian Silesia). While these regions shared an ethnic German identity and population majority, they were not contiguous, lacked a common administrative structure, and, by infrastructure, administrative and economic structure, were strongly interconnected with the Czech majority regions of Bohemia and Moravia.
The years between 1848 and 1918 may be described as a standoff between Czech and German political and cultural organizations; in the later years of the 19th and the early years of the 20th century radical Czech politicians became increasingly dissatisfied with the political situation and sought for a drastic solution - an independent Czecho-Slovak state. The Sudeten Germans (in the 19th century, they still regarded themselves as German Bohemians or Bohemian Germans) lacked a political vision; many among them maintained a degree of loyalty to Austria, some may have desired their area to be included in a unified Germany. What was bringing them together was their fear of political and cultural domination by the Czechs.

Click here for files on the history of the Bohemian Lands

REFERENCE Fritz Peter Habel, Die Sudetendeutschen (The Sudeten Germans), München : Langen Müller (1992) 3rd, enlarged edition 2002 , in German [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted July 30th 2005

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