The Holocaust in Czechoslovakia



Sudeten Germans had lived in prosperity and peace with their Czech neighbors.  There had been no serious political party promoting radical Sudeten German nationalism.  That all changed after Hitler ascended in 1933, and the Sudeten German Party was formed by Konrad Henlein.  Henlein met with Hitler almost immediately after the Anschluss in order to talk about the impending annexation of the Sudetenland.  On March 28, 1938, Henlein was instructed by Hitler to raise demands that President Beneš could not accept.  This would all culminate in the Munich Agreement.
Protest in Prague against Jewish Aggression

Munich Agreement

In a desperate attempt to avoid war, the countries of Britain; France; Italy; and Germany all met in Munich in order to discuss the annexation of the Sudetenland on September 29-30, 1938.  After receiving Hitler’s pledge for peace and no more territorial demands, the meeting ended with the Sudetenland being added to Germany.  Immediately afterwards, President Edvard Beneš left the country for France and the Czechoslovak state reorganized itself into Czecho-Slovakia – the name was also a reflection of Slovakian nationalism and desired autonomy.  Czecho-Slovakia was not like its predecessor, the new state was an authoritarian regime.  The dissolution of Czechoslovakia continued in a slow and eroding manner as Germany invited its neighbors to make demands on Czecho-Slovakia: in the autumn of 1938, as a result of the First Vienna Arbitration Award, Hungary annexed territory in southern Slovakia, and Poland annexed the Tešin District of Czech Silesia.  This was essentially the end of any hope for Czech autonomy, and in March 1939 the state split its remaining land into two separate entities – the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia would be occupied by Germans in the northwestern part of the former Czechoslovakia, and the southeastern part became the Catholic-fascist state of Slovakia.  Hungary annexed Subcarpathian Ruthenia in addition ot its initial claim back in 1938 (this would spell the end for the vibrant Jewish community of Mukachevo.)

(Photo shows civilians in Prague Protesting German Aggression)

Czechoslovakia in 1933 (above)

German Annexation of Sudentenland in 1938 (below)

Final dissolution of Czecho-Slovakia. German annexation of Bohemia and Moravia; Separation of Slovakia; and Hungarian and Polish territory grabs.  (above)
Protest in Prague against Jewish Aggression

Completely Exposed

The Munich Agreement was significant because the rest of Czechoslovakia lay completely exposed after Germany occupied the Sudetenland. This area was the most prosperous and resource-rich area of the Czechoslovakian state, and it also contained all of their defense lines.

The Munich agreements are considered to be a centerpiece of the failure of appeasement.  Hitler occupied Bohemia and Moravia just 6 months after receiving the Sudetenland, despite saying that he would not seek any further expansion in Europe.

(Photo shows Jews from Mukachevo circa 1938) 


Slovakian independence was an area of contention in the Czechoslovakian state.  The Slovaks were linguistically very related to the Czechs, but culturally they had developed differently after years under foreign rule. German officials were initially misinformed by the Hungarians that the Slovaks wanted to join Hungary.  This was untrue, and Hitler invited Montsignor Jozef Tiso to Berlin on March 13, 1939.  The proposal laid out in front of Tiso was either to declare independence and join Germany, or face being split up between Hungary and Poland.  The new state went to war immediately with Hungary and was forced to cede a narrow strip of borderland it shared with the country.

The narrative continued, though, with Slovakia assisting Germany in their invasion of Poland.  This allowed them to gain some territory back.

Jews in Slovakia

Jews living in Slovakia were unfortunate in comparison to their peers in Hungary – Slovakia willingly and gladly took part in the deportation of Jews from their country.  The deportations of Jews from Slovakia started on 25 March 1942, but stopped on 20 October 1942 after a group of prominent Jewish citizens were able to stop the process through a mix of bribery and negotiation.  By then, though, 58,000 Jews had already been deported from Slovakia to Auschwitz. Slovakia was actually paying for each Jewish person to be taken by the Nazis.  The Slovakian National Uprising occured, which was a nationalist movement for Slovakian reunification with the Czechs, in 1944 and Slovakia was subsequently occupied by Germany.  This was because the Germans no longer trusted the Slovak Republic.  Unfortunately for Slovakian Jews, deportations resumed on September 30, 1944.

Slovakia was the first Axis-satellite state to agree to deport its Jews in the name of the Final Solution.  Even Romania was less eager to get rid of its Jews than the newly formed Slovak state.

(Photo shows anti-Semitic grafitti in Bratislava in the 1920s.)



The turbulent region of Carpatho-Ukraine was the center of the Pale of Settlement at one point, and it had a huge Jewish population that was completely destroyed. Although it was only a country for a few days, the rich Jewish cultural history and complicated diplomacy has resulted in a very interesting chapter in Holocaust history which I’ve detailed below.

Dismembering the Democracy

The Cechslovakian Republic was a promising young country – an experiment in liberal democracy and intelligent leadership that would unfrtunately last only 20 years.  With the Sudetenland gone; Slovakia’s split from the Czechs; and the annexation of Subcarpathian Ruthenia (by Hungary,) all the was left for the Czech Republic was Bohemia and Moravia.  The historic Czech regions fell almost immediately and were annexed by the Reich under the form of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.  With that, the 7th most economically productive nation in the world, the bastion of democracy in Central Europe – a home to 118,310 Jewish peoples on the eve of 1939 – was dead.  The most populous Jewish communities could be found in Prague; Brno; and Ostrava.

The Mass Deportations

Czechoslovakia was liberated on May 5, 1945. At that time, only 2,803 Jews
were left in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Of the 92,199 Jews
living there before the deportations began, 78,154 died during the Holocaust
and 14,045 survived.