Conditions for the Jews in Czechoslovakia During the Nazi Era

Before the outbreak of World War Two, Hitler destroyed the liberal and democratic Czechoslovakian Republic with virtually no resistance from the Czechs or other European powers.

The first step was the infamous Munich Agreement , signed on September 30, 1938 by Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy, which turned over to Germany the western Czechoslovakian territory known as the Sudetenland. (Map) The excuse for the takeover was the complaints of the German speaking population living in the region that they were mistreated by the Czech majority. Great Britain and France viewed the treaty as a peaceful means to appease Hitler's appetite for territory.

With the Sudetenland annexation the Czech army, which had its main fortifications within the Sudeten area, was eliminated without a fight; its arms and ammunition were appropriated by the German army. Six months later Hitler pressured pro-German Slovakian fascists to declare Slovakia's independence; in actuality it became a puppet of the German Reich, and Czechoslovakia ceased to exist as an independent state. Two weeks later Hitler invaded the western Czech provinces of Moravia and Bohemia. Meeting no resistance, the area was declared to be a German Protectorate under the rule of the German appointed Reich Protector, Konstantin von Neurath.

Before the German takeover, approximately three hundred and fifty thousand Jews lived in Czechoslovakia, one third in Bohemia and Moravia. They enjoyed the same civil rights and religous freedom as all other Czech citizens. On June 21, 1939, von Neurath issued a long list of anti-Jewish decrees, essentially identical to those in effect in Germany, designed to destroy the economic viability of the Jewish population and confiscate all Jewish property. In October 1939, the first Czech Jews were deported to concentration camps in Poland. By October 1942, seventy-five percent of Czechoslovakian Jews had been deported, most of them killed at Auschwitz.

German power in Czechoslovakia finally ended on May 11, 1945 when Russian soldiers liberated Prague. Only twenty thousand Czechoslovakian Jews survived.


A HISTORY OF THE HOLOCAUST, Yehuda Bauer, Franklin Watts: New York, 1982

THE WAR AGAINST THE JEWS 1933-1945, Lucy S. Dawidowicz, Holt, Rinehart and Winston: New York, 1975

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