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  • The End of German Bohemia, May 1945 August 25, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    Thanks to Stephen D. for sending in this extraordinary video of the disintegration of German Bohemia in May 1945. Bohemia was a mixed Czech-German province and German speakers had lived there since perhaps as early as the year 1000. Bohemia became part of the Czech Republic after the First World War, and the ‘cause’ of Germans in the Sudetenland was one of the sparks used by Hitler to start the Second World War. The video is evidently an American production. The film begins with a series of US vehicles clearing the way and then units of the German army drive through mixed with civilians. The film crew evidently wanted to show the dissolution of the Wehrmacht, something that they do very well: there is a strong sense that the fighting is over. American soldiers are shown directing, instructing and giving advice. They are very much in control.

    Frustratingly the video continually cuts away from civilians, who are not part of the story. However, they are there particularly in the later scenes marching down the road and sharing overloaded transports with German soldiers. They were fleeing, first and foremost, from their Czech neighbours, who had scores to settle: hundreds of German civilians were killed by Czechs in the summer of 1945. The German Bohemians were fleeing second from the Soviet army which had taken Prague by mid May and which was not, strangely enough, in a particularly generous mood. About 20,000 Sudeten Germans were murdered or committed suicide as these twin vices pressed in on them: about 2.5 million fled or were driven out of their ancestral homes. They ended up in West and East Germany. Hitler had reunited the German people as he had always wanted: just not within the borders he had hoped for…

    One of the most striking things about the video is how happy the defeated German soldiers and the civilians that we glimpse seem. There is one particularly striking scene of a cheering crowd as a man waves the red and white flag of Bohemia (see above): Germans (and particularly Austrians) took up regional identities as the Reich came crashing down. There is a simple reason for their happiness, of course. They had escaped into an American controlled area. Even official state organs advised Germans to try and get to the British and Americans rather than fall into the oh-too-loving arms of the Russian bear. Unfortunately for the soldiers in this video, the vast majority would have been, then, as per Yalta, handed over to the Russians. Many would spend years in Soviet prison camps – the Second World War would only prove the first half of their ordeal. Some, of course, did not survive.

    Given the blood they had spilt in the previous years, Beach finds it hard to feel particularly sorry for men in German field grey. The Bohemian Germans, on the other hand, entire communities with centuries of toil at their backs, had just been written into the wrong page of history. In this video we see them being mercilessly edited out.

    Other WW2 videos: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Louis K to the rescue on this one, 29 Aug 2017: Well that was interesting. I noticed several things:

    There appear to be at least 3 Russian soldiers at about 1:00 (the three large round caps).

    The license plate of the officer car, (with the ladies) at 2:26 is interesting. If it is indeed PO – #### then it is not a german license, and therefor probably not a german car. PO is not one of the official licenses abbreviations of the Germany at that time (see wiki: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_deutschen_Kfz-Kennzeichen_(historisch)) . It could either be Slovak (they were more or less a protectorate of germany from 1938), Croat (same as Slovakia), or Hungarian (as the 2nd SS Panzer Division was fighting there before escaping to Austria and US territory).

    The officer with the eye wound that greats the US soldier (of a US Armoured Division) at 2:46 bring the Hitler Greeting, and is an SS officer

    The half-track that passes at 3:27 has SS soldiers on it, and the something that looks like the unit symbol of the 2nd SS division “Das Reich” on the back, which explains the SS soldiers…

    The girls in uniform on the truck at 3:36 are Luftwaffehelferinnen, German Airforce Womens Auxilary.

    The guy on stilts at 4:34 has the rankbadges for either a paratrooper (Fallschirmjäger) or flying personal of the Luftwaffe.

    The happy officer at 5:39 has the rankbadges of an SS (Ober)stumbahnführer (either a major or a lt. colonel) and is definitely very happy that he is in US territory, and not with the russians….

    And it looks part of the film was made at a collection point for refugees, as is evident of the vehicules that are abondend in the field.

    At 5:42 the truck has a Police license plate

    Stephen D, 29 Aug 2017: There’s a Hitler quotation for which I have misplaced the source but I think it is authentic: in 1933, ‘Give me twelve years in power and Germany will be changed beyond recognition’. In one way, things were not as bad as you make out. The fate of German POWs captured in the east was; and under the Yalta agreement Soviet citizens (a category that proved extremely elastic) in Allied hands were sent back to the Soviets and usually their deaths. But German soldiers and civilians who made it from Bohemia, etc, to the western sectors were not covered by Yalta, and mostly survived.