I think I’m going to start calling these lengthy passages from my current reading Mini Book Reports. Here’s the first:
From Eugene Davidson’s The Unmaking of Adolph Hitler (1996)
Circa May, 1938:
The Sudeten Germans considered themselves as the prime target of discrimination–socially, economically and politically. They were forbidden on grounds of national security to work on the fortifications between the Czech borders with the Reich, nor could their enterprises bid on contracts. Thousands of Germans lost their employment in the postal services after the state was founded (NOTE: in the early 1920s) because examinations were conducted in Czech, which not many of them spoke or wrote. In 1924 a Czech minister, Jiri Stribrny, boasted that forty thousand German postal and railroad workers had been dismissed and replaced by Czechs, and Sudeten Deputy Taub pointed out to the parliamentary budget committee that seven thousand of them had been dismissed even though they had passed the language examination. Moreover the examinations included questions involving details of Czech literary history that were little known to Czechs themselves. As one Sudeten leader, Wenzel Jaksch, wrote, a railway construction foreman might be dismissed for not knowing the birth date or works of a fourth-rate Czech author, and a German employee in a cigar factory (the tobacco industry was state controlled) was expected to know the difference between the durative and iterative of a Czech verb, while Czech members of parliament often themselves failed to understand the expressions in a bill and had to ask for the German or international terminology to be sure of what they were voting for or against. All state employees were required to be proficient in Czech, and the requirement extended to notaries, court interpreters in any language, surveyors, and engineers, as well as district and municipal physicians. Licensed businesses, including taverns, had to display signs in Czech, and German could be used in dealing with the state authorities only when German speakers made up at least twenty percent of the local population. Such requirements were far more severe than those in force in Austria where Czechs had long been protesting any official restrictions on the use of their language.
The Sudetenland was the last of Adolph Hitler’s bloodless conquests, taken, like the Rhineland and Austria, “without firing a shot.” His next incursion, sixteen months later, would be into Poland, where Germans were not begging to be rescued, and resulted in the proper onset of World War II…which, as even the minimalist history laid out in the passage above demonstrates, was really just an extension and (from Hitler’s standpoint) exploitation of grievances that stretched back decades, if not centuries.
I came across this during my lunchtime cafe reading time today, and it stayed with me when I got home, probably because not a few eminent historians have been noting of late that we are quite likely at the end of the Pax Americana that Hitler’s overreach (and the feckless, though, as Davidson makes clear a few pages later, understandable, response of those ruling the previous World Order) made all but inevitable.
It is a reminder that the losers never forget and “multi” cultures are only ever imposed and papered over by force. The foundational cracks are always lying underneath, awaiting exposure.
I don’t read history to feel better about the world. I read it so I won’t be surprised by the inevitable. The periods of human peace and prosperity, such as we are living through now, tend to be brief and are always followed by one of two results:
Or Chaos…and then Tyranny.
Of course it’s possible I’m just crabby, the way a man gets when he has an unexpected week off and it rains every day and his web site gets hacked. I’ll get back to reading now.