The lecture will address the German occupation policy in the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia, in Slovenia, and Serbia; including the occupation zones into the German war economy; with the mass murdering by the SS, Gestapo and Wehrmacht of resistance groups; with the problem of collaboration in the ruling class and in the population; with the destruction of the Jews in the Protectorate and in Serbia; with the problem of the figures of the victims; with the preparations of revenge and expulsion, and with the consequences of the total war in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
Dividing his lecture clearly into twelve points, Prof. Suppan explains and analyzes the past century’s history of relations between German minorities, particularly in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, and the region’s natives. Originally a primarily peaceful coexistence, Prof. Suppan discusses the fact that rivalries started to develop between the two communities in as early as the 1880s. Prof. Suppan adds that World War I also did much to increase ethnic tensions. Moreover, he sees the persecutions that took place from 1914 to 1918 to have really poisoned the relationship between Serbs and Germans. After World War I, Prof. Suppan reveals that the new states of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia further suffered in their relationship with Germany over issues such as border setbacks or minority rights. However, when the global economic crisis created mass unemployment, many turned to Hitler. Prof. Suppan argues this was significant to the annexation of both countries by Germany.
These annexations, as Prof. Suppan reveals, were not the result of consistent strategic planning but rather part of Hitler’s ideal of conquest. Prof. Suppan discusses the illegality of many Nazi occupation laws which led to calls for vengeance and retribution as the war neared its end. Prof. Suppan explains the result of the mass lawless displacement of Germans which turned into various settlement agreements. Even so, Prof. Suppan argues that the decrees and resolutions on the subject of the displacement of Germans should be seen as a political reaction to German occupation and led to a great death toll.
Prof. Suppan feels that overall the conflict was one of extreme bloodshed, citing the 40 million deaths that occurred from 1938 to 1948 throughout the entire region to reinforce his point. Moreover, Prof. Suppan engages in the debate on whether the conflict should be branded genocide or ethnocide. Prof. Suppan also argues that the former German settlements in Eastern Europe suffer to this day. He concludes by revealing that historical contradictions still exist between the various peoples. Prof. Suppan argues that to overcome this each side must have a deeper understanding of what they both suffered and perpetrated and must participate in the “spirit of European reconciliation.”
About the speaker
Arnold Suppan is professor of history at the University of Vienna and
Chairman of the Historical Commission at the Austrian Academy of
Sciences. He is currently a visiting professor wtih the Forum on
Contemporary Europe at Stanford University.