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Germans in Czechoslovakia (1918–1938)

The German-speaking population in the interwar Czechoslovak Republic, 23.3% of the population at the 1921 census, is usually reduced to the Sudeten Germans, but actually there were linguistic enclaves elsewhere in Czechoslovakia, and among the German-speaking urban dwellers there were "ethnic Germans" and/or Austrians as well as German-speaking Jews. 14% of the Czechoslovak Jews considered themselves as Germans at the 1921 census, but a much higher percentage declared German as their colloquial tongue during the last censuses under the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[1]

Carpathian Germans and Sudeten GermansEdit

The terms Carpathian Germans and Sudeten Germans are recent and were not traditionally used. The former was coined by historian and ethnologue Raimund Friedrich Kaindl (de) in the early 20th century. The latter was coined in 1904 by journalist and politician Franz Jesser (de) and was used mostly after 1919.

Historical settlementsEdit

There were several subregions and towns with German-speaking absolute or relative majorities in the interwar Czechoslovakian Republic.

Linguistic map of Czechoslovakia (1930)[citation needed] German-speaking majority in purple (popularly referred to as the Sudetenland)

Table. 1921 ethnonational census[2]

Regions German-speaking population % Total population
2 173 239
6 668 518
547 604
2 649 323
252 365
602 202
139 900
2 989 361
Carpathian Ruthenia
10 460
592 044
Czechoslovak Republic
3 123 568
13 410 750

In Bohemia and Moravia (present-day Czech Republic), there were German Bohemians (Deutschböhmen, Čeští Němci) and German Moravians (Deutschmährer, Moravští Němci), as well as German Silesians, in e.g. the Hlučín Region (part of Czech Silesia but formerly part of the Austrian Silesia Province before Seven Years' War in 1756).

In Slovakia there were two German-speaking enclaves in Hauerland and Spiš. In the Austro-Hungarian Szepes County (Spiš), there were according to censuses 35% Germans in 1869, 25% in 1900 and 1910. There was also a relative German-language majority in the border city of Pressburg/Bratislava: 59.9 at the 1890 census, 41.9 in 1910, 36% in 1919, 28.1 in 1930, 20% in 1940.[3]

There were also two linguistic enclaves in Subcarpathian Ruthenia (present-day Ukraine).

German-speaking urban JewsEdit

Table. Declared Nationality of Jews in Czechoslovakia[1]

Ethnonationality 1921,% 1930,%
Jewish 53.62 57.20
Czechoslovak 21.84 24.52
German 14.26 12.28
Hungarian 8.45 4.71
Others 1.83 1.29

In addition, there was a sizeable German-speaking urban Jewish minority, for instance the writers Franz Kafka, Max Brod and Felix Weltsch, and Jewish politicians were elected as deputies, and even as leaders of German minority parties such as Ludwig Czech and Siegfried Taub in the German Social Democratic Workers Party in the Czechoslovak Republic or Bruno Kafka (second cousin of Franz Kafka) in the German Democratic Liberal Party.[4]

In Moravia and Silesia, like in Bohemia, Jews (ethnic and of faith) mainly resided in towns, but unlike in Bohemia they did not live primarily in large towns. Historically the degree of assimilation into the Czech language environment and culture and the effort to advance this process were significantly different. During the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy 82–90% of Jews declared German as they colloquial tongue, but during the First Republic a dramatic change occurred, as 47.8% claimed Jewish ethnicity in 1921 and 51.67% in 1930. This fundamental shift in orientation was understandably accompanied by a decline in the share of Jews who identified themselves as ethnic Germans (to around 34–29%)[5]

German-language education in CzechoslovakiaEdit


  • German University in Prague (Karl-Ferdinands-Universität), first bilingual, from 1882 to 1945 two separate universities, a German-language and a Czech-language one
  • German Polytechnic University in Prague, first bilingual, from 1869 to 1945 two separate institutes, a German-language and a Czech-language one, from 1874 on different locations

Subcarpathian RutheniaEdit

In 1936, there were 24 German-language schools in Subcarpathian Ruthenia, grouping 2,021 students.[6]

German-language press in CzechoslovakiaEdit

Prager Tagblatt. Front page 1914-07-29
Pressburger Zeitung, 1869
Westungarischer Grenzbote, 1891

in Bohemia

in Slovakia

  • Pressburger Zeitung, then Neue Pressburger Zeitung (1784-1945) (sk)
  • Westungarischer Grenzbote (1872-1918), then Grenzbote (1919-1945) (eo)
  • Jüdische Volkszeitung
  • Israelitisches Familienblatt
  • Jüdische Presse

in Carpathian Ruthenia

  • Jüdische Stimme

German-language personalities in CzechoslovakiaEdit

Literature and journalismEdit

Franz Kafka's grave in Prague-Žižkov
Plaque commemorating Max Brod, next to Franz Kafka's grave



  1. ^ a b Czechoslovakia, Encyclopaedia Judaica
  2. ^ Slovenský náučný slovník, I. zväzok, Bratislava-Český Těšín, 1932
  3. ^ Peter Salner (2001). "Ethnic polarisation in an ethnically homogeneous town" (PDF). Czech Sociological Review. 9 (2): 235–246. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-02-27. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  4. ^ Deutsche Demokratische Freiheitspartei, Německá demokratická svobodomyslná strana
  5. ^ Ludmila Nesládková, «The Professional and Social Characteristic of the Jewish Population in the First Czechoslovak Republic», Demografie, 2008, 50 (1), p. 1–14
  6. ^ Magocsi, Paul; Pop, Ivan (2002). Encyclopedia of Rusyn history and culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 135–136. ISBN 978-0-8020-3566-0. Retrieved 2012-03-14.
  7. ^ Andrea Orzoff, Battle for the castle: the myth of Czechoslovakia in Europe, 1914-1948, Oxford University Press, 2000 ISBN 978-0-19-974568-5
  8. ^ repeatedly nominated for Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine

See alsoEdit