Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia

Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren  (German)
Protektorát Čechy a Morava  (Czech)
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in 1942
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in 1942
StatusAutonomous protectorate of Germany[1]
Common languagesCzech, German
Reich Protector 
• 1939–1943
Konstantin von Neurath
• 1941–1942
Reinhard Heydrich (acting)
• 1942–1943
Kurt Daluege (acting)
• 1943–1945
Wilhelm Frick
State President 
• 1939–1945
Emil Hácha
Prime Minister 
• 1939
Rudolf Beran (acting)
• 1939–1941
Alois Eliáš
• 1942–1945
Jaroslav Krejčí
• 1945
Richard Bienert
Historical eraWorld War II
15 March 1939
9 May 1945
193949,363 km2 (19,059 sq mi)
• 1939
CurrencyProtectorate Koruna
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Second Czechoslovak Republic
Third Czechoslovak Republic
Today part of Czech Republic

The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (German: Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren; Czech: Protektorát Čechy a Morava) was a protectorate of Nazi Germany established on 16 March 1939 following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939. Earlier, following the Munich Agreement of September 1938, Nazi Germany had incorporated the Czech Sudetenland territory as a Reichsgau (October 1938).

The protectorate's population was majority ethnic Czech, while the Sudetenland was majority ethnic German. Following the establishment of the independent Slovak Republic on 14 March 1939, and the German occupation of the Czech rump state the next day, Adolf Hitler established the protectorate on 16 March 1939 by a proclamation from Prague Castle.

The German government justified its intervention by claiming that Czechoslovakia was descending into chaos as the country was breaking apart on ethnic lines, and that the German military was seeking to restore order in the region.[2]Czechoslovakia at the time under President Emil Hácha had pursued a pro-German foreign policy; however, upon meeting with the German Führer Adolf Hitler (15 March 1939), Hácha submitted to Germany's demands and issued a declaration stating that in light of events he accepted that Germany would decide the fate of the Czech people; Hitler accepted Hácha's declaration and declared that Germany would provide the Czech people with an autonomous protectorate governed by ethnic Czechs.[2] Hácha was appointed president of the protectorate the same day.

The Protectorate was an autonomous[citation needed] Nazi-administered territory which the German government considered part of the Greater German Reich.[1] The state's existence came to an end with the surrender of Germany to the Allies in 1945.


Adolf Hitler on his visit to Prague Castle after the establishment of a German protectorate.
Jaroslav Krejčí giving a speech in Tábor.
German occupation of Prague, 15 March 1939

On 10 October 1938, when Czechoslovakia was forced to accept the terms of the Munich Agreement, Germany incorporated the Sudetenland, on the Czechoslovak border with Germany and Austria proper, with its majority of ethnic German inhabitants, directly into the Reich. Five months later, when the Slovak Diet declared the independence of Slovakia, Hitler summoned Czechoslovak President Emil Hácha to Berlin and intimidated him into accepting the German occupation of the Czech rump state and its reorganisation as a German protectorate.

Hácha remained as technical head of state with the title of State President, but Germany rendered him all but powerless, vesting real power in the Reichsprotektor, who served as Hitler's personal representative. To appease outraged international opinion, Hitler appointed former foreign minister Konstantin von Neurath to the post. German officials manned departments analogous to cabinet ministries, and small German control offices were established locally. The SS assumed police authority; Reichsführer-SS and Reich police chief Heinrich Himmler named the former Sudeten German leader Karl Hermann Frank as the protectorate's police chief and ranking SS officer. The new authorities dismissed Jews from the civil service and placed them outside of the legal system. Political parties and trade unions were banned, and the press and radio were subjected to harsh censorship.[citation needed] Many local Communist Party leaders fled to the Soviet Union.

The population of the protectorate was mobilized for labor that would aid the German war effort, and special offices were organized to supervise the management of industries important to that effort. The Germans drafted Czechs to work in coal mines, in the iron and steel industry, and in armaments production. Consumer-goods production, much diminished, was largely directed toward supplying the German armed forces. The protectorate's population was subjected to rationing.

First issue of currency in Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (an unissued 1938 Czech note with a validation stamp for use in 1939).
First issue of currency in Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (an unissued 1938 Czech note with a validation stamp for use in 1939).

German rule was moderate by Nazi standards during the first months of the occupation. The Czech government and political system, reorganized by Hácha, continued in formal existence. The Gestapo directed its activities mainly against Czech politicians and the intelligentsia. The eventual goal of the German state under Nazi leadership was to eradicate Czech nationality through assimilation and deportation and to exterminate the Czech intelligentsia; the intellectual élites and members of the middle class made up many of the 200,000 people who were sent to concentration camps and of the 250,000 who died during the German occupation.[3][need quotation to verify] In 1940, in a secret plan on Germanization of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, it was declared that those considered to be racially Mongoloid and the Czech intelligentsia were not to be Germanized, and that about half of the Czech population were suitable for Germanization.[4] Generalplan Ost assumed that around 50% of Czechs would be fit for Germanization. The Czech intellectual élites were to be removed from Czech territories and from Europe completely. The authors of Generalplan Ost believed it would be best if they emigrated overseas, as even in Siberia, they were considered a threat to German rule. Just like Jews, Poles, Serbs, and several other nations, Czechs were considered to be untermenschen by the Nazi state.[5]

1939 amended Czechoslovakian passport to a Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia sample.

The Czechs demonstrated against the occupation on 28 October 1939, the 21st anniversary of Czechoslovak independence. The death on 15 November 1939 of a medical student, Jan Opletal, who had been wounded in the October violence, precipitated widespread student demonstrations, and the Reich retaliated. Politicians were arrested en masse, as were an estimated 1,800 students and teachers. On 17 November, all universities and colleges in the protectorate were closed, nine student leaders were executed, and 1,200 were sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp within Nazi Germany; further arrests and executions of Czech students and professors took place later during the occupation.[6] (See also Czech resistance to Nazi occupation)

Announcement of the execution of Czechs, who improved radio receivers to listen to foreign broadcasts, 1944

During World War II, Hitler decided that Neurath was not treating the Czechs harshly enough and adopted a more radical policy in the protectorate. On 29 September 1941, Hitler appointed SS hardliner Reinhard Heydrich as Deputy Reichsprotektor (Stellvertretende Reichsprotektor). At the same time, Neurath was relieved of his day-to-day duties so for all intents and purposes, Heydrich replaced Neurath as Reichsprotektor. Under Heydrich's authority Prime Minister Alois Eliáš was arrested (and later executed), the Czech government was reorganized, and all Czech cultural organizations were closed. The Gestapo arrested and killed people. The deportation of Jews to concentration camps was organized, and the fortress town of Terezín was made into a ghetto way-station for Jewish families. On 4 June 1942, Heydrich died after being wounded by Czechoslovak Commandos in Operation Anthropoid. Directives issued by Heydrich's successor, SS-Oberstgruppenführer Kurt Daluege, and the martial law en force brought forth mass arrests, executions and the obliteration of the villages of Lidice and Ležáky. In 1943 the German war-effort was accelerated. Under the authority of Karl Hermann Frank, German minister of state for Bohemia and Moravia, within the protectorate, all non-war-related industry was prohibited. Most of the Czech population obeyed quietly until the final months preceding the end of the war, when thousands became involved in the resistance movement.

For the Czechs of the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia, German occupation represented a period of oppression. Czech losses resulting from political persecution and deaths in concentration camps totalled between 36,000 and 55,000.[7] The Jewish population of Bohemia and Moravia (118,000 according to the 1930 census) was virtually annihilated, with over 75,000 murdered.[8] Of the 92,199 people classified as Jews by German authorities in the Protectorate as of 1939, 78,154 perished in Holocaust, or 84.8 percent.[9]

Many Jews emigrated after 1939; 8,000 survived at Terezín concentration camp, which was used for propaganda purposes as a showpiece.[8] Several thousand Jews managed to live in freedom or in hiding throughout the occupation. The extermination of the Romani population was so thorough that the Bohemian Romani language became totally extinct. Romani internees were sent to the Lety and Hodonín concentration camps before being transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau for gassing.[citation needed] The vast majority of Romani in the Czech Republic today descend from migrants from Slovakia who moved there within post-war Czechoslovakia.[citation needed] The Theresienstadt concentration camp was located in the Protectorate, near the border to the Reichsgau Sudetenland. It was designed to concentrate the Jewish population from the Protectorate and gradually move them to extermination camps, and it also held Western European and German Jews. While not an extermination camp itself, the harsh and unhygienic conditions still resulted in the death of 33,000 of the 140,000 Jews brought to the camp while a further 88,000 were sent to extermination camps, and only 19,000 survived.[10]

Other Languages
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Protektorat Češka i Moravska