NOW that the Anschluss is an accomplished fact, the two largest German minorities outside the Reich are those in Switzerland and in Czechoslovakia. The former has been the backbone of a free Swiss Confederation ever since it was separated from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. The latter for eight centuries formed an integral part of the Kingdom of Bohemia, whose sole link with the old Empire was the Hapsburg dynasty. But it is important to realize that there are no less than twelve states in Europe today in which there are German minorities, and that with the solitary exception of the Ukrainians (who are entirely under alien rule) there is no race in Europe of which so large a proportion is governed by foreigners as the German. This fact, taken with the renewed strength and racial self-consciousness of Nazi Germany, should serve as a reminder that so long as the minorities question remains unsolved at many points it will continue producing acute irritation and providing excuses for dangerous propaganda.
Bohemia, it is too often forgotten, is one of the most ancient national states in Europe. Yet from the earliest times it has always contained a strong German element, especially in the towns. We need not go into the largely academic question whether the autochthonous tribes whom the invading Czechs conquered in the sixth century were mainly German. It is sufficient that for some generations in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Czech national dynasty of the Přemyslides pursued a persistent policy of settling German townsmen and miners in Bohemia, and that when their greatest successor, Charles IV, became Emperor, he linked the Bohemian Crown with one of the seven electorates and founded the University of Prague on a supra-national basis as the first great university of Central Europe.
Under Charles's incompetent son, Prague became a center of the conflict forever associated with the name of John Huss; and this conflict assumed a double form, religious and national, the
Loading, please wait...