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Copy of document 3618-PS
Report of the U.S. Military Attache in Berlin, dated 20 March 1939 GERMANY (Combat) Subject: The Occupation of Czechoslovakia I. Evaluation The following report, which has been hastily compiled from notes and memorandums taken during the last week, is far from complete and can be considered only as a preliminary report on the situation as it appears today. It is believed, however, that a chronological account of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Germany and the events immediately preceding it, will be of value. The military and economic sections of this report are of necessity at the present moment incomplete, but are submitted in order to round out the picture as seen at the moment in Berlin. II. Summary A chronological account of the events leading up to the occupation of Czechoslovakia begins with Thursday, March 10th, when President Hacha dismissed the Slovakian Cabinet. Friday the 11th saw demonstrations and disorder in Pressburg. On the 13th Father Tiso, accompanied by Durzcansky, visited Berlin, where he interviewed the Fuehrer. On Tuesday the 14th President Hacha was summoned to Berlin for a consultation with the Fuehrer. That same evening German troops of the VIII Corps crossed the frontier into Moravia and occupied Maehrisch Ostrau. Wednesday the 15th the Fuehrer issued a proclamation calling for the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia by German troops. The occupation commenced in the early morning hours and by 9 a.m. Prague was in possession of the German army. The Hungarians continued their advance into Ruthenia. On the 16th Hitler issued a proclamation setting forth in 13 articles the status of Bohemia and Moravia. At the request of the Slovak government, Germany took over the military protection of Slovakia and commenced the movement of German troops into Pressburg. On the afternoon of the 16th the Fuehrer entered Prague where he reviewed his victorious army. Hungarian advanced units reached the Polish frontier in Ruthenia. III. Narrative Account The events leading up to the annexation of Czechoslovakia have moved with such speed and the action of Germany has been so swift and overpowering that it is difficult to clearly trace the steps by which the fait accompli was brought about. Practically no warning was obtainable from the press or other sources of the intentions of the Reich, yet in retrospect it is quite obvious that this coup had been planned well in advance by the German government. The dissatisfaction of Slovakia and Ruthenia with their status after the Munich agreement was a matter of common knowledge as well as the fact that Nazi agents were working within these states to provoke a separation movement. The economic feature of their relations with the Czechoslovakian government appeared to be the chief cause of dissatisfaction, as Prague was apparently expected to foot the bill, while at the same time grant a measure of autonomy quite out of proportion to the economic dependency of the two governments. That Germany, also, was dissatisfied with the attitude of the Prague government was quite evident, both in its foreign relations and in its economic and diplomatic relations with the Reich. However, there appeared to be no insurmountable difficulties in the path of eventual settlement of these differences. The final act of the drama, it is believed, came as a complete surprise not only to foreign observers but to the majority of the Germans themselves. A brief synopsis of the events leading up to the annexation follows. During the preceding week the Slovak separatist movement under the leadership of Father Tiso, Prime Minister of the Slovak Diet, Mr. Sane Mach, Chief of the Propaganda Office, and the radical leader, Dr. Tuka, had gained such headway that the Prague government was forced to take strong and immediate action. Early on the morning of Thursday, March 10th, President Hacha dismissed Father Tiso and the rest of the Slovak Cabinet, except Mr. Teplansky and Mr. Sider, appointing Sider as Minister President of Slovakia in place of Father Tiso. The Klinka Guard was disarmed and martial law proclaimed in Pressburg and other Slovak cities, which were occupied by Czech troops. Father Tiso sent a telegram to Berlin requesting aid from Germany, while Durcansky, who had escaped to Vienna, the headquarters of the separatist movement in Germany, in a radio address refused to recognize the legality of Prague's action in dismissing [Page 391] the Cabinet, proclaiming that he was the legal representative of the Slovak government. Some ten thousand Germans in Pressburg under their leader Karmasin staged a demonstration against the Czechoslovakian government. During Friday night and Saturday disorders and demonstrations continued in Pressburg. A delegation of the Slovakian Diet arrived in Prague, headed by Dr. Sokol and his deputies, Dr. Maderli and Stane, to interview the Czechoslovakian President. On Sunday, March 12th, the German Memorial Day, Admiral Raeder in his speech in the Staatsoper, declared that whenever German blood was spilt either within or without the Reich, Germany would act swiftly and with force to protect her nationals. On Monday, March 13th, the Berlin papers carried screaming headlines “In Bruenn German Blood Flows Again.” From Sunday on events moved with amazing rapidity. The deposited Slovakian Minister-President, Father Tiso, accompanied by Dr. Durcansky, arrived by special airplane in Berlin where they conferred with Hitler and Foreign Minister Ribbentrop. Tuesday, March 14th, saw the beginning of the end of the drama. At 9.00 a.m. the Slovak Cabinet met in secret session at Pressburg, under the chairmanship of Sider. There were present Tiso, Mach, and Durcansky. The Cabinet prepared a statement which Sider read to the Diet at 10:15 a.m. The statement closed with the resignation of the Sider Cabinet. Thereupon Tiso took the floor, describing the results of his trip to Berlin. After a short recess, the representatives of the Diet reassembled and approved by unanimous vote Father Tiso’s declaration of independence of Slovakia. After another short recess, the Diet reassembled at 12:20 p.m. to elect the President of Slovakia and Minister President, Tiso; Minister of Defense, Tuka; Minister of Education, Zatlos; Minister of Interior, Sider; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Durcansky; Minister of Justice, Fritz; Minister of Finance, Pencinski; Minister of Propaganda, Mach. At the same time that the Slovak Diet was in secret session, Hungarian Gendarmerie had crossed the Hungarian Ruthenian frontier. The Hungarian Foreign Minister, Count Czaky, issued an ultimatum to the Ukraine Minister President, Woleschin, demanding that he turn over the government of Ukraine to the advancing Hungarian army and giving him until 8 p.m. to reply. While Hungarian troops were marching into Ukrainia, Count Esterhazy, leader of the Hungarian national group in Slovakia, issued a proclamation proclaiming the joy of the Hungarians over [Page 392] the independence of Slovakia. The Slovakian government, however, apparently viewed the Hungarian advanced and the concentration of Polish troops on the Slovakian frontier with alarm, ordering the mobilization of five Slovak classes. It was rumored that during the noon hours Polish troops had occupied Alt Lubau, in Slovakia, but later had withdrawn. During the 14th the Hungarian advance was meeting a certain amount of resistance from Czech troops and Ruthenian irregulars. During the night of the 14th, the Czech government at the request of the Ruthenian government at Chust, capital of Ruthenia, answered the Hungarian ultimatum, politely stating, that wile the personal safety of Hungarian subjects and their property rights would not be infringed upon, the main demands of the Hungarian government could not be fulfilled and denying the right of Hungarian subjects of Ruthenia to organize armed formations. At the same time withdrawal of Czech troops from the Carpathe-Ukraine was announced. While these events were taking place in the south, Hitler summoned Dr. Hacha, the President of Czechoslovakia, and his foreign minister, Chavalkewski, for a conference in Berlin. They arrived in Berlin about 11:00 p.m. and were received with the utmost courtesy by the German Foreign Office. As a result of their conference with Herr Ribbentrop and Hitler, Dr. Hacha officially requested German aid to restore and maintain order in Bohemia and Moravia. Actually, at the same time that President Hacha and his foreign minister were in the train on their way to Berlin, German troops were crossing the frontier. At 6:00 p.m. under command of the Commanding General VIII Army Corps, troops of the VIII Corps and the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler crossed the Oder bridge at Kenechau, moving down the road to Maehrisch-Ostrau which was occupied by 7:00 p.m. On Wednesday morning, the 15th, the Fuehrer issued a proclamation calling for the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia by the German Army, followed by another proclamation to the Army ordering them to overcome all resistance. At the same time the Prague government issued orders to its troops that no resistance be offered. (For the text of the Fuehrer’s Proclamation, see app. A.) On the morning of the 15th, German troops commenced the systematic occupation of all Moravia and Bohemia. At 9 a.m. German advanced elements had entered Prague. Also on the 15th, the Magyar National Holiday, Hungarian regular troops commenced their advance into Ruthenia in three col- [Page 393] ums, advancing on Nagyozoelloes (Sevljis) in the sector of Munkaco, in the upper section of the Latorezt Valley, north of Szolyva, and in the Hungarian sector, 5 km south of Perecseny. Some opposition was encountered. It was reported from Pressburg that heavy fighting had occurred between Slovaks and Hungarian irregulars in the Lower and Upper Metzenseifen. Another press dispatch from Pressburg announced that it was reported from Chust that the Ukrainian people have opposed with all their might the Hungarian occupation. They not only have to fight against the enemy from the outside, but against the Czechs as well. One thousand well armed and determined Silsh guardists under the command of the former police head, Bolay, are opposing the Hungarian troops. On March 16th, Hitler issued a proclamation setting forth in thirteen articles the status of Bohemia and Moravia, as a protectorate under the German Reich. (For text of Proclamation see app. B.) On the same day Germany took over the protection of the new Slovak nation in an exchange of telegrams between Hitler and Tiso as follows: Tiso’s telegram to Hitler: “With strong confidence in you, the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor of the Greater German Reich, the Slovak nation puts itself under your protection. The Slovak nation requests you to undertake this protection. Tiso” Hitler’s reply: “I acknowledge receipt of your telegram of yesterday and hereby take over the protection of the Slovak nation. Adolf Hitler” In the afternoon of the 16th Hitler made his triumphal entry into Prague, where he reviewed the German troops from the ancient castle. Leaving Prague that same day, Hitler visited Bruenn and Linz on the 17th, arriving in Vienna, Saturday the 18th. On March 16th Minister President Count Teleki made the following speech in the Hungarian Parliament regarding the occupation of the Carpathe-Ukraine. "Yesterday and today the Carpathe Ukrainian population and their leaders requested the Hungarian government to immediately occupy the Carpathe Ukrainian territory with its army, in order to protect the life and property of the Carpathe Ukrainian people and to reestablish peace and order as quickly as possible. The Hungarian government complied with this request. The Minister President stated that the Hungarian army would occupy the entire area of the Carpathe Ukraine. [Page 394] "Through the occupation the Carpathe Ukraine which has belonged to Hungary for a thousand years and to which Hungarian interests are attached, will be reunited with its old mother country. Within the Hungarian nation the people of the Carpathe Ukraine will be granted self-government which, as it is stated, will afford autonomy in administration and cultural life.” At 3:30 p.m. on the 16th, advance elements of the Hungarian troops which had crossed the border at Muncacs and advanced via Szelyva had reached the town Petensevics on the Polish border. Another column starting from Szelyva reached Voloe on the railway line between Muncacs and Lavoczne about 10 km from the Polish border at the same time. On Saturday, March 17th, the German troops commenced their occupation of Slovakia and it is believed that by now Slovakia has been completely occupied. Bohemia and Moravia have been incorporated in the German Reich as a Protectorate to be occupied and controlled by German troops. Herr von Neurath has been appointed Reichs Protector for the States of Bohemia and Moravia with station at Prague, retaining his former position of Reich Minister President of the Privy Council. In addition the Deputy Gauleiter of the Sudetenland, Herr Frank, has been appointed State Secretary and Curt v. Bergdorf has been appointed Ministerialdirektor of the Reich Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia. The exact status of Slovakia is not yet definitely determined. IV. Military Aspects of the Occupation Rumors of German troop movements began to reach Berlin on Monday, March 13th, and on Tuesday had been definitely confirmed. Since at this time of year, the training period had only just reached the stage of company training in garrison, and since so many interruptions to training had occurred during the past year, any movement of troops which would interrupt the normal training cycle could only mean that the army was to be used for a serious purpose and immediately. In other words, that the invasion of Czechoslovakia was under way. Reports reached Berlin of troop movements between Dresden and Breslau, and between Munich and Vienna. It was learned that a part of the Regiment General Goering and the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler left Berlin on Monday. The 3rd Light Division from Cottbus was reported on the road near Zwickau, moving south. The 4th Division was reported moving through Dresden. It was learned that Schuetzen Regiment 1, at Weimar, had been unable to participate in the Sunday Memorial Service. Reconnaissance of the Berlin area revealed that a part of the 3rd Armored Di- [Page 395] vision had left their barracks. A report reached Berlin from Hamburg, that the barracks of the 30th Div., mot., at Luebeck were empty. The consul at Breslau reported troop columns on the road Breslau-Beuthen moving east. From these reports and from other fragmentary information picked up through the press and from individual reports, it is believed that the following units took part in the occupation, forming part of the 3rd and 5th army groups under Generals von Blaskowitz and List, respectively. In Silesia, under command of Commanding General VIII Army Corps, the following troops are believed to have entered Northern Moravia: 8th Infantry Division 18th Infantry Division 28th Infantry Division 5th Armored Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler From the north, by way of Dresden and the northern Sudeten- Deutsch area: 4th Division 14th Division 46th Division Standarte Sachsen From the west over Pilsen: 1st Armored Division 3rd Light Division 2nd Light Division 30th Div. (Mot.) 29th Div. (Mot.) From the west between Nurnberg and Passau: 17th Division 10th Division 1st Mtn Division From Vienna north: 2nd Armored Division 4th Light Division From Vienna into Slovakia through Pressburg: 44th Division 45th Division 7th Division Standarte Deutschland, Munich Standarte Vienna. [Page 396] This makes a total of 11 infantry divisions, 2 motorized infantry divisions, 1 mountain division, 3 light divisions, 3 armored divisions and 4 SS Standarten, which it has been fairly definitely established participated. Other troops not yet identified also may have been present. The strength of this force is approximately 300,000 officers and men. No extensive mobilization measures such as were evident in September were put into effect for this operation, and it is believed that only the active units brought to approximate war strength by the addition of unit trains were employed. It is significant to note that the 20th Div. (Mot.) stationed at Stettin on the eastern frontier which took part in the September concentration, was not moved. In fact, except for the troops of the VIII Corps, it is believed that no troops along the Polish frontier were engaged. In connection with the movement of the VIII Corps, a slip in one of the newspapers indicates that some of the troops were concentrated opposite Michalowitz on the Polish frontier. In other words, in this operation Germany did not denude her eastern frontier of troops as she did in September last. The occupation of Bohemia and Moravia progressed smoothly in spite of heavy snow and bad weather. No opposition was encountered. All Czech troops were disarmed and are confined to the barracks. The military and strategic advantages which Germany has gained by the occupation of Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia are enormous. Strategically Germany has placed herself between Poland and Hungary and definitely and forever prevented joint Polish-Hungarian action against her. Further, in case Germany desires to move against Poland, she now commands the gateway to Krakow, Limburg, and the Russian Ukraine. Her new position now places her armies on three sides of Poland, poised for a quick and telling blow. With respect to Hungary, Germany also threatens Budapest from the north and west and her armies are in a position to march directly into the fertile plains of Hungary or through Hungary to Roumania. The occupation of the mountainous Ruthenia by Hungary becomes unimportant in the light of Germany’s new strategic position. In addition to the strategic advantage gained, Germany has taken over a large store of artillery of all calibers, including much valuable antiaircraft material and heavy guns and howitzers from the Czechs. [Page 397] Once again the German army has achieved a bloodless triumph. Once again the efficiency of her troops has been demonstrated, and once again her ability to stride swiftly and without warning has been demonstrated. V. Economic Aspect The attached short article (app. C) on Slovakia and her economic position, from the Berliner Illustrierte Nachtausgabe of March 16th, 1939, is included in this report as it shows more eloquently than could be presented in any other manner the impossibility of Slovakia remaining an independent state. Her separatist movement from Prague could only have succeeded if she would have fallen in the hands of a strong and more powerful neighbor. Strategically Slovakian economic dependence lay with Hungary and Poland and the swiftness of German military action and the thoroughness of German political activities within the Slovak state may be accounted for from the fact that from a military point of view it was vital to Germany not to allow Slovakia to be occupied by either Hungary or Poland. In this connection it can already be stated that German economic gain in Bohemia and Moravia is practically nil. The expert markets which the former state of Czechoslovakia enjoyed, will now be closed to German goods. Little or no gold remains in Prague and financial experts are of the opinion that after her debts and credits have been balanced, little monetary advantage will accrue to Germany. The agricultural products of Bohemia and Moravia are at present barely sufficient to sustain her own population and the former Czechoslovakian state existed primarily through her export trade. A part of this export trade will naturally be absorbed by Germany, but she cannot compensate for the loss of markets which will inevitably follow the annexation. It is possible that Germany may obtain a small immediate monetary advantage from the Czech banks, but it is not believed that this is sufficient to make any substantial difference in Germany’s position. Percy G. Black Major, F.A. Acting Military Arrache.