Gareth Jones

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German and Slav; Century old Problems of Minorities



So this is Bohemia. not, however, the Bohemia renowned among Welsh operatic societies, nor the Bohemia of literature, where poets and artists in large-brimmed black hats discuss poems and pictures, nor the Bohemia of night life in Europe’s capitals, but the real Bohemia which forms the northern part of the new State Czecho-slovakia. 

Both sides of the steep valley are covered with fir trees, now white with the snow which has fallen without stopping for two or three days.  The roads are almost impassable except with sledges dragged by horses whose bells tinkle when they drive through the villages.  From the chimneys of the few scattered cottages rise wisps of bluish-grey smoke.  This mountainous scene in the region south of Saxony and north of Prague is indeed peaceful. 

Quiet though it may seem, however, this valley is in reality a battlefield.  Two civilisations are here struggling against one another-the German and the Slav. 

Analogy of Wales 

Just as in Wales two cultures and two languages.  Welsh and English, are striving for mastery, so here two cultures, that of Germany and that of Czecho­slovakia, come into conflict; but the fight is a hundred times more bitter and the consequences for the peace of the world a hundred times graver than that between the Welsh and English cultures, though the problem is at bottom the same. 

The people who live in these mountains are Germans, but they are ruled by the Czechs (pronounced as “cheques “), a Slavonic race.  We are thus face to face with one of the greatest battles in the world, that between two nations, one the oppressor and the other the oppressed. 

This battle is carried on in thousands of petty ways in Czechoslovakia, in Poland. in Yugoslavia, and in other countries, and is known to the League of Nations as the Problem of Minorities. 

The nations in Europe which have the upper hand are trying to crush those members of their State who speak a foreign language.  It is just as if the English attempted in every way to crush the Welsh and the Scotch and turn them into Cockneys; as if the English did not allow any Welshman to have a really responsible position, and as if the judges favoured the English in courts of law, nearly always giving judgment against the Welsh. 

Czechs’ Dominance 

In this State of Czechoslovakia, set up by the Treaty of Versailles, out of fourteen million inhabitants only about seven million belong to the dominant race, the Czechs. Three-and-a-half million are Germans, while the others are Slovaks, Ruthenians, and Hungarians.  The seven million Czechs, one half of the population, are the masters and are seeking to spread their power as rapidly as possible.  One weapon is the law.  In police-courts it is sometimes difficult for Germans to obtain justice.  Last night as the woodcutters assembled in the inn one of the villagers gave an example of this inequality under which the Germans suffer.  The woodcutters listened intently, puffing at their long German pipes, staring into their beer-mugs, and nodding agreement as the leader told his story: “A fine man is our forester, real good German, kind to everybody, and such a fond father you never saw.  He looks after the forest splendidly for a Prince, who owns the forests here.  Well, just before Christmas, after the first snow had fallen our forester was going with his wife through the woods half -an-hour away when he looked up and there he saw the rascal Wenzel, the Czech who lives in the village.  And Wenzel was cutting down the young fir-trees, stealing them to sell as Christmas trees. 

‘Stop!’ shouts our Forester, and goes up to him.  Wenzel yells something at him in his heathen Czech language.  Our forester bends down to count the fir trees which Wenzel had stolen, when, crack! A heavy blow comes on his skull.” 

‘The brute!!,’ murmur the villagers. 


“And the Czech runs away, leaving him there bleeding and senseless in the snow.  The forester’s wife puts a coat under her husband’s head and rushes to us in the village.  We get the sledge and horses and off we go and find the forester there with a pool of red blood in the snow all around.  We bring him back, and all through the Christmas days he shouted mad things and would not wake.  His children watched him Christmas Day and couldn’t understand what was the matter.  “But, to cut a long story short, there was a trial.  But the judge was a Czech.  They wouldn’t allow evidence in German; and the rascal Wenzel, although he was guilty of attempted murder, as well as of stealing trees, got off scot-free!” 

The villagers grunted angrily, “That’s how they treat us Germans—no justice for a German.” 

That Christmas drama, narrated in a Bohemian inn, throws a light on the grave problem of Minorities. 

Hour of Revenge 

By other methods, such as education and favouritism for non-Germans, by ejecting landowners and settling the land of the Germans by Czech or, in Poland, by Polish labourers, the dominant Slavonic races are attempting to crush their Teutonic subjects.  The tables are turned.  Formerly the Germans were ruthless in destroying the Slavonic cultures.  Now the hour of revenge for the Slavs has come. 

In Czecho-slovakia the treatment of the subject nations has not been so brutal as in other countries, such as Poland, and often the Germans themselves are to blame.  The fine veteran statesman, Masaryk, the President of the Czecho-slovak Republic, has tried his best to reconcile the races, and he is respected by all.  Many Czech officials try their best to help the Germans.  But still the petty oppression goes on. 

This oppression in the new States is a danger for Europe.  It may lead to grave trouble. 

Lesson for Wales 

It is arousing the passionate feeling in Germany that the lost territories must be won back. 

It is causing misery and injustice and even terror in Europe. 

The Welsh, as a small nation, should keep an eye on the oppressed peoples of Europe and stand up for justice, for fear the burning hatreds beneath the surface in Europe should again lead to a world conflagration, in which Wales herself would suffer. 

That is the lesson of this valley in Bohemia.








Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany.


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