** German regional differences -- Sudetenland

German Regional Differences--Sudetenland

Figure 1.--Sudeten Germans giving thanks to the Fuherer in 1938. As a result of the Munich Conference, the Sudetenland was stripped from Czeceslovakia and annexed by NAZI Germany.

The Sudetenland is German term for a frontier region of German-speaking people. The Sudetenland is the area bounded by the Sudeten Mountains on the north the Erzgebirge Mountains on the northwest and the Bohemian Forest to the west. The Sudetenland was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1919 when it was awarded to a new Czecheslovakian nation created as part of the Versailles Peace Treaty. The population before World War II largely consisted of Sudeten Germans. NAZI agitators in the 1930s brought about the Munich crisis. As a result, Britain and France at Munich acceded to awarding the Sudetenland to the Germans. Prime Minister Chamberlin returned to London and proclaimed that he had achieved "Peace in our times". Hitler if he had stopped here would have probably been regarded by Germans as one of the greatest leaders in German history. The Sudentenland was critical as it constituted a natural barrier without which, the defense of Czecheslovakia was impossible. The NAZIs proceeded to dismember the rest of Czecheslovakia in 1939 during the months leading up to World War II. The Sudentland was annexed by the Reich. The NAZIs proceeded to Germanize the population, forcibly removing Czechs. The region was restored to a revived Czecheslovakia in 1945 after World War II and the Sudeten Germans forcibly relocated to Germany. The Sudentenland is today part of the Czech Republic.


The Sudetenland is German term for a frontier region of German-speaking people"Sudetendeutsche". The term was rarely used before World War I when the Sudetenland was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some references indicate that Sudetenland means the "southern lands" in German. A HBC reader tells us that the Sudetenlan does not mean anything like "Southland". "The word Sud-eten has no any connection to the word "S�d" (south). It is a very old keltic word and it means "boar�s mountains". The original area, which was designated by this name was a part of nord mountains, of later Sudetenlad. First after World War I by the political events, was the old name used frequently and by this name "Sudetenland" was called the whole border areas of the Czech Republic. So that no any "South-land". [Samek]

The Region

The Sudtenland is located in the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. It is an area area shaped like a horseshoe around Bohemia and Moravia. It became known as the Sudetenland. It is bounded by the Sudeten (Sudetes) Mountains on the north, the Erzgebirge Mountains on the northwest, and the Bohemian Forest to the west.

Historical Background

The Sudetenland was a microchosim of the struggle between Germans and Slavs over Eastern and Central Europe. Bohemia amd Moravia were settled by Celtic Germanic tribes known as the the Boii, the Marcomanni, and the Quadi. The Celts were the major European group dominating Europe north of Greece and Rome. Subsequently a the Czechs, a Slav tribe, invaded the central regions of Bohemia and Moravia. Bohemian dukes in the 12th and 13th centuries invited Germans to help settle their lands. Modern concepts of nationalism had not yet developed. The territories known as the the Bohemian Crown (Bohemia and Moravia), including the Sudetenland inhabited by Germans, in 1526 were acquired by the Habsburgs. After World War I, the 6.7 million Czechs mostly in Bohemia and Moravia demanded a state of their own. The Sudeten Germans for the most part wanted to be part of Germny. The peace conference at St. Germain in 1919, however, left the Sudetenland as part of the new independent Czecheslovakia. The situation in the Sudetenland changed in the 1930s with the coming of the worldwide Depression in 1929. The Sudetenland was heavily industrialized. There was massive unemployment as a result of the depression. German's who had lost their jobs in the Depression began to think that they might be better off in Germany. Then Hitler and the NAZIs seized power in Germany in 1933. Unemployed workers were susceptible to the anti-semitic, anti-Czechoslovakia, pro-German rhetoric of the NAZIs. Local leader Konrad Henlen founded the Sudetendeutsche Partei (Sudeten German NAZI Party). Along with with discriminatory actions of local Czechoslovakian officials incidents provoked by the local NAZIS brought about the Munich crisis of 1938. Czecheslovakia was protected by treaties with Britain and France. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini suggested a four-power conference of Germany, Britain, France and Italy. The Czechs and the Soviets were not invited. The Munich Conference took place September, 29, 1938. In the face of Hitler's war threats however, Britain and France failed to honor their promise of military assistance and abandoned the Czechs to the NAZIs. The Sudentland was annexed by the Reich as the Reichsgau Sudetenland. The German annexation of the Sudntland and control of Czechoslovakia was a disater for the Czechs. Many Sudeten Germans, estatic that they were finally within the Reich behaved terrible toward their Czech neighbors. The NAZIs proceeded to begin to Germanize the population. Only the defeat of NAZI Germany in World war II prevntd this. The World War II and post-War history of Czecheslovakia is highly controversial. Millions of living in the Sudetenland and other Eastern European countries suffered teribly after the War. Their suffering has not been widely reported in the considerable historical record of refugees and displaced people. Many Germans harbor bitter attitudes toward the Czechs bcause of the way that they and their parents were treated. It seems to be hard for people who since more than 60 years only heard one side of the story, namely how terrible the German annexation of Czechoslovakia was for the Czechs, and how badly the Sudeten Germans were behaving.

The Population

The Sudeten Germans have for centuries lived in the area. The term "Sudeten Germans" has been used in the 20th century to designate the German population in the three provinces known in the Austro-Hungarian Empire as the lands of the Bohemian Crown. The Sudeten Germans are ethnically related to the major German tribes and are ethnically indistinguishable from Bavarians, Franconians, Saxons and Silesians. The population of the Sudetenland included about 3.5 million German speakers. Until 1919 they were governed by German-speaking Hapsburg rulers in Vienna. The peace conference at St. Germain in 1919, however, left them as part of the new independent Czechoslovakia. (The better known Versailles Peace Conference ended World War I with Germany. The St. Germain Peace Confernce ended the War with Austro-Hungary.) The Sudete Germans found themselves a minority within Czecheslovakia. HBC believes that they continued to have German-lamguage schools, but as a minority many government jobs requiring a command of the Czech language were difficult to obtain. The incidents of physical attacks and rapes claimed by the NAZIs, were largely the product of the ferile mind of Reich Minister of Propoganda, Josef Goebels. Many Czechs were expelled. After the War, the Soviets liberated Pague. Units of the American 3rd Army reached western Czecheslovakia. Reprisals aginst Germans began with the arrival of the Red Army. Individuals and groups sought vengence by attacking ethnic Germans. Many wanted their property back that the NAZIs had seized. When President Benes returned from London he issued official decrees which began the expulsion of 2.5 million Sudeten Germans. Hungary had been a German ally and te Czeches also expelled 0.5 million ethnic Hungarians. The population of Czecheslovakia thus became largely Czech and Slovak.


The Sudeten Germans were largely Catholic as was most of southern Germans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was of course a great honor for a boy to serve as an altar boy. We note that altar boys wore a serplice with a large dark collar detailed in stripes. We have not noted any altar boy outfits quite like this in any other country.

Figure 2.--These Sudeten German boys in Sternberg/ M�hren during the 1930s dress very similarly to German boys across the border. This is local tradition for Holy Week. The a annual celebration with the boys who are called "Ratschenbuben" parade around the Blessed Virgin statue, to replace the church bells which had "flown to Rome" with their wooden instruments (rattles). One HBC reader tells us that "Ratschenbuben" is an Autrian word meaning "rattle playing boys". Note the wheelbarrow-like carts, many boys seemed to have had these. Also note the man in the cone hat. Click on the image for more information.


Sudeten German boys appear to have dressed much like German and Austrian boys. Styles also appear to have been similar to Czech boys which also appear to have been similar to German and Austrian boys. We note that sailor suits were popular in the early 20th century as were wide-brimmed sailor hats while the Sudetenland was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Kneepants gave way to short pants in the 1920s. Long stockings were worn during the winter. Some boys wore sandals. Some smocks were worn, but we do not know how prevalent this was or what the fashion influence was. Most but not all boys appear to have worn short pants in the first half of the 20th century, even some quite old boys. Kneesocks were common, but many boys wore long stockings during the winter. We note younger boys wearing rompers, a rather French looking style. White kneesocks and long stockings seem common, but more for the girls than boys.

Hair Styles

We do not notice boys with long hair styles, but the shaved heads commom in the early 20th century are very rare by the mid-1920s. We note that the boys mostly have left hair parts and girls right hair parts. We note a few boys, however, with right hair parts. This same convention is observed in Germany, France, and other countries.


We have very limited information about schools in the Sudetenland. During the Austrian Empire era the schools would have been taught in German. Austrian cauthorities after the revolutions of 1848 began to make concessions to national etnic groups as ethnic nationalism increased. During the Austro-Hungarian Empire a reltive equality between Czechs and Germans in Bohemia. Each ethnic group in regions in which they were the majority, were permittef estabish control over their own affairs. Czechs and Germans generally maintained separate schools, churches, and public institutions. Even so, despite this etnic separation, mamy Germans understood some Czech and many Czechs spole some German. Major cities like Prague had more mixing between the different ethnicities. And there was also asunstatial Jewish population. In the Sudetenland with a substabtil German populations, the schools were taught in German. We are not sure what the situation was in Czechoslovakia after World War I. We think the Czechs allow the Sudeten Germans to have German-lasnguage schools, but we do not have details. One source reports tht Czech minority laws were most often applied in the Sudetenland and other German-spaking refgions to create new Czech schools, primrily for civil servants who had relocated to the area. Perhaps some Czech had to be taught. Most of the schools would have been primary scgools, but there were some secondary schools. Again we believe that classes were taught in German, but there may have been some Czech requirement. Hopefully readers will know more about this. After Hitler created the Sudeten crisis, the Germns attempted to perpetuate the idea that the Czechs did not permit the Sudetens to have German language schools.

Folk Costumes

Quite a number of photographs show Sudeten Germans wearing folk costumes. HBC know ittle about these costumes. We do not know, for example, if there was a destinctive Sudenten style. Actually the Sudetenland was spread over a large area and styles may have been more similar to neighboring areas of Germany and Austria than a unified Sudeten style. A German reader, for example, reports "The German people of this region, especially of Eger (Cheb) celebrate a feast called "Vinzenzifest" at their 'new hometown' Wendlingen on the Neckar in Baden-W�rttemberg. The girls wear a red or blue long dress and a Mieder (I believe it is the case, as you can see strings bound together cross like over their chests) (I'm not sure about the colours, as the picture is black and white) with a white apron and long white sleeves. They wear white long stockings and half shoes. The women are dressed the same way. The boys and men wear a white shirt, a blue or red buttoned vest and short trousers that are bound together over the knee by a string. They also wear white long stockings. One is wearing a brown fur hat, but they seem to wear usually a dark hat with a visor, that goes all around the head. Girls may wear it, as well."

Central Europe

Much of the European information collected by HBC is from Western European countries. We have relatively limited information on Central and Eastern Europe. The information on the Sudetenland is interesting because it is in fact a view of a small part of Central Europe in the years before World War II (1939-45). A German reader writes, "I have the feeling that the Sudeten Germans are not very important in the context of the whole of German population, and that what the clothing worn by the Sudeten Germans is not very special and different from Central Europe in general." HBC is unable to comment on this as we have such limited information on the various countries involved. We believe that German fashions were an important fashion influence in both Central and Eastern Europe. This subject, however, requires further research. Hopefully readers from these countries will provide us some information so we can better assessing clothing trends in the region.

Bilder aus dem Sudetenland

Alois Harasko has published Bilder aus dem Sudetenland (Pictures from the Sudetenland), a beautiful book, with over 500 photographs and acconpanying explanatory text. The photographs depict the life of the Sudeten Germans in the first half of the 20th century. The book was published in 1990. Anyone interested in learning more about the Sudeten Germans will find this as fascinating book and informative book covering various aspects of life up to World War II.


Samek, J. E-mail message, May 22, 2004.


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Created: January 31, 2002
Last updated: 9:41 AM 8/13/2015