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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Historical Hurdles on the Way to the European Union:: The Sudeten German-Czech Conflict in Contemporary Literary and Historical Narratives

Valentina Glajar.


In December of 1996, after more than half a century since Hitler invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 and the expulsion of Sudeten Germans in 1945, Czechs and Germans finally agreed on a bilateral pact on wartime abuses. Germans apologized for Hitler's invasion and the subsequent crimes Nazis committed in Czechoslovakia, and in turn, Czechs expressed regrets for the expulsion and expropriation of many innocent Sudeten Germans. The declaration, however, provided the expelled with no claim to compensation, which the Sudeten Germans living in Bavaria harshly criticized. On the other hand, the Czechs view Hitler's invasion as an enormous tragedy for their country and, as stated in the document, the Nazi violence toward the Czechs as preparing the ground for the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans. In view of the negotiations regarding the European Union's expansion to the East, the Bene_ decrees of 1945, which were at the core of the Sudeten Germans' expulsion and expropriation, came under fire again and threatened to hold up Czech entry to the European Union.
I argue that the representations of historical events in texts by Moníková and Bernig are not contradictory; rather, they are contrapuntal in the Saidian sense, as they address overlapping cultural territories based on the centuries-long coexistence of two peoples under evolving political regimes. As attempts at reconciliation between Czechs and Germans, Moníkov's and Bernig's texts offer alternative perspectives to both German and Czech official versions of history. Moníková challenges the Czech position vis-a-vis the expulsion as she acknowledges the fact that in 1945, little attempt was made to differentiate between Germans and Nazis. At the same time, she addresses the Sudeten German involvement with National Socialism and the eagerness of many Germans to betray the Czechoslovak state. Bernig exposes the brutal post-World War II retaliation against Sudeten Germans as also documented in the recently translated study by the Czech historian Tomas Stanek. The texts of these authors present unique and contrasting insights into the historical events and render personal stories that were deeply influenced by politics and history.

Presenters

Valentina Glajar  (United States)
Assistant Professor of German
Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures
Texas Tech University

I defended my dissertation in German Studies at the University of Texas at Austin 1999. Since then I have been teaching at Ohio State University and Texas Tech University. My revised and expanded doctoral thesis will be published by Boydell & Brewer in 2003. I presented numerous papers on minority issues, Austrian colonialism, German-Romanian literature, the Sudeten German-Czech conflict, and other topics at national conferences in the US.

Keywords
  • Expulsion
  • Ethnic division
  • Multiculturalism
  • Memory
Person as Subject
  • Monikova, Libuse Bernig, Joerg Stanek, Tomas



(30 min Conference Paper, English)