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Die Tschechoslowakei und die beiden deutschen Staatenby Ed. Christoph Buchheim, Edita Ivaničková, Kristina Kaiserová, and Volker Zimmermann

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Slavic Review
January, 2012
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Die Tschechoslowakei und die beiden deutschen Staaten by Ed. Christoph Buchheim, Edita
Ivaničková, Kristina Kaiserová, and Volker Zimmermann
Review by: Milan Hauner
Slavic Review, Vol. 71, No. 2 (SUMMER 2012), pp. 434-435
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Slavic Review


studies modern east European and east European Jewish social history, the Holocaust
and its impact, and urban studies. By employing interviews and other personal accounts,
Redlich is able to explore successfully the multiple dynamics and evolution of Jewish identity and values after the Holocaust. He pays constant attention to the differences in the
prewar and wartime lived experiences and values of the Jews who lived in the city in the
early postwar period, offering insight into the diverse and sometimes contradictory perceptions of what the city and life in it meant to them.
Joanna Beata Michlic
Brandeis University

Die Tschechoslowakei und die beiden deutschen Staaten. Ed. Christoph Buchheim, Edita
Ivaničková, Kristina Kaiserová, and Volker Zimmermann. Veröffentlichungen der
Deutsch-Tschechischen und Deutsch-Slowakischen Historikerkommission, no. 10.
Veröffentlichunge; n zur Kultur und Geschichte im Östlichen Europa, no. 36. Essen:
Klartext Verlag, 2010. 282 pp. Notes. Index. Figures. Tables. €29.95, hard bound.
This volume is the outcome of a conference, sponsored by the German-Czech and
German-Slovak History Commissions, held in Slovakia in 2003. Nine papers were presented at the conference itself. In the process of compiling this volume, two more were
added, one by Pertti Ahonen, the only one in English, and another by Tomáš Vilímek.
There is a lot to be said for the geopolitical triangle that emerged in central Europe in
1945 on the ruins of Nazi Germany, when the Czechoslovak Republic was reconstituted
within its pre-Munich borders (though without its easternmost Transcarpathian Ruthenia,
annexed by the Soviet Union). Four years later, the two German states were established:
the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD) from the U.S., British, and French zones of occupation, and the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) from the Soviet zone. Between
them ran the Iron Curtain. People became accustomed to calling one German nation the
“Good Germans” and the other the “Bad Germans,” but which was which depended on
one’s ideology. For Czechoslovakia the “good Germans” were naturally those in the Soviet
zone of occupation. With East Berlin, Prague easily settled the two notoriously painful
problems in Czechoslovak-German relations of the twentieth century, but these problems
continued to bedevil Czech relations with the BRD for decades. In June 1950, the DDR
Protocol declared the Munich Agreement of 1938 implicitly invalid and the expulsion
of three million Germans from Czechoslovakia after 1945 as “irreversible, just and final”
(17, 46). Nothing could be further from Bonn’s perspective, where until the 1970s the
Hallstein-Doctrine reigned, demanding the abrogation of diplomatic relations with any
country that recognized the DDR as a sovereign state. Czechoslovakia had easily become
the principal target of the most venomous West German expellee organization, the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, which considered the Munich Agreement still valid and
demanded the recall of the Beneš Decrees and the return of the Sudeten Germans to their
former homeland (Recht auf Heimat). Thus, the only country bordering on the two German states— or three if we include Austria—lacked elementary diplomatic contacts with
its important neighbor until mid-1960 when trade missions between Prague and Bonn
were exchanged.
The Prague Spring of 1968 brought about a radical shift in the Czech-German relationship. University students on both sides were excited about the new “Socialism with a
human face.” The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 brought about
several years of freeze but, paradoxically, these were followed by a gradual thaw because
of the new Ostpolitik and the resumed course of détente, favored by both superpowers.
Having signed treaties with the USSR and Poland in 1970, Willy Brandt’s BRD government
accomplished the most difficult task by signing an agreement with the DDR at the end
of 1972, resulting in full diplomatic relations between the two German states. The final
obstacle was removed when Bonn and Prague signed the treaty in 1973. Détente led to
the Helsinki Conference in 1977 and the foundation of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, a
human rights organization that was to epitomize the dissident movement until the fall of
the communist regime at the end of 1989.

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Book Reviews


The fall of the Berlin Wall reopened the question of German unification, an unwelcome prospect for their Polish and Czech neighbors. The dissidents, however, were not
afraid. As early as March 1985, Charter 77 produced the so-called Prague Appeal for a
future peaceful Europe with German reunification as its centerpiece. When the euphoria
of German reunification and east European liberation from communism subsided, the
united Germany and the “Czech and Slovak Federal Republic” signed a new but problematic treaty in February 1992, omitting the reference to the disputed Munich Agreement
lest it give rise to property claims of the Sudeten Germans across the border. One cannot
escape the irony that the two former German states, once liberated from the shackles of
Cold War, achieved unification, while the Czechoslovak Federation, once freed from the
communist system, underwent an unexpected partition along ethnic and historic divides,
in order to produce the independent Czech and Slovak Republics, both lobbying for German support to enter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.
The book’s introductory chapter, by the late Hans Lemberg, provides the reader with
a basic orientation covering the salient dates between 1949 and 1989. The next contribution, on the influence of the expellees and their organizations in the BRD and on the
DDR policies vis-à-vis Czechoslovakia, comes from Pertti Abonen. Jaroslav Kučera provides
an analysis of the property claims of the former Czechoslovakia vis-à-vis the BRD. Volker
Zimmermann compares DDR relations with Poland and Czechoslovakia in the 1950s
and 1960s. The BRD’s Ostpolitik and the normalization of relations with Czechoslovakia from 1967 to 1973 are the subject of Gottfried Niedhart’s essay. Economic and trade
relations between Czechoslovakia and the two German states are covered by Christoph
Boyer (DDR) and Christoph Buchheim (BRD). Tomáš Vilímek tries to find—in vain it
seems to me—the causes leading to the breakdown of the Czechoslovak and East German
regimes in 1989. The bulk of his evidence involves data on ecological damage and the
shortage of consumer goods. He overlooks the role of the modern media and casts doubt
on the impact of the mass exodus of East Germans during the second half of 1989 (the
“Exit Revolution”). The topic of German reunification and Czechoslovak foreign policy
is covered in Miroslav Kunštát’s chapter. Taking the reverse perspective, Vladimír Handl
describes in greater detail the ups and downs in the policy of united Germany vis-à-vis the
Czech Republic. Eduard Niž ňanský concludes the volume with a focus on the phantom
of the Munich agreement of 1938 as the misused instrument of communist propaganda
between 1948 and 1989. And the phantom will not vanish.
Milan Hauner
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity: Housing in Czechoslovakia, 1945 –1960. By Kimberly Elman Zarecor. Pitt Series in Russian and East European Studies. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh
University Press, 2011. xvi, 383 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Illustrations. Photographs. Maps. $27.95, hard bound.
Kimberly Elman Zarecor has written a fascinating book about the architectural history of
the early postwar period in Czechoslovakia. Focusing on collective housing from 1945 to
1960, she creatively weaves cultural, political, and architectural history together. Simultaneously, she debunks assumptions about the often-ridiculed paneláks (panel-building
apartments) that have dominated the discourse about east European architecture during
the communist era.
Like many historians who have published books on Czechoslovakia in the last decade,
such as John Connelly, Bradley Abrams, and Melissa Feinberg, Zarecor highlights the continuities between the precommunist and communist eras. She reminds readers that the
nationalizing of large enterprises, and a more general leftward swing in politics and culture, began immediately after the war, and she points out that many architects responded
positively to the concept of state-led architecture even before the Communist Party’s rise
to power in 1948. She admits, though, that many professional architects quickly realized
the loss of creativity and individual control that would come with the nationalization of
their profession.

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