68 years since the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia

March 1939

This Thursday marks the 68th anniversary of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. For six years, the country suffered under the control of Adolf Hitler.

March 1939
It was a cold morning on March 15th 1939 when the Germans marched into Prague. Czechs were still recovering from the shock of the events of the day before - the Slovaks had broken away to form their own puppet fascist state. Left on their own without any allies, they were too weak to stand up against Nazi Germany and fight for an independent Bohemia and Moravia.

Adolf Hitler at the window of Prague Castle
With President Emil Hacha a frail 66 year old man, who had suddenly become President after Edvard Benes resigned and went into exile in Britain a few months earlier, his announcement on Czech Radio came as no surprise: "I have entrusted our country to the Fuhrer and have been promised his trust". On March 16, the swastika was flying from Prague Castle and Adolf Hitler was proudly proclaiming Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate.

Four days after the occupation, a huge German military parade was held on Wenceslas Square. This is an archive recording of a live report from Czechoslovak Radio's Franta Kocourek. Reporting from the balcony of the Hotel Sroubek his words describe the confusion that reined among Czechs at the time:

"I would like to talk about one thing that has nothing to do with the military. From somewhere far away, a huge, black crow has flown into Prague. I have seen it spread its wings and sweep down the square over the searchlights and listening devices being paraded here by the German army. It must be surprised at the noise and all that is going on beneath it."

Former president Emil Hacha is still considered the leader who gave away the nation's sovereignty without putting up a fight.

Emil Hacha has many times in the past given testimony of the pressure that he was under:

Hermann Goring
"One can stand Hitler shouting because one who shouts doesn't necessarily have to be a devil inside. But Goring - with his friendly-looking face - was also there. He took me by the hand and gently reasoned with me asking whether it was really necessary for beautiful city like Prague to be flattened within hours. He spoke to me in an affectionate manner and looked straight into my eyes like a woman. That's when I realised that it was the devil himself talking to me."

But historians agree that there was little that Emil Hacha could have done. In an effort to appease Hitler, the powerful states of Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany, had already given away part of Czechoslovakia in the Munich Agreement of September 1938 and it seemed unlikely that they would come to the Czech nation's aid.

Prague was to remain under German control for another six years until the end of the Second World War in 1945.