Former Sudeten town preparing major exhibition on “Czech” Germans

Exhibition called "Our Germans", photo: ČTK / Ondřej Hájek

Despite difficulties resulting from the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, a unique new exhibition is being prepared in the North Bohemian city of Ústí nad Labem. Called “Naši Němci” (Our Germans), it aims to introduce visitors to the history of Czech-German cohabitation in the area of the Czech lands. Spanning over a thousand year, the exhibition will use many methods to bring the past to life, including an early-twentieth century Sudeten pub.

Petr Koura,  photo: Petr Vidomus,  Czech Radio

A new exhibition is currently being prepared in Ústí nad Labem by Collegium Bohemicum, an organisation that focuses on exploring the cultural heritage developed by German-speaking inhabitants of the Czech lands. Its director, historian Petr Koura, says that the exhibition was originally supposed to open this year, but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, if all goes according to plan, he says the exhibit could open in March 2021.

“It will focus on Germans that lived in the Czech lands. That means not just Sudeten Germans, but also German speaking Jews for example. Our exhibition covers a wide time-frame, ranging from the Migration Period around the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire until contemporary times. It will certainly be a large exhibit, taking up 20 rooms spread across two floors.”

Exhibition called "Our Germans",  photo: ČTK / Ondřej Hájek

The exhibition will also feature various audio-visual tools with the aim of providing viewers with an authentic atmosphere of the times. Among these, is the idea of bringing back a period pub from the early twentieth century, says the historian.

“We are recreating a period pub that is located in Loket nad Ohří, where the visitor can sit down and listen to the sounds of conversations between three individuals. You will be able to hear four conversations in total, ranging from the beginning of the twentieth century up until 1945.”

Aside from period pub conversations, visitors will also be able to encounter propaganda films from the 1930s and 1940s, flick through profiles of German authors that were honoured in interwar Czechoslovakia and hear the different songs that Czechs and Germans sang when mobilising at the outbreak of World War One.

Photo: Collegium Bohemicum

One of the aims of the exhibition is also to introduce visitors to the many internationally successful individuals originating from German speaking families in the Czech lands, says Dr Koura.

“A lesser known individual in this respect is the artist Heinz Edelman, who was expelled from his home town of Ústí nad Labem after the war. Later he would go on to be the main animator for the famous film The Yellow Submarine for The Beatles, whose animated characters for this movie he likely created.”

Other famous individuals with "Czech" German ties featured in the exhibition include Franz Kafka, Gustav Mahler, or Sigmund Freud.