The history of the “German Czechs”
Czechia used to have a large German-speaking population. The „Bohemian-Germans“, as they were called, inhabited especially the border region of the Sudetenland. However, many of them started settling here since the Middle Ages deep in the heart of what used to be the Duchy of Bohemia.
“The earliest settlement was linked with the trading routes. We know about an important road leading from Kolín in Central Bohemia to South-Western Moravia. The source is the Chronicle of Bohemians written by the famous priest Cosmas of Prague. He wrote it in the 12th century but describes earlier history. So we know, among other things, that today’s busy Route 38 follows a much older road from the Middle Ages. It leads through the main square of the town of Brod towards the bridge over the Sázava river. Originally there was only a ford that gave the town its name: Czech „Brod“ being the equivalent for the English „ford“. In the beginning, it was probably just a stop, a kind of resting place and a service station on the road.
But the nobility and religious orders that owned large swaths of land wanted a bigger income. There were indications that precious metals could be mined in the border mountains but also deep in the interior highlands. However, the original Slavic population lacked the know-how. In the neighbouring German states, mainly Bavaria, mining was already a well-established economic activity. So their experts were invited to help out:
What is fascinating from today’s point of view is that up until the birth of romantic nationalism in the 19th century, hardly any of the locals identified themselves as Germans or Czechs. They were first and foremost all subjects of the Habsburg Austrian Empire and their native language was not really all that important. Aleš Knápek again:
The Czech and German-speaking people lived peacefully side by side for nearly eight centuries even deep in the interior of the Czech lands. It was only the hysteria of nationalism raised by Nazi Germany in the middle of the 20th century that managed to destroy their symbiosis. The vast majority of the German-speaking population was expelled after the end of the World War II.