Wild expulsions, untold stories: Czech university student publishes second history on Sudeten German settlements
Luděk Němec is not your typical student of history. At the age of 21, he has already authored two books, both about ethnic Sudeten German settlements in the Šumava National Park region, forcibly abandoned during the “wild expulsions” following the Second World War.
The picturesque village of České Žleby, deep within the forested mountains along the medieval Golden Trail trade route, was a virtual ghost town in the decades following World War II until the fall of Communism. There were two reasons for this – neither of them unique.
First, the post-war Czechoslovak government expelled the village’s ethnic German population (along with millions of others); later, the Communists barred the village’s resettlement, along with countless others within a closed border zone.
The expulsion of some three million so-called Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia has been extensively documented. But the stories of the people from many run-of-the-mill villages like České Žleby have not been told.
Such untold stories have long captured the imagination of Luděk Němec, now a history student at the University of Vienna. At the same time, he told Czech Radio, he wants to tell extraordinary tales, rather than simply flush out footnotes, so to speak.
“No-one has paid much attention to the history of České Žleby, about the villagers’ stories. One book came out in German by the son of a villager who had been expelled, but in Czech, no-one has written more than a few pages.
“That was one reason, one motivation to write the book… I have spoken to a wide range people who were children when they had to leave České Žleby, or whose parents did, and grew up in Germany or Austria.
“Even when the stories are second-hand, passed down from one generation to the next, they are a very valuable source. Many people suffered similar fates, but I have tried to highlight ones that deviate from stereotypes that we Czechs may have about the ethnic Germans of Šumava.”
Among such stories in history student Luděk Němec’s new book is one about a “mixed marriage”. It is an atypical story – that of a Czech veteran of World War I named Emanuel Kaburek who had settled in České Žleby and agonised over whether to remain there after the Munich Agreement ceded the region to Hitler’s Germany.
“He had married local ethnic German, started a family, borrowed money to build a farmhouse there, and paid off the mortgage in the summer of 1938. A few months later, came the German Occupation and all the Czechs left.
“Emanuel Kaburek faced a dilemma, knowing that as a Czech he would probably find himself on the fringes of society, be unable to keep working as a postal clerk, maybe even lose the farmhouse he worked twenty years to pay for.
“He decided to stay, and after a few years he was sacked by the postal service, and so he decided to apply for German Reich citizenship to get his job back, but his request was denied. After the war, he was blacklisted by the Czechoslovak authorities, and eventually expelled to Germany – along with nearly everyone else from České Žleby.”
Luděk Němec’s book České Žleby – Böhmisch Röhren: a settlement on the Golden Trail, was officially launched on Friday. His first, on Krásná Hora/Schönberg was published when he was only sixteen.