German troops arrive in Prague
The lives of two of our survivors, Dora Niederman and her future husband Isaac, were gravely impacted by the events that transpired in March 1938.
Hitler made up for his lapse at Munich and quickly went to work on the destruction of the rump state of Czechoslovakia. On March 13, 1939, he received Jojtech Tuka, the Slovak prime minister, and offered to guarantee the independence of Slovakia. If the offer was not accepted, Hitler threatened to “leave the destiny of Slovakia to the mercy of events, for which he was no longer responsible.” The Slovak leader got the message, and the Slovakian parliament declared independence from Prague the next day.
In the early morning hours of March 15, 1939, Hitler received the Czech Prime Minister Hacha and demanded that he hand over what was left of Czechoslovakia, the provinces Bohemia and Moravia. Hitler threatened him: “The military machine now already in motion could not be stopped. It was a grave decision, but he saw dawning the possibility of a long period of peace between the two peoples.” Hacha withdrew to another room where Goering and Ribbentrop shouted at him, insisting that he sign the documents giving the pretense of legality to the incorporation of Bohemia and Moravia into the German Reich. Hacha, an old man in poor health, fainted and had to be revived. He finally signed the documents. Hitler embraced his two middle-aged secretaries and exclaimed: “Children! This is the greatest day of my life! I shall go down in history as the greatest German!”
The German news release reported that Hacha, for the purpose of “the safeguarding of calm, order, and peace in this part of Central Europe,” had “confidently placed the fate of the Czech people and country in the hands of the Fuehrer of the German Reich. The Fuehrer accepted this declaration and expressed his intention of taking the Czech people under the protection of the German Reich and of guaranteeing them an autonomous development of their ethnic life as suited to their character.”
At six o’clock in the morning on March 15th, the German army crossed the border and quickly occupied Bohemia and Moravia. There was no resistance. Only the bad weather opposed them.
The Times-Picayune covered Hitler’s seizure of the rump state of Czechoslovakia with front page articles on March 18th and 20th.
With Bohemia and Moravia in his pocket, Hitler had improved his strategic position but broken his promise given to Chamberlain and Daladier at the Munich conference that the Sudetenland was his last territorial ambition. Public opinion in England and France was outraged and Chamberlain and Daladier were forced to respond to Hitler’s naked aggression. They signed a pact with Poland guaranteeing her independence.
A few months later Hitler ceded the eastern region of the former Czechoslovakia, known as Carpatho-Ukraine, to his ally Hungary. Hungarian troops occupied Dora Niederman’s hometown.
Hitler then forced the Romanian government to cede Transylvania to Hungary. This was the region where Isaac Niederman lived.