THE WESTERN MAIL
AND SOUTH WALES NEWS, 13th February, 1933
A WELSHMAN LOOKS AT EUROPE (iv)
and Slav; Century old Problems of Minorities
By GARETH JONES
A VALLEY IN BOHEMIA.
So this is
Bohemia. not, however, the Bohemia renowned among Welsh operatic societies, nor
the Bohemia of literature, where poets and artists in large-brimmed black hats
discuss poems and pictures, nor the Bohemia of night life in Europe’s
capitals, but the real Bohemia which forms the northern part of the new State
Both sides of the
steep valley are covered with fir trees, now white with the snow which has
fallen without stopping for two or three days. The roads are almost
impassable except with sledges dragged by horses whose bells tinkle when they
drive through the villages. From the chimneys of the few scattered
cottages rise wisps of bluish-grey smoke. This mountainous scene in the
region south of Saxony and north of Prague is indeed peaceful.
Quiet though it
may seem, however, this valley is in reality a battlefield. Two
civilisations are here struggling against one another-the German and the Slav.
Analogy of Wales
Just as in Wales
two cultures and two languages. Welsh and English, are striving for
mastery, so here two cultures, that of Germany and that of Czechoslovakia,
come into conflict; but the fight is a hundred times more bitter and the
consequences for the peace of the world a hundred times graver than that between
the Welsh and English cultures, though the problem is at bottom the same.
The people who
live in these mountains are Germans, but they are ruled by the Czechs
(pronounced as “cheques “), a Slavonic race. We are thus face to face
with one of the greatest battles in the world, that between two nations, one the
oppressor and the other the oppressed.
This battle is
carried on in thousands of petty ways in Czechoslovakia, in Poland. in
Yugoslavia, and in other countries, and is known to the League of Nations as
the Problem of Minorities.
The nations in
Europe which have the upper hand are trying to crush those members of their
State who speak a foreign language. It is just as if the English attempted
in every way to crush the Welsh and the Scotch and turn them into Cockneys; as
if the English did not allow any Welshman to have a really responsible position,
and as if the judges favoured the English in courts of law, nearly always giving
judgment against the Welsh.
In this State of
Czechoslovakia, set up by the Treaty of Versailles, out of fourteen million
inhabitants only about seven million belong to the dominant race, the Czechs.
Three-and-a-half million are Germans, while the others are Slovaks, Ruthenians,
and Hungarians. The seven million Czechs, one half of the population, are
the masters and are seeking to spread their power as rapidly as possible.
One weapon is the law. In police-courts it is sometimes difficult for
Germans to obtain justice. Last night as the woodcutters assembled in the
inn one of the villagers gave an example of this inequality under which the
Germans suffer. The woodcutters listened intently, puffing at their long
German pipes, staring into their beer-mugs, and nodding agreement as the leader
told his story: “A fine man is our forester, real good German, kind to
everybody, and such a fond father you never saw. He looks after the forest
splendidly for a Prince, who owns the forests here. Well, just before
Christmas, after the first snow had fallen our forester was going with his wife
through the woods half -an-hour away when he looked up and there he saw the
rascal Wenzel, the Czech who lives in the village. And Wenzel was cutting
down the young fir-trees, stealing them to sell as Christmas trees.
shouts our Forester, and goes up to him. Wenzel yells something at him in
his heathen Czech language. Our forester bends down to count the fir trees
which Wenzel had stolen, when, crack! A heavy blow comes on his skull.”
brute!!,’ murmur the villagers.
“And the Czech
runs away, leaving him there bleeding and senseless in the snow. The
forester’s wife puts a coat under her husband’s head and rushes to us in the
village. We get the sledge and horses and off we go and find the forester
there with a pool of red blood in the snow all around. We bring him back,
and all through the Christmas days he shouted mad things and would not wake.
His children watched him Christmas Day and couldn’t understand what was the
matter. “But, to cut a long story short, there was a trial. But
the judge was a Czech. They wouldn’t allow evidence in German; and the
rascal Wenzel, although he was guilty of attempted murder, as well as of
stealing trees, got off scot-free!”
grunted angrily, “That’s how they treat us Germans—no justice for a
drama, narrated in a Bohemian inn, throws a light on the grave problem of
Hour of Revenge
By other methods,
such as education and favouritism for non-Germans, by ejecting landowners and
settling the land of the Germans by Czech or, in Poland, by Polish labourers,
the dominant Slavonic races are attempting to crush their Teutonic subjects.
The tables are turned. Formerly the Germans were ruthless in destroying
the Slavonic cultures. Now the hour of revenge for the Slavs has come.
Czecho-slovakia the treatment of the subject nations has not been so brutal as
in other countries, such as Poland, and often the Germans themselves are to
blame. The fine veteran statesman, Masaryk, the President of the
Czecho-slovak Republic, has tried his best to reconcile the races, and he is
respected by all. Many Czech officials try their best to help the Germans.
But still the petty oppression goes on.
in the new States is a danger for Europe. It may lead to grave trouble.
Lesson for Wales
It is arousing
the passionate feeling in Germany that the lost territories must be won back.
It is causing
misery and injustice and even terror in Europe.
The Welsh, as a
small nation, should keep an eye on the oppressed peoples of Europe and stand up
for justice, for fear the burning hatreds beneath the surface in Europe should
again lead to a world conflagration, in which Wales herself would suffer.
That is the
lesson of this valley in Bohemia.
Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany.