Czechoslovakian defence fortifications from 1935–1938
Since the beginning of the 30s of the 20th century leading politicians of the former Czechoslovakia (ČSR) had worked together with the Army Headquarters to build up an acceptable defence concept to enable the protection of the national borders in case of a surprising hostile attack. In the year 1933 the NSDAP (National Socialistic German Workers Party) took over the political power in Germany with Adolf Hitler as Reichs-Chancelor. Since that time the formerly fair relations between Germany and the ČSR worsened increasingly. This confirmed the Czechoslovakian government in its defence planning.
ČSR – defence abilities and its relevant guidelines
The sustained form of the state was very unfavourable for the national defence. The east-west stretching of the ČSR was almost 1000 km long. The border with Germany was 1545 km long, after the connection with Austria to the German Reich in 1938 even 2103 km.
After intensive examination of all alternatives a fundamental and extended modernization of the Czechoslovakian forces was initiated in the year 1935. Parallel to it – analogous to the situation in many European States – the build-up of a mighty fortification system along the Czechoslovakian borders began.
The reinforcements were subdivided into four steps depending on the endangering of the particular border sections. The end of the project was scheduled to be after the year 1945.
Hundreds of Czechoslovakian firms and umpteen thousand citizens of the ČSR took part directly or indirectly in the reinforcement of the fortification system. The fortification of the nation from 1935 to 1938 represented the largest construction project on Czechoslovakian soil.
The conference of the European powers in Munich
At the beginning of October 1938 the reinforcement of the Czechoslovakian fortifications came to a sudden end after the government in Prague had to accept the decisions of the Munich Conference by the pressure of its own political allies. At the end of September a conference fateful for Europe took place in Munich with the leading politicians of Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany – without any representatives of Czechoslovakia. As the result of this conference the ČSR was forced to cede the border regions with German speaking majorities of the population to Germany until October 10, 1938.
Most of the fortifications which were decisive for the defence ability of the ČSR were in these areas and had to be reluctantly cleared by the Czechoslovakian army. The international guarantees of the great powers could then no longer prevent the annexation of the rest of Czechoslovakia by Germany on March 15, 1939 (i.e. Bohemia and Moravia; Slovakia separated a day before and declared its independence on March 14, 1939).
By this appeasement policy of western politicians towards Hitler’s Germany not only favourable starting positions for a war of aggression by Adolf Hitler were created but resulting from this also the basis for the division of Europe after 1945 and the thus beginning rise of the Cold War.
After 1946 the fortifications along the south and west borders of the Czechoslovakian Republic were logically integrated into the considerations of the newly formed political-military doctrine of the Soviet block.
The fortifications and fortified installations, which were built already before the war, remain as sad memorials of a tragic development from whose effects so many people had to suffer. Their present contribution as museum objects is to understand in this way.