13. A Sign on a Sudeten House
By Anna-Marie Pipalova
This sign, on a house on the main square of Hudcov, a village in the Sudetenland, announces that the house was in the property of Wenzl Pokorny-Renner, landlord. Further signs on the house state that it was the ‘Gasthaus zum Reichsadler’, the Inn of the Imperial Eagle. The continued presence of these German-language signs harks back to the bilingual nature of the Sudetenland before 1946, when its German population (estimated at around three million people) was expelled, and the territory became Czech-speaking.
Although similar German signs are occasionally preserved in the Czech Republic for historical purposes – notably in Prague – here the sign’s continued existence is not a conscious historical effort, but rather the result of neglect: the house, originally dating back to 1899, has not been repaired since Pokorny-Renner’s day. In February 1948, Czechoslovakia became a Communist state under the leadership of Klement Gottwald (1896-1953). My grandmother, who lived in the village throughout this time, recounts that during the Communist period (1948-1989) the house ceased to function as an inn, and instead briefly contained laundry facilities used by the inhabitants of the village, and was inhabited by the village seamstress.
The expulsion of the Sudeten Germans depopulated significant parts of the Sudetenland. The Communist government embarked on a policy whereby the area was partially resettled by Czechs and Slovaks, but the population remained significantly lower than in the pre-expulsion period. The Sudeten expulsion remains controversial in the Czech Republic up to this day.
E. Glassheim, Cleansing the Czechoslovak Borderlands: Migration, Environment, and Health in the Former Sudetenland (Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016).
Image: Photo by the author’s brother