The Jews of Bohemia and Moravia: Facing the Holocaust

By Livia Rothkirchen | Go to book overview

5
The Protectorate
Governments and
the “Final Solution”

The role of the native, so-called quisling governments installed in Nazi-occupied countries, either upon German demand or with their blessing, is doubtless one of the most intriguing issues of World War II history. Although they shared some common characteristics, there was certainly no uniformity either in their overall conduct or in their stance with regard to the solution of the Jewish problem. Thus each requires individual evaluation. The Czech case certainly stands out with its special geopolitical and local traits.1 Curiously enough even during the war years the “home front” held a somewhat different view from that of the Czech Government-in-Exile in London, both with regard to the activities of the Protectorate governments and regarding the stance taken by President Hácha. It seems that now, more than fifty years later, on the basis of documentation, research, and memoir literature at our disposal, we may form a more definitive view on the relevant issues.

The discussion began early on. In 1943, while still in exile in London, Jaromír Smutný, the chef de cabinet of President Beneš, published an article on the subject. He stated clearly that “the problem of Hácha is as specific as are similar problems of Pétain, Laval, Darlan and other politicians.” At the same time, he advised that judgment should be reserved for a later date, when these issues could be examined in a broader context and “without passion.”2

Indeed, while Emil Hácha, the protectorate state president, is described in historiography as a case of “clear-cut collaboration,” the posture of the premier of the Czech government, General Alois Eliáš, is still one of the most intriguing riddles of World War II history.3 His unique policy of retardation and “double dealing” as well as his tragic fate have no analogy. Eliáš was the only prime minister to be tried by the Nazis for high treason; he was executed in June 1942.

The American scholar Stanley Hoffmann in his perceptive study “Self-

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