Bohemia Ablaze With Revolt
[The Literary Review; July 6, 1918]
Riots are raging, the German papers tell us, throughout the whole of Bohemia, and as The Bohemian Review, the official organ of the Czech National Alliance of America, puts it: "The situation has reached a stage where it may be best described as open rebellion against Austria. Martial law rules in Prague, conflicts between citizens and soldiers are frequent, and war has been declared by the Vienna Government upon the Czech deputies and upon the entire Czecho-Slovak nation." Here is a little picture given by the Berliner Tageblatt of three of those numerous riots which are almost a daily occurrence in Bohemia at the present time:
"The troubles began in the Slovene battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment, at Judenburg. The German officers were killed, after which the troops gave themselves up to acts of anarchy. In time they were driven into the mountains, where they finally were disarmed after a combat."
"The Czechs of Pilsen, stationed at Fumberg, also revolted. The rising was put down by the sword. Part of the rebels, having succeeded in passing the frontier, took refuge in the mountains of Saxony, where they were made prisoners by the Germans."
"A third case of serious revolt took place at Fünfkirchen, where a Servian regiment from Austria revolted and massacred the officers. The exact details of these revolts are difficult to obtain. It appears, however, the instigators were Austrian soldiers returned from the prisoners' camps in Russia."
The Czecho-Slovaks, says the Prague Lidove Noviny, met in National Assembly recently at Prague, in spite of the Vienna Government, which seems to have been powerless to prevent the Congress. The Lidove Noviny says:
"The National Assembly was the greatest manifestation of will and aspirations which has ever taken place in Prague. Our feelings and thoughts are concentrated, not on a protest, but on an oath of fidelity to the national ideal. The representatives of the whole nation stood up to swear in their own name that they will persist in the struggle for independence in all circumstances and unto the end. The representatives of the Jugoslavs, including the official representatives of the Servo-Croatian Coalition, which has not hitherto joined the Jugo-Slav declaration, added an oath of their own no less significant—an oath of brotherhood and alliance between the Czechs and the Jugoslavs forever and under all circumstances."
The Czech newspaper, the Prague Narodni Listy, which was promptly supprest for publishing it, gives us the oath which, it says, was taken by every member of an enormous crowd gathered together in Prague. It runs:
"Gathered at Prague while the world-war has made necessary a new reorganization of the world on the basis of a higher authority given to the people, we proclaim that we shall remain in the front line of battle for the freedom of peoples, that we shall fight together in favor of each other's interests, that we shall repulse together any despotic measure, and that we shall denounce together the oppression of the Austrian state.
"We want to promote together the confidence of our people in the achievement of their aspirations, to encourage them to express their will more positively.
"We raise our right hand and solemnly swear that we shall give all that we own, all our strength, all our possessions, for the liberation of our people and for the achievement of the political unity of the Czecho-Slovak people, the political unity of the Jugo-Slavs, and the political unity of the Polish people."
In Germany itself we find the newspapers distinctly perturbed over conditions in Austria. The Kölnische Volkszeitung is amazed at the attitude of the Vienna Government, and says that "it has to some extent contemplated with folded arms this treasonable effort to get outside the black and yellow frontier posts. The Czech and Jugoslav parties' challenge to the Government is significant proof of the extent to which the Austrian policy of do-nothing and forbearance has suffered shipwreck." The Clerical organ goes on to complain of the ingratitude of the Czechs, whose claims, it says, grow the more conciliation is shown to them. It proceeds:
"This must be added: the Government's mistakes in the domain of food-administration and the provisioning of the German regions to the detriment of the others exhibit very step-motherly treatment. In such circumstances, it is not surprizing that embitterment against the German population in Austria has gradually risen to the boiling-point."
The Pan-German Essen Rheinisch-Westfälische Zeitung is furious because the German minority in Bohemia is imperilled "by the supineness of the Vienna Government," and throws out a broad hint that unless the Czechs are made to toe the mark, the Germans will intervene to clean things up. It says:
"The German people in Bohemia has offered blood and treasure as no other German tribe, and how has the Government rewarded it?... Any one who has recently participated in political meetings in German Bohemia...has heard with equal bitterness and indignation the complaint of the starved and betrayed German people and the same cry echoes from Tyrol and Styria.
"German Austria has fought, and still fights, Austria's war and is anchored in fidelity to the alliance with the racially related German Empire. If this scornful cry of indignation and bitterness finds deaf ears in Vienna, the imploring entreaty of a deserted tribe will certainly not be in vain in the ear of the All-Mother Germania."
The German plan for handling the disaffected districts, according to rumors reaching this country, is to drench them with poison-gas, like the two Russian villages which disobeyed German orders, but Emperor Karl is said to be reluctant to try this remedy. Many Bohemian troops, according to the London Daily Mail, have joined the Italian colors against Austria. The detachments belonged to a Czecho-Slovak army which is being formed in many centers from former subjects of Emperor Charles. Their defection to Italy has caused much anxiety among the Austro-Hungarian commanders, who fear the effect on their Slav troops.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013.
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