Brno/Brünn 1938-1948.Eine Stadt in einem Jahrzehnt erzwungener Wanderungen

Jan Musekamp


In 1938 the Moravian capital Brno - in German Brünn - was a prospering city of 300 000 inhabitants. Characteristic was its multi-ethnicity: Apart from 52 000 Germans and 12 000 Jews the Czechs were the largest ethnic group in Brno. During the decade following 1938 the city underwent dramatic demographic changes.
After Hitler's Coming to power and after the civil war in Austria up to 2000 political refugees and Jews had found shelter in the Moravian capital, mostly migrating on to western countries by 1938/1939. They were followed by hundreds of Czechs leaving the border lands after the annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938. With the establishment of the Protectorate in 1939 the Jews and the small population of Romani were deprived of all rights and later on mostly murdered in concentration camps. The Czech political and cultural life was oppressed, hundreds of Brno's inhabitants have been imprisoned and tortured if not shot in the notorious Kounicove koleje.
After the liberation the city Council decided on may 30th 1945 to expulse German women, children and old people, despite the fact that the "odsun" of the Germans from Czechoslovakia was approved only by the Potsdam agreement several months later. During the so called "Brno death march" the hastily organized expulsion led to the death of more than 640 people on their way to Austria.
The remaining Germans - several hundreds of so called anti-fascists excluded – were arrested in camps and had to leave the country between 1946 and 1948. The German property was distributed among the Czech population in a chaotic way.
The forced migration of a significant part of Brno's inhabitants and the migration of 18 000 Citizens to the deserted borderlands was followed by the migration of new population into the city. Besides from Czechs, a large part of the new inhabitants came from poorer Slovakia. Another group were the - mostly Slovakian - Romani, being discriminated by the Czech minority. Smaller groups have been the so called Czech remigrants, coming from Wolhynia, Austria and other countries, finally Bulgarian producers of vegetables.
In most cases these people had a rural background and could not Substitute the previously emigrated urban Citizens. This lead to a decline of Brno's cultural life, intensified by the communists' Coming to power in 1948.