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A Parallel History
Slovakia        Britain
1918-29 1918-29
The Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved at the end of WWI under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and, due to many domestic conflicts between the various ethnicities, the empire split into many different nations. Czechoslovakia gained its independence before the Great War had even ended, on October 28, 1918, and became one of the few democracies of post-WWI Europe. 
It was led by Tomas G Masaryk, who had developed good relations with the American President, Woodrow Wilson. Wilson, thus, strongly advocated that “The peoples of Austria-Hungary…should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development” in his 14 Points. Masaryk, also known as the President Liberator and Little Father, was elected President in 1920, and together with five other Czechoslovak parties, helped bring stability to the new nation.

Masaryk served as president until December 1935, when he was forced to resign because of illness. The Czechoslovak Constitution of 1920 established the state as a republic and democracy, and was inspired by the evidently successful Western, democratic constitutions of Britain, France and the United States. The state of Czechoslovakia consisted of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Ruthenia and Silesia. The six million Czechs outnumbered the two million Slovaks and 3.5 million Germans. The Germans is this state were of a completely different ethnicity, and “rarely intermarried with the Slavs.” Yet, they’d been in that area (specifically, the Sudetenland) since the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 AD. Economically, Czechoslovakia was “industrially the most developed area in Central Europe.” 

It consisted of about 75% of all the industry of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It had glass industries, chemical industries, sugar refineries, breweries, and the Skoda Works of Plzen, which helped produce automobiles and armaments; however, most of these industries were controlled by Czechs, and Slovakia only controlled approximately 5% of industry in Slovakia. Ruthenia did not have any industry. Czechoslovakia also had a highly developed agrarian sector, and thus a thriving food industry. Unfortunately, the Czech and Slovak economies were greatly “polarized” as the Czechs had developed much more industrially. Attempts, although ineffective, were made to decrease this division: the rate of literacy was increased, and better techniques for agriculture were introduced. Still, Czechoslovak economy “had increased by 20% compared to a decade ago.” Women also played a large role economically, in the industrial areas of Bohemia and Moravia, and also in agricultural aspects. The involvement of women in the labor force helped make them an increasingly essential and equal part of Czechoslovak society. The rate of education in women also increased as in the 1920s. “45 to 46 percent of students enrolled in school were girls.” The percentage of female students in institutions of higher education also increased. By 1922, women voters equaled those that were male.

Isha Chauhan

Britain went through much turbulence in the post World War One period. Politically, David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, resigned in 1922, and the Labour government, under Ramsay MacDonald, came to office in January 1924, but for barely a year. They gained more popularity throughout till 1939. The Conservative Government took power again in November 1924 till 1929, under Stanley Baldwin, who united the country under “national character and traditions”. 

Britain was also faced with a strong 9-day Union strike in 1926, which Baldwin perceived as “self-seeking actions of unpatriotic and anti-English trade unionists, determined to challenge the constitution and in turn to brink the nation to its knees.”

Due to the involvement in WWI, British colonies also became more assertive. In Europe, Britain was involved in attempting to build peace, with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and the Treaty of Locarno, making peace with Germany. Socially, women in Great Britain benefited from the war as they gained the right to vote. Women had become more independent as they’d had more jobs during the war, while the men were sent off as soldiers. There was also the distinct lack of a generation, as they amount of men that died in the First World War almost constituted a whole generation. 

On a positive note, this period in Britain saw an increase in cinema-goers as the films gained more popularity in Britain. Economically, Britain was under a lot of strain due to war debt, and economists suggest that economic output dropped by 25% after the war; however, many historians state that Britain was better off than most of her war-time allies, as Britain largely paid for the war with “foreign assets.” Still, unemployment was high, and civilians experienced inflation as the government tried to pay off its debt. Fortunately, though, Britain did not suffer as much as the rest of the world when the Great Depression hit in 1929


Slovakia Britain
1929-39 1929-39

1929 – Great Wall Street Crash 
1933 – Hitler comes to power announcing his intention to expand east 1935 – Masaryk resigns due to bad health, Beneš succeeds him 
1938 – Konrad Henlein’s political party begins to shout for Sudeten independence 
1938 – Sudetenland disputes and the Munich Agreement 

Great Wall Street Crash 

The crash in American stock markets came on October 24th 1929 and lasted another month. It soon spread and affected the parts of the world which were trading with the United States. The Crash happened just before the Depression, a period of economical drawback of industrialized nations, and it is often argued that the Crash started the Depression. This affected the European economies, having a devastating affect on Germany. Along with the reparations that it still had to pay and other consequences of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was being crushed by inflation and devaluation. Inflation was reaching thousands of percent, and the paper that the money was printed on was worth more than the financial value of the note itself. The financial crisis helped dictators all around the world to get to power, but Czechoslovakia was still a democratic country in the 1930s, one of the few successor states that arose from the WWI defeated countries that did not turn to dictatorships. The crisis was one of the important factors that helped Hitler get to power in 1933. 

Hitler comes to power 

Hitler, a great speaker and at that time a rising star, used the economical crisis to get to power. His strongly nationalistic Nazi party blamed the Wall Street Crash on the Jews, and started to break the Treaty of Versailles bit by bit, from not paying reparations to rearmament. This led to the British and French Appeasement policy, which in the final resulted into the Munich Agreement and the Second World War. 


Masaryk resigns 

The first Czechoslovak president, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, resigned due to poor health. To a large extent, the Czechoslovak democracy was held together by him. 

He was succeeded by Edvard Beneš, until then a foreign minister. He created a system of alliances, which were effectively holding Czechoslovakia’s democratic stance in an area dominated by aggressively expanding states until 1938. Beneš, a Western orientated politician, did not try to negotiate alliances within Central Europe; instead he relied heavily on the League of Nations as a protector of newly created states. 
However, he achieved the Little Entente – an alliance with Yugoslavia and Romania to counter the Hungarian desire for revenge, as the newly created Czechoslovakia possessed some territory of the former Austria-Hungary. He tried to negotiate further with Britain and France, but Britain remained faithful to its isolationist policy. Nevertheless, he achieved a separate alliance with France. 

1938 - Sudetenland problems and the Munich Agreement 

Henlein’s strongly pro Nazi party, funded and instructed by Germany, issued the Carlsbad Decrees, demanding autonomy for the Sudetenland and the freedom to profess Nazi ideology. - 26th April – Czechoslovak government accepts Heinlein’s Home Rule demands - 15th/16th September – Chamberlain meets with Hitler, reaching an agreement to persuade the French and British cabinets to accept plebiscite results on whether or not Sudetenland aligns itself with Germany, while Hitler agrees to take no military action 23rd September – newly elected government led by Jan Syrový ordered a general mobilization 24th September – French order a partial mobilization; Chamberlain calls for a four power conference 30th September – conference results into the Munich Agreement – Czechoslovakia loses Sudetenland, Devin and Petržalka, later also Cieszyn Silesia and Southern third of Slovakia 5th October – Beneš abdicates 7th October – Slovakia declares autonomy within Czechoslovakia 1939, 14th March – Slovakia declares independence 

Munich Agreement 

The agreement was signed in Munich by Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, Benito Mussolini and Édouard Daladier, without any diplomatic representatives of Czechoslovakia. 

As a part of British appeasement policy, it gave the Sudetenland to Germany. Hungary used the moment to take the southern third of Slovakia, and Poland occupied Cieszyn Silesia. The French dishonored their alliance with Czechoslovakia, as they were militarily unprepared for any offensive military act, also making the USSR agreement useless, as it stated that the USSR would only send in help if the French go in first. This left Czechoslovakia to either submit to the Munich Agreement terms, or fight Germany alone. Czechoslovakia lost border fortifications, 70% of its iron/steel production, 70% of its electrical power, 3.5 million inhabitants, and the Škoda Works to Germany as a result of the settlement.

May 1929-Minority Labour government comes to office 
1930- Unemployment more than doubled
August 1931- Creation of national government 
1931- Europe's credit structure collapses and Bank failures increase 
March 1936- German troops occupy demilitarized zone Rhineland Nov 1936- Germany and Japan sign an "anti-Comintern Pact" 
Jan 1937- Hitler formally withdraws Germany from the Versailles Treaty 
1937- Foreign policy of appeasement is introduced. 

British Depression 

The interwar period of 1929-1939 was greatly marked by the great depression which affected every aspect of Britain’s society. The post war economic boom was replaced by a bust when prices tumbled, unemployment rose and economic output fell by 25%. The major cause of financial instability, which proceeded and accompanied the great depression, was the debt that Britain and many European countries had accumulated during First World War. While Britain was able to cushion this effect by financing the war effort largely through sales of foreign assets, the loss of these foreign earning left it dependent upon exports. The war and the 1929 Wall Street crash had permanently battered Britain's trading position in world markets through the reintroduction of high trade tariffs and the loss of ships causing Britain’s only alternative to foreign earnings to shatter. Relative to the rest of the world, the depression in England was viewed as not being so extensive because its effects were uneven. While in London and the south east of England unemployment was initially as high as 13.5%, the later 1930s were a prosperous time in these areas because the industries that were lost were replaced with new ones, such as the electrical industry. On the other hand the north of England which was home to the traditional heavy industries (ex. coal, steel and shipbuilding) suffered greatly. In most of these areas production declined by as much as 90% while unemployment rose by 70%. The overall estimation of unemployment in Britain was three million people. 

Creation of the National Government 

The depression brought to an end the long run of the very successful and overwhelmingly dominant conservative party in 1931. In May 1929 a minority Labour government headed by Ramsay MacDonald came to office with Liberal support. This was only the second time a Labour government had been in office and few of the government's members had any deep knowledge of economics or experience of running the economy. On July 1931 the Labour Government urged public sector wage cuts and large cuts in public spending to soften the effect of the depression. 

This notion was so unpopular that in 1931 that James Ramsay MacDonald recognizing that the labour government was coming to an end created an emergency National Government. The National Government was composed of members of the National Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the Liberal National Party


The Depression not only weakened the economic and social stability of Britain but it reversed the progress made since 1924 in creating peaceful international cooperation. Britain, and France’s, reaction to Nazi Germany was conditioned by its economic, military and strategic vulnerability. Threatened by Germany in the mainland, Italy in the Mediterranean and Japan in the Far East, Britain turned to the Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement in an attempt to resolve matters without military action. Hitler’s transgressions included reintroducing conscription, entering the demilitarized zone of Rhineland and forming an alliance with Japan by signing the anti-Comintern Pact. While this was a direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles, the British lodged protests with the League but didn’t support either military or economic sanctions. The main aim of British policy in the 1930s towards Germany became softening Hitler’s aggressions by continuously modifying the Treaty of Versailles. By doing so Hitler was allowed to believe that his defiance of the Treaty of Versailles was tolerable until he formally withdrew Germany on Jan 30, 1937. 

Marek Rapant Rudolf Kral
World War II

1939 - Occupation of Czech land by Nazi Germany and annexation of Sudetenland 
1939 - Formation of Slovak Republic by Jozef Tiso 
1939 – 1945 Czech Resistance to Nazi occupation 
1942 – Deportation of Jews to Germany, resumed during occupation 1944 - Slovak national uprising 

German occupation of Czechoslovakia 

The annexation of Sudetenland weakened Czechoslovakia and forced to grant concessions to non-Czechs. A meeting in Zilina precipitated creation of an autonomous Slovak government under Jozef Tiso. Emil Hácha, succeeding Beneš, was elected president of the federated Second Republic, renamed Czecho-Slovakia and consisting of three parts: Bohemia and Moravia, Slovakia, and Carpatho-Ukraine. The country was militarily powerless and was not able to defend itself. 

This was an opportunity for Hitler that would grant him access to Poland - in the interim, he negotiated with the Slovak People's Party and with Hungary to prepare the dismemberment of the republic before the invasion. He invited Jozef Tiso to Berlin and on March 14, the Slovak Diet convened and unanimously declared Slovak independence.
 Hitler summoned President Hácha to Berlin and during the early hours of March 15, informed Hácha of the imminent German invasion and persuaded Hácha to order the capitulation of the Czechoslovak army. During World War II, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist and was divided into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia of the Third Reich and the newly declared Slovak Republic, with small slices going to Poland and Hungary. 

Formation of Slovak Republic 

State created under Tiso, which was allied with Nazi Germany. As the state was under protection of Germany, this led to further promotion of the existing anti-semitism where Jews were not allowed to participate in public life. There was only one political party present – Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party – and the others were banned, except for parties representing national minorities. 

Later, Tiso supported deportations of Jews to Germany to be used as labour force. There were 90.000 Jews before the deportation and in 1942, approximately 58.000 Jews were deported and Slovak state paid 500 Reichsmark for each. Vojtech Tuka, as the prime minister, was one of main forces behind the deportation of Jews. However, 669 Jewish children were rescued by Nicholas Winton before they were deported as part of the kindertransport.

Czech and Slovak Resistance to Nazi occupation 

Beneš, the leader of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, together with František Moravec, head of Czechoslovak military intelligence, organized and coordinated a resistance network. Hácha, Prime Minister Eliáš, and the Czech resistance acknowledged Beneš's leadership. Active collaboration between London and the Czechoslovak home front was maintained throughout war years. The most important event of the resistance was the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich during the Operation Anthropoid. The assassination resulted in one of the most well-known reprisals of the war. The village of Lidice was completely destroyed by the Nazis; all men over 16 years of age from the village were murdered and rest of the population was sent to Nazi concentration camps where many women and nearly all the children were killed.

 Four main groups in resistance: 

1.) Defense of the Nation 
2.) Political Center 
3.) Committee of the Petition We Remain Faithful 
4.) Communist Party of Czechoslovakia 

These groups united and formed Central Committee of the Home Resistance, which involved mainly intelligence gathering. Red Army partisan units cooperated with R3 and developed a guerrilla structure. May 5 – national uprising in Prague, barricades were raised and both men and women battled the German troops. On May 8, German Wehrmacht capitulated and Soviet troops arrived. 

Slovak National Uprising 

Armed struggle of Slovak rebels against German Wehrmacht troops and to oust the collaborationist government of Jozef Tiso, which had earned support from Allied forces. Many members of Slovak partisans were sent to concentration camp. Although Germans won in 1944, guerrilla warfare continued until Soviet troops reached the country in 1945.

Lucia Suhanyiova

World War II


1939: • 3rd September: Britain and France declare war 
1940: • 10th May: Churchill becomes Prime Minister, 
May-June: British Expeditionary Force evacuates from Dunkirk 
10th July-15th September: Battle of Britain 
23rd August: The “Blitz” – all night raids on London begin 
1942: • 15th February: British surrender Singapore 
1943: • 28th February: Heaviest RAF Bomber Command raid on Berlin 1944: • 6th June: D-Day landings in Normandy •
1945: • 4th February: Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin confer at Yalta • 8th May: V-E day 

The War Effort in Britain 

During the war much British citizens saw experienced many changes. Rationing was enforced due to the substantial food shortages and did not end until two years after the end of the war. Bread, butter, sugar and clothes were just a few of the items rationed by the government. Because so many men had been called up to fight, women began to replace their jobs. Some worked in factories producing ammunition and weapons, although their wages were lower than those paid to men for the same jobs. Others worked on the land and in the farms, and became known as Land Girls. Some women also played important roles in the SOE, the Woman’s Voluntary Service and as Air Raid Wardens. 

Evacuation in WW2 

During the war London and other major cities were frequently bombed by enemy planes. The government evacuated children who lived in areas where bomb attacks were likely. They were sent to live with families in the country, where they had to begin new lives, start new schools and make new friends. Nearly 3,000,000 people were evacuated in the first four days of September 1939 alone. 

Evacuees had differing experiences – some have painful memories of their years away from home, whilst others look back to this time with nostalgia. In all, approximately 3.7 million people were evacuated during the war years (including 2 million privately arranged evacuations to overseas countries). Exact figures are disputed among historians. 


The Royal Air Force, founded on 1st April 1918, expanded significantly in the Second World War, taking in many new members from commonwealth countries. 

It played it’s most important role in WW2 during the Battle of Britain, during which it managed to hold off the German Luftwaffe. Churchill later credited the RAF with the words “never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. 
The RAF also played a role in the strategic bombing of Germany, where significant damage was done to cities such as Berlin, Dresden and Heilbronn. 


The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was the British secret service set up in June 1940. It played a role in supporting resistance in occupied countries. It closed up in 1946. Despite the limited number of members (never more than 10,000 men and 3200 women), it had a strong influence on the war: its members played roles in events all over the world. 


After the BEF became stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk between 29th May and 3rd June 1940, the men were rescued and returned to Britain by hundreds of small fishing boats and ferries. 338,000 men were saved. Churchill called Dunkirk “the greatest British military defeat for many centuries”. However, despite the efforts of British fisher

men and the Royal Navy, 30,000 soldiers were taken prisoner by the Germans, and the equipment of those rescued was lost. 

Battle of Britain 

he Battle of Britain took place between July and September 1940. By this time Hitler had won a series of victories and had now turned to Britain. His aim was to destroy the RAF before launching “Operation Sealion”, the invasion of Britain. 700 British fighter planes came face to face with approximately 800 German fighters and 1,000 German bombers, but the British emerged as victorious. Hitler, as a result, was forced to abandon the invasion. 


On the 6th June 1944 Allied troops landed at Normandy for the invasion. On this day 156,000 men landed on a thirty-mile long strip of land. These troops began the Second Front and, despite significant losses, contributed to the eventual victory of the Allies. 

Liberation and V-E Day

Victory in Europe Day came on the 8th May 1945, following German surrender. 


Celebrations in the form of dancing, singing and bonfires took place in countries all over the world. On 10th August the British government announced a Victory Parade, in which crowds swarmed through London and were greeted by King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth and Winston Churchill from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Clare Roberts

Bratislava History Project
British International School of Bratislava
Peknikova 6, 841 02 Bratislava
+ 421 2 6930 7081 info@bisb.sk


Contact : Richard Jones-Nerzic