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front up to 1917, and 7000 during the last offensive on the Piave in June,
1918. Of recent cases we need mention only the "treachery of Carzano,"
where, on September 18, 1917, some Czech officers went over to the
Italians, communicated to them the Austrian plans of campaign and led them
against the Austrians whose front was thus successfully broken through.
This incident was not the only one of its kind. It has been repeated
several times by Czech officers whenever they found an opportunity of going
over to the Italians. During the offensive of June, 1918, the Austrian
press openly attributed the Austrian failure to "Czech treachery,"
asserting that the plan of the offensive was communicated to the Italian
headquarters staff by Czecho-Slovak officers. This the Austrian military
authorities themselves admitted later, when they published the following
official statement, which appeared in the German press on July 28:

"On the morning of June 15, we started a vigorous offensive on the
whole front between the Tyrolese mountains and the Adriatic, with a
power that can be attained only by complete co-operation of all the
units and with an accurate execution and a common and uniform action.
But, just at the beginning of the attack, it became apparent that the
enemy were making a counter-attack according to a well-defined plan, as
in the case of a projected vigorous offensive. It was also found out
that the enemy was perfectly aware of the extent, the day and the hour
of our attack. The intended surprise, so important for the success of
an offensive, has thus failed. In due course Italy also obtained, from
documents which some deserters handed to the Italian high command,
information which gave her a sufficiently precise idea of our
dispositions. English, French and Italian officers and men captured by
us declare unanimously that their regiments were advised on the evening
of June 14 that the Austrian offensive would start at two o'clock on
the following morning.

"The exact time of the beginning of our offensive must have been
betrayed by _Yugoslav and Czech deserters_. The enemy took steps
against the bombardment by means of gas, which was expected. These
steps later proved insufficient. As an example we may mention only the
following facts: The battalion of bersaglieri received, at 3.20 on June
14, a quantity of ammunition at 72 to 240 cartridges per man. The
Pinerolo Brigade took up fighting position at 2 o'clock at night. An
order, captured late on July 14, said: 'According to reports received,
the enemy will commence early on June 15 their bombardment preparations
for attack. At midnight hot coffee and meat conserves will be
distributed. The troops will remain awake, armed and prepared to use
their gas-masks.'

"For some time now the Italian command have tried to disorganise our
troops by high treasonable propaganda. In the Italian prisoners-of-war
camps the Slavs are persuaded by promises and corruption to enlist in
the Czecho-Slovak army. This is done in a way prohibited by law. Their
ignorance of the international situation and their lack of news from
home, partly caused by Italian censorship, are exploited by means of
propaganda without scruples. An order of the 5th Italian Army Corps
(1658 Prot. R. J.) of May 14, 1918, refers to active propaganda by
Czecho-Slovak volunteers with the object of disorganising the
Austro-Hungarian army. The Italian military authorities on their part
deceive the Czecho-Slovaks by telling them of the continuous disorders
and insurrections in Bohemia. In the above-mentioned order it is
asserted that in the corps to which it is addressed, as well as in
other corps, some attempts of the Czecho-Slovak elements have been
successful in causing confusion among enemy ranks. _Some of our
Czecho-Slovak soldiers deserted and went over to the Italians_. Others
remained in touch with them and declared themselves ready to stay in
our positions as a source of ferment for future insurrections. Although
the high treason miscarried owing to the heroic resistance which our
troops, without distinction of nationality, offered to the enemy, it is
nevertheless true that some elements succumbed to the treacherous enemy
propaganda.

"The gunner Rudolf Paprikar, of the machine gun section, according to
reports of the 8th Army Corps jumped off the river bank into the Piave
below Villa Jacur and swam across under danger of being drowned. He
betrayed the position, strength and composition of his sector, and
through observation and spying, he acquired some valuable information
by which our projected attack against Montello was disclosed. Further,
he revealed to the enemy some very secret preparations for the crossing
of the river Piave, and also supplied him with plans of the
organisation of troops, battery positions, etc.

"The principal part in the treachery is attributed by the Italian high
command, not without reason, to Lieutenant Karel Stiny of an infantry
regiment, who deserted near Narenta. It appears from the detailed
Italian official report in which his statements are embodied, that he
betrayed all our preparations on the Piave and provided the enemy with
a great deal of most important information. Let us mention further that
Stiny in his mendacious statements to the Italian command about the
Austro-Hungarian situation at the front and in the interior, followed
the line of all traitors in order to appear in a favourable light. It
is characteristic that in his declaration about our offensive he said
that many Austro-Hungarian troops would have surrendered if it had not
been for the German and Bulgarian bayonets behind their backs.

"_It is proved by various documents to what extent the Czechs have
forgotten their honour and duty_. By breaking their oath to Austria and
her emperor and king, they have also forgotten all those who were with
them at the front, and they are responsible for the blood of our
patriots and the sufferings of our prisoners in Italy. The false glory
which is attributed to them by the Italian command, who have lost all
sense of the immorality of these proceedings, cannot efface the eternal
crime which history always attaches to the names of traitors."

5. We could give many proofs of the great service the Czecho-Slovaks
rendered the Allies by their surrenders. But for our purpose it will be
sufficient to quote only some more admissions of the Germans and Magyars
themselves.

Count Tisza admitted that Czech troops could not be relied upon, and Count
Windischgrätz stated that the chief of staff dare not use them except when
mixed with Magyars and Germans.

Deputy Urmanczy declared in the Budapest Parliament on September 5, 1916,
that during the first encounters with Rumania, a Czech regiment retired
without the slightest resistance, provided themselves with provisions,
entered a train and disappeared. The men went over to Rumania. He blamed
the Czechs for the Austrian reverse in Transylvania.

On June 22, 1917, when the case of deputy Klofác was discussed by the
Immunity Committee of the Reichsrat, General von Georgi, Austrian Minister
for Home Defence, according to the Czech organ _Pozor_ of June
24, described

"... the conditions prevailing in the army, especially the behaviour of
certain Czech regiments, and brought forward all the material which had
been collected against the Czechs since the outbreak of the war, and
which had been used against them. He referred to the 28th and 36th
Regiments as well as to eight other Czech regiments which had
voluntarily surrendered to the Russians. He mentioned also that Czech
officers, not only those in reserve but also those on active service,
including some of the highest ranks of the staff, surrendered to the
enemy; in one instance fourteen officers with a staff officer thus
surrendered. Czech soldiers in the Russian and French armies, as well
as in other enemy armies, are fighting for the Entente and constitute
legions and battalions of their own. The total number of Czechs in the
enemy armies exceeds 60,000. In the prisoners' camps in the enemy
countries, non-German prisoners were invited to join the enemy's ranks.
Czech legions and battalions are composed almost entirely of former
prisoners of war. The minister further went on to describe the
propaganda of the Czechs abroad, the activity of Czech committees in
enemy and neutral countries, especially in Russia and Switzerland. He
also mentioned the case of Pavlu, a Czech soldier, who in a Russian
newspaper described how he penetrated the Austrian trenches in the
uniform of an Austrian officer, annihilated the occupants and after a
successful scouting reconnaissance returned to the Russian ranks. The
minister described the attitude of the 'Sokols' and the Czech teachers.
The tenor of his speech was that Klofác is responsible for the
anti-Austrian feeling of the Czech nation and that therefore he should
not be released."

When the Russian offensive of July, 1917, started, Herr Hummer, member of
the Austrian Reichsrat, addressed the following interpellation to the
Austrian Minister for Home Defence:

"Is the Austrian Minister for Home Defence aware that in one of the
early engagements of the new Russian offensive, the 19th Austrian
Infantry Division, which consists almost entirely of Czecho-Slovaks and
other Slavs, openly sided with the enemies of Austria by refusing to
fight against the Russians and by surrendering as soon as an
opportunity offered itself?"

The most interesting document in regard to the attitude of Czecho-Slovaks
during the war is the interpellation of ninety German Nationalist deputies
(Schurf, Langenhahn, Wedra, Richter, Kittinger and others), of which we
possess a copy. It contains 420 large-size printed pages, and it is
therefore impossible for us to give a detailed account of it. The chapters
of this interpellation have the following headings:

1. The dangers of Pan-Slavistic propaganda.
2. The situation at the outbreak of the war.
3. Motives for the arrest of Kramár.
4. The behaviour of Czechs in Austria:
_(a)_ Demonstrations of Czech national spirit in Prague;
_(b)_ Czech school-books;
_(c)_ Czech officials;
_(d)_ The activities of the "Sokols";
_(e)_ What happened at Litomerice and elsewhere;
_(f)_ The Czech attitude towards war loans;
_(g)_ The Zivnostenská Banka and the war loans;
_(h)_ The financial policy of the Zivnostenská Banka;
_(i)_ The Czechs and war emergency affairs;
_(k)_ The Czechs and the question of food supplies.
5. The anti-Austrian attitude of Czechs abroad:
_(a)_ In France;
_(b)_ In England;
_(c)_ In Russia;
_(d)_ In America;
_(e)_ In Switzerland;
_(f)_ The campaign of Professor Masaryk;
_(g)_ The Czech secret intelligence service.
6. The conduct of Czech soldiers on the battlefield.
7. Military consequences.
8. Some recent documents.

According to the _Neue Freie Presse_ of June 6, 1918, the Austrian Minister
for Home Defence made the following important admissions in reply to the
part of this interpellation concerning the Czech contribution to the
defeats of Austria:

"The 36th Regiment, according to unanimous reports of the high command,
failed to do its duty in May, 1915, on the Russian front, and thereby
caused a heavy defeat of other detachments. This regiment was dissolved
by the imperial decree of July 16, 1915.

"The unsuccessful fighting and heavy losses of the 19th Division in the
battle north of Tarnopol between September 9 and 11, 1915, were caused
by the weak resistance of the 35th Regiment.... During the battles of
June 29 to July 2, 1917, near Zloczow the resistance offered by this
regiment was weak.

"As regards Regiment No. 28 of Prague, according to the statement of
regimental commanders, it appears that the whole detachment, without
firing a single shot, was taken prisoner by a single enemy battalion,
or rather was brought by that battalion from its position."

And in this policy Czech soldiers continue by surrendering voluntarily to
the Entente troops whenever they have the opportunity.



VI

THE MILITARY AND POLITICAL ACTION OF THE CZECHO-SLOVAKS ABROAD

When war broke out, the Czecho-Slovaks all over the world felt it their
duty to prove by deeds that their place was on the side of the Entente. The
Czecho-Slovaks in Great Britain, France and Russia volunteered to fight for
the Allies, while in the United States of America, where there are some one
and a half million Czecho-Slovaks, they have counteracted German propaganda
and revealed German plots intended to weaken the American assistance to
the Allies.

1. In France 471 Czechs, _i.e._ over 60 per cent., entered the Foreign
Legion and greatly distinguished themselves by their bravery. The majority
of them have been mentioned in dispatches and received the Military Cross.
They have also won five crosses and twenty medals of the Russian Order of
St. George. Their losses amount to more than 70 per cent.

Further, many Czechs living in Great Britain at the outbreak of the war
joined the French Foreign Legion in France, and after His Majesty's
Government allowed Czechs to volunteer for service in the British army in
the autumn of 1916, practically all Czechs of military age resident in
Great Britain enrolled so far as they were not engaged on munitions. In
Canada, too, the Czechs joined the army in order to fight for the
British Empire.

The most important part was taken, however, by the Czecho-Slovak colonies
in Russia and America. In Russia, where there are large Czecho-Slovak
settlements, numbering several thousand, a Czecho-Slovak legion was formed
at the outbreak of the war which has rendered valuable services, especially
in scouting and reconnoitring. This legion grew gradually larger,
especially when Czech prisoners began to be allowed to join it, and
finally, under the direction of the Czecho-Slovak National Council, it was
formed into a regular army. In September, 1917, it had already two
divisions, and in 1918 fresh prisoners joined it, so that it counted
some 100,000.

In order to be able fully to appreciate this achievement, we must remember
that this was an army of volunteers, organised by the Czecho-Slovak Council
without the powers of a real government. At the beginning of the war the
Czecho-Slovaks not only had no government of their own, but not even any
united organisation. And if we realise that to-day, after three and a half
years of strenuous effort, the National Council are recognised by the
Allies as the Provisional Government of Bohemia with the right of
exercising all powers appertaining to a real government, including the
control of an army as large as Great Britain had at the outbreak of the
war, it must be admitted that the action of the Czecho-Slovaks abroad was
crowned with wonderful success.

In Russia the difficulties with which the National Council had to cope were
especially grave, and mainly for two reasons. In the first place, the
Czecho-Slovak prisoners who voluntarily surrendered were scattered all over
Russia. It was extremely difficult even to get into touch with them. In
addition there was a lack of good-will on the part of the old Russian
Government. Thus very often these prisoners, who regarded Russia as
Bohemia's elder brother and liberator, were sadly disillusioned when they
were left under the supervision of some German officers, and thousands of
them died from starvation. Nevertheless they never despaired. Eager to
fight for the Allies, many of them entered the Yugoslav Division which
fought so gallantly in the Dobrudja. Nearly all the Czech officers in this
division were decorated with the highest Russian, Serbian and Rumanian
orders. Half of them committed suicide, however, during the retreat rather
than fall into the hands of the enemy.

It was not until after the Russian Revolution, and especially after the
arrival of Professor Masaryk in Russia in May, 1917, that the Czecho-Slovak
army in Russia became a reality.

The Czecho-Slovaks have been mentioned in Russian official _communiqués_ of
February 2, 1916, and March 29, 1917. The most glorious part was taken by
the Czecho-Slovak Brigade during the last Russian offensive in July, 1917,
in which the Czechs showed manifestly the indomitable spirit that animates
them. Since every Czech fighting on the side of the Entente is shot, if he
is captured by the Austrians, the Czechs everywhere fight to the bitter
end, and rather commit suicide than be captured by their enemies. For this
reason they are justly feared by the Germans. As in the Hussite wars, the
sight of their caps and the sound of their songs struck terror in the
hearts of the Germans and Magyars. At the battle of Zborov on July 2, 1917,
the Czechs gave the whole world proof of their bravery. Determined to win
or fall, they launched an attack almost without ammunition, with bayonets
and hand-grenades - and they gained a victory over an enemy vastly superior
in numbers.

According to the official Russian _communiqué_:

"On July 2, at about three o'clock in the afternoon, after a severe and
stubborn battle, the gallant troops of the Czecho-Slovak Brigade
occupied the strongly fortified enemy position on the heights to the
west and south-west of the village of Zborov and the fortified village
of Koroszylow. Three lines of enemy trenches were penetrated. The enemy
has retired across the Little Strypa. The Czecho-Slovak Brigade
captured sixty-two officers and 3150 soldiers, fifteen guns and many
machine guns. Many of the captured guns were turned against the enemy."

Finally, however, when the Russians refused to fight, the Czechs had to
retire as well. General Brussiloff declared:

"The Czecho-Slovaks, perfidiously abandoned at Tarnopol by our
infantry, fought in such a way that the world ought to fall on its
knees before them."

2. The spontaneous and unanimous political action of the Czecho-Slovaks
abroad became co-ordinated when Professor Masaryk escaped from Austria and
placed himself at the head of the movement.

_Professor Masaryk_, the distinguished Czech leader and scholar, whose name
we have already mentioned in the preceding chapters, went to Italy in
December, 1914, and although he desired once more to return to Austria
before leaving finally for France, he found it too dangerous, as the reign
of terror had already been established in Bohemia. He accordingly went to
Switzerland and afterwards on to France and England. In October, 1915, he
was appointed lecturer at the newly founded School of Slavonic Studies at
King's College, University of London. Mr. Asquith, then Prime Minister, who
was prevented through indisposition from presiding at Professor Masaryk's
inaugural lecture on October 19, 1915, sent the following message to
the meeting:

"I congratulate King's College on Professor Masaryk's appointment, and
I can assure him that we welcome his advent to London both as a
teacher - the influence of whose power and learning is felt throughout
the Slav world - and as a man to whose personal qualities of candour,
courage and strength we are all glad to pay a tribute. We believe that
his presence here will be a link to strengthen the sympathy which
unites the people of Russia and Great Britain."

"First and foremost the Allies are fighting for the liberties of small
nations, to the end that they may be left in future free from the
tyranny of their more powerful neighbours to develop their own national
life and institutions. Above all, to-day our thoughts and our
sympathies are moved towards Serbia, whose undaunted courage wins day
by day our unbounded sympathy and admiration."

During the lecture on the Problem of Small Nations in the European Crisis,
Professor Masaryk outlined his political programme which he has ever since
insisted the Allies should adopt, to destroy the German plans of
Mitteleuropa. He declared:

"Great Britain came into this war to protect little Belgium, and now
with her Allies she is faced by the task of protecting Serbia. This
evolution of the war is almost logical, for Germany's aim is and was
Berlin - Bagdad, the employment of the nations of Austria-Hungary as
helpless instruments, and the subjection of the smaller nations which
form that peculiar zone between the west and east of Europe. _Poland,
Bohemia, Serbo-Croatia (the South Slavs) are the natural adversaries of
Germany_, of her _Drang nach Osten_; to liberate and strengthen these
smaller nations is the only real check upon Prussia. Free Poland,
Bohemia and Serbo-Croatia would be so-called buffer states, their
organisation would facilitate and promote the formation of a Magyar
state, of Greater Rumania, of Bulgaria, Greece and the rest of the
smaller nations. If this horrible war, with its countless victims, has
any meaning, it can only be found in the liberation of the small
nations who are menaced by Germany's eagerness for conquest and her
thirst for the dominion of Asia. The Oriental question is to be solved
on the Rhine, Moldau and Vistula, not only on the Danube, Vardar and
Maritza."

Soon afterwards Professor Masaryk issued a proclamation signed by
representatives of all Czecho-Slovaks abroad, the full text of which reads
as follows:

"We come before the political public at a moment when the retreat of
the victorious Russian army is exploited against Russia and her Allies.
We take the side of the struggling Slav nations and their Allies
without regard to which party will be victorious, simply because the
Allies' cause is just. The decision as to which party in this fatal
struggle is defending the right, is a question of principle and
political morality which to-day cannot be evaded by any honest and
clear-thinking politician nor by any self-conscious nation. But we are
prompted to step forward also by our vivid sense of Slav solidarity: we
express our ardent sympathies to our brother Serbs and Russians, as
well as to our brother Poles, so heavily struck by the war. We believe
in the ultimate victory of the Slavs and their Allies, and we are
convinced that this victory will contribute towards the welfare of the
whole of Europe and humanity. The spiteful anti-Slav attitude of
Ferdinand the Koburg and his government cannot retard the victory of a
just cause.

"The Czech nation made an alliance with Hungary and the Austrian
Germans by a free election of a Habsburg to the throne of the kingdom
of Bohemia in 1526; but the dynasty created through a systematic
centralisation and germanisation a unitary absolutist state, thus
violating their treaty guaranteeing the independence of the Bohemian
State within and without. The Czech nation, exhausted by the European
and Habsburg anti-reformation, has only since the Czech regeneration at
the end of the eighteenth century been able to resist this violence. It
was especially the revolution of 1848 which challenged it.

"The revolution was crushed, and the secured rights of nations,
especially of the Czechs, were again sacrificed to absolutism which,
however, was shattered by the war of 1859, and replaced by an
incomplete constitutionalism. Then Vienna gave way to the Magyars. But
the Czechs had to content themselves with solemn promises that were
never kept. The Czech nation started a struggle of passive opposition.
Later on it also took an active part in the new parliament, but whether
in parliament or in the diets, it always claimed its historic right of
independence and struggled against the German-Magyar dualism. The
attempts made to come to an understanding were frustrated by the
obstinate spirit of domination of the Germans and Magyars.

"The present war has only accentuated the Czecho-Slovak opposition to
Austria-Hungary. War was declared without the parliament being
consulted: all other states presented the declaration of war to their


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Online LibraryVladimír NosekIndependent Bohemia An Account of the Czecho-Slovak Struggle for Liberty → online text (page 6 of 13)