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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

Fake News is Nothing New: Hitler Annexes the Sudetenland, 1938 - But What is Fake and what is Real?

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

UPDATED: KesterTester63 - Clip from YouTube video ostensibly from 1938, at this point showing the Czechoslovak Coat-of-Arms. But Is it genuine archive or digital trickery?

Photo: The Czechoslovak Coat-of-Arms supposedly at a border post with the German Reich in 1938 - was presumably shot on October 1 (or soon after) when Wehrmacht and SS troops moved to control the Sudetenland as per the Munich Agreement.

This video on YouTube, produced seemingly for a Georgian audience originally, seeks to explain the background and history of how Adolf Hitler began to occupy the relatively new state of Czechoslovakia in 1938. It is entitled: 05 - Occupation - Doomed Czechoslovakia. It's available here:

It certainly has some errors - even with my near non-existent knowledge of Czech, I'm pretty sure the city of Liberec is pronounced Liberets, and not Libereck, as in the video. (It's quite important as the city, Reichenberg, in German, was the centre of Nazi activity at the time.)

I have to say I also question some of the Czech claims about the sheer excellence of its armed forces (even if they were good for the period - were they THAT good?), but I can't identify any major factual mistakes, and so the video makes for a useful introduction to this turbulent period in my opinion. Indeed, one could argue that it makes for a useful basis to compare some unfortunate trends erupting today in the central-eastern Europe region.

The video seemingly uses lots of archive material, most of which appears genuine, but the sceptic in me was always asking if it was really so, or has the producer used digital technology, at least in parts, or general old footage to represent what happened at the time?

Ironically, in the final part of the 20-second clip that I'd like to focus on, from 40'-50" to 41' - 10", the video purports to show what we might call "genuine fake" film of the time in which ethnic Germans flee alleged Czech atrocities. Since I'm fully persuaded that the Goebbells' propaganda ministry was indeed working flat out in 1938, I deem this fully "genuine fake" footage, if you see what I mean.

However, something else in this section helped to make up my mind on the issue of genuine footage versus digital fake - at least in this 20 second section.

The KesterTester63 questions are - what convinced me and in which direction - towards digital fakery or real archive?

CLARIFICATION: Since one regular contestant has written in to say he doesn't understand the question(s), I'll put it another way. Within this 20 second clip there is something shown which convinced me that the film is either definitely genuine, and shot in 1938 at the Czech-German border - or it is fake and digitally created in modern times.

What could it be that helped make my mind up? And in which direction, ie do I believe it is genuine or a modern, digital creation?

CLARIFICATION2: Oh dear, this is a lesson to me in how difficult some things are to communicate. But I can see why. Let me try again, and I'll simplify the question.

Watching this video, I was asking myself if the parts purporting to be shot in the 1930s were genuinely from that time, and genuinely illustrative of the historical events taking place in those years.

But when I came to this 20-second clip, I saw evidence which convinced me that yes, this is genuine footage from that time, because almost nobody today would have thought of the historical clue within the footage that reveals this.

What is this evidence?

Please understand that this is a different question to whether the supposed Sudeten German "refugees" fleeing Czech atrocities shown at the end of the clip is propaganda or otherwise. (I am 99% sure that is fake propaganda, as the commentary states - but it is similarly 99.9% true that it was broadcast by the German side to rally support for the Nazi annexation.)

I hope this helps sleuths nail down the solution!

To win global celebrity status and the highly prized right to buy me two beers, please send me your answers via the site messaging system or an email.

(Note: I know I've talked about this with a couple of friends - I'm sure you know who you are - so you are not really eligible to enter this esteemed competition with this insider knowledge.)

Now, mea culpa - I've really got behind over Christmas, and - realising that the pscyhological tension for contestants must be almost unbearable - I know I must get down to posting the answer and winner to KT61, which I will indeed put up later today under the next post, KT62.

Otherwise, have a good weekend!

UPDATE with results

Well, I thought it might be moderately difficult, but KT63 has proved a real tough nut – and I nearly won global celebrity status and the chance of buying myself two beers, but I didn't count on one canny Czech late arrival.

Mike Birch had a stab – he thought the inner insignia on the Czechoslovak Coat-of-Arms (it is the crest of Slovakia) might have only been used up to 1938, thus dating the coat-of-arms itself as pre-1938. But Mike himself googled away on Czechoslovak heraldic history and discounted that theory.

Irena Gotzova wondered if it was the hand-cranked border barries which revealed its age, but I suspect many border posts around Europe both pre- and post-WW2 would have been similar (or even simpler) affairs, especially at local border crossings. But then hub Alexandr got to work.

The clue to the puzzle as to why this film is genuine (unless a later film maker had an extremely sharp historical adviser) is in two short bursts from 41' 02” – 41'.05”.

There, the sign on the left says, in German: Deutches Reich, Rechts Fahren,

ie German Territory, Drive on the Right. (Note, the Reich authorities do not bother to put the notice up in Czech.)

Why? Because, up to the very day of annexation of the Sudetenland, most of Austro-Hungary, including the Czech lands, Slovakia and Hungary, drove on the left!

So, naturally, drivers entering Germany from Czechoslovakia had to be instructed to drive on the right. Naturally, after the end of WW2 and effectively under Russian occupation, there was no move to reverse this move, even though it had been imposed by Nazi rulers. And I'm sure, in all the upheavals post-1945, the memory of driving on the left was rather quickly forgotten by the vast majority of the population, and no subsequent film maker would have thought of it.

So, congratulations to Alexandr Gotz as the unchallenged, indisputable winner of KT63 and now heading for global celebrity status – mine's two Plsner Urquell's Alex next time I'm in Prague, once the hullaballoo has died down a bit, and we can avoid all requests for selfies with you :)

Now, what about KT64 – a much more Budapest centred tester? I wish all a good week.

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