Broadcast Policy in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia

Power Structures, Programming, Cooperation and Defiance at Czech Radio 1939-1945

by Peter Richard Pinard (Author)
©2015 Monographs 388 Pages


Hitler’s regime invested heavily into radio as the most modern media of its era. First in Germany, later in Austria and the Sudetenland, Joseph Goebbels motivated his Volksgenossen to become active radio listeners. But what approach did the regime take to the first non-German people occupied – the Czechs? How would Czech Radio’s staff and listeners respond to Nazi-dominated programming? What strategies of defiance and what options for cooperation existed? What role did Nazism’s core theme of anti-Semitism play? Which Czech societal groups did the Nazis try to reach most? This book casts a spotlight on the effects of the occupation authorities’ policies on specific programming content, as well as on radio as a medium in the so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • 1. Introduction
  • Points of Departure
  • Main Questions of the Study
  • Study Structure and Methodological Approach
  • Topics and Limitations of this Study
  • Source Materials
  • 2. Goals of the Nazi Occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in General
  • Background of the Occupation
  • Establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
  • Germanization as a Goal of Occupation Policy
  • 3. Means of Propaganda within the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
  • The National Socialist Cultural System in General
  • Department IV – Cultural Policy in the Office of the Reichs Protector
  • The Czech Media at the Outset of the Occupation
  • The Broadcasting Corporation and its Product – From Radiojournal to Czech Radio
  • Organization of Programming
  • Technical Infrastructure
  • The Audience Compared with Germany and its Development During the Occupation
  • Subscription Fees
  • Program Analysis – the Method
  • Status Quo Ante – Analysis of the Program Week Starting 26 February 1939
  • 4. Broadcasting in the Newly Established Protectorate – 15 March 1939 to February 1940
  • Programming for Germans
  • Czech Radio at the Start of the Protectorate
  • Concrete Effects on Programming in the Period
  • The Česká hodina Programs
  • Emanuel Moravec
  • Moravec’s Radio Work
  • Other Pro-German Broadcasts in Czech
  • The Maras Era I – Analysis of the Program Week Starting 26 November 1939
  • 5. 1940 – Lothar Scurla in Prague
  • The Making of a Fiefdom
  • Home-grown Interference in Programming
  • Changes in Company Status
  • Concrete Effects on Programming in the Period
  • Developments in the Worker’s Radio
  • The Maras Era II – Analysis of the Program Week Starting 24 November 1940
  • 6. 1941 – Scurla Tightens the Screws
  • The Political Lectures Department
  • Scurla’s Final Days
  • Concrete Effects on Programming in the Period
  • Kříž’s Beginnings in Programming
  • Kříž and Anti-Semitic Broadcasts
  • “What Do You Know About the Jews?” – the Technical Plan
  • “What Do You Know About the Jews?” – Product Delivery
  • “What Do You Know About the Jews?” – Results of the Series
  • Emanuel Moravec in the Period
  • NOÚZ’s Press Department
  • Georg Schneider – the Censor as a Program Maker
  • The Satirical “Political Sketches”
  • Josef Opluštil and Jaroslav Mrkvička
  • Opluštil’s Work at Czech Radio
  • The Maras Era III – Analysis of the Program Week Starting 30 November 1941
  • 7. The Interregnum – November 1941 to March 1942
  • Berlin’s Crisis Management Team: Hanns-Otto Fricke and Ferdinand Thürmer
  • Station-Group Bohemia-Moravia
  • The Czech Part of the Station-Group in the Interregnum
  • Concrete Effects on Programming in the Period
  • The Maras Era IV – Analysis of the Program Week Starting 1 March 1942
  • 8. The Early Thürmer Era – 1942 and 1943
  • Initial Reforms
  • Czech Radio and the Specter of Bankruptcy
  • The Station-Group’s New Image
  • Concrete Effects on Programming in the Period
  • Thürmer’s Reforms and the “Political Sketches”
  • The Thürmer Era I – Analysis of the Program Week Starting 29 November 1942
  • 9. The Station-Group in the Context of Total War
  • The Short-wave Action
  • Glasmeier in Prague
  • Concrete Effects on Programming in the Period
  • Developments in the Worker’s Radio
  • The Thürmer Era II – Analysis of the Program Week Starting 28 November 1943
  • 10. 1944 – The Station-Group at its Prime
  • Concrete Effects on Programming in the Period
  • The Thürmer Era III – Analysis of the Program Week Starting 26 November 1944
  • 11. 1945 – The Station-Group’s Final Days
  • Concrete Effects on Programming in the Period
  • The Thürmer Era IV – Analysis of the Program Week Starting 25 February 1945
  • 12. Epilogue
  • The Maras Era
  • The Thürmer Era
  • 13. Conclusions
  • 14. Source Materials
  • Unpublished Sources
  • Published Sources
  • Internet-Based Sources
  • Periodicals
  • 15. List of Programs
  • 16. Glossary
  • 17. Summary
  • Index

← 8 | 9 → 1. Introduction

Points of Departure

Given the important role that media propaganda played in the creation and maintenance of the totalitarian National Socialist (Nazi) regime in Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s, reviewing and understanding the latter’s methods and tools is always a useful discipline for the vigilant citizen of today’s functioning democracies blessed with a free press. The longstanding hope here is that by learning from history, one can avoid similar errors in the present and future.

The fact that Hitler’s propaganda and media specialist, Joseph Goebbels, recognized the potential of radio – the most modern mass medium of the times – quickly took control of German broadcasting and harnessed it for the purposes of the Nazi regime, can be considered a part of the conventional historical wisdom on the subject of that specific medium and Nazism. Goebbels’s use and abuse of radio accompanied the Nazis every step of the way along a path that would lead to their expansion into virtually all of Europe and North Africa. Via radio, Goebbels and his team created the justifications for – or as one might express it in modern terminology: the spin – for those very imperialist acquisitions. Due to the nature of radio waves, which is to propagate for hundreds or even thousands of kilometers, Goebbels had a tool at his disposal for influencing not only domestic public opinion, but also that in the rest of Europe and even overseas. For example, in the first two phases of their territorial expansion – the incorporation of Austria and the Bohemian-Moravian border regions of Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland) into the German Reich in 1938 – Goebbels and his subordinates employed radio as an important means of demoralizing their opponents while rallying the indigenous German-speaking populations of those areas to the Nazi cause. Considering the enthusiastic welcome Hitler’s triumphant entry into these territories received – images of the jubilant crowds thronging Vienna’s Heldenplatz on 15 March and the main streets of Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary) on 4 October 1938 come to mind – it would seem obvious that this propaganda work was a great success.

However, these were ethnic-German populations for many of whom – if definitely not for all – unification in a greater German state was the fulfillment of their national aspirations. For this reason alone, Nazi broadcast policy had an easy task with these people. With large segments of the Austrian and Sudeten-German ← 9 | 10 → populations, Goebbels was in effect “preaching to the choir.” The situation was radically different, however, when the Czech provinces joined the ranks of Hitler’s objects of expansion in March 1939. For the first time, Goebbels was dealing with a non-German population for whom incorporation into a Great German Reich was not only not the apex of their national and cultural aspirations, but rather the complete negation thereof. Regrettably, however, very little specific or systematic information exists on how Goebbels and the Nazi hierarchy dealt via the medium of radio with this first conquest of a non-German-speaking part of Europe: the Czech provinces of the former Czechoslovak Republic. It is the aim of this study to shed some light on these matters.

Main Questions of the Study

The history of Nazi broadcast policy in the occupied Czech provinces raises a number of questions, which may also have relevance in the other non-German-speaking countries that eventually came under Nazi occupation. Hopefully, this study will inspire scholars in those areas to look more closely at these issues also within the context of their own national histories and help to paint a more detailed picture of Nazi media policy throughout occupied Europe. Furthermore, as very little has been written to date on this specific subject here in the Czech Republic, it remains something of a blank spot on the pages of Czech history, and specifically, in the annals of Czech media history. Some of the more important questions this subject raises include:

What were the Nazis’ overall intentions with the Czech nation, and what role did radio play in the implementation of their policies? The two extremes of Nazi radio policy lay between the forced expansion of broadcasting in the German Reich proper on the one hand and the complete destruction of Polish-language broadcasting in the Generalgouvernement on the other hand. Where does Nazi broadcast policy in the Czech provinces fit between these two extremes?

What was the institutional framework with which the Nazis sought to implement their broadcast policy? What role fell to the Czechs within this framework? Where did the boundaries lie between resistance and collaboration, defiance and cooperation? Regarding the German element within the institutions, what resources, especially what human resources, did the occupiers invest in broadcasting to the Protectorate’s audience?

What specific strategies, if any, did the invaders develop to influence the Czech population with radio programming after having so thoroughly offended and maligned the Czech nation through this very medium in the period 1938/39? ← 10 | 11 → What target-group-specific sub-strategies, if any, existed for influencing the Czech population?

Specifically What effects did the invaders’ media policy have on program structure and content? For example, how intrusive was German-language programming? How much of programming was overtly pro-German or pro-Nazi political propaganda?

What periodization is applicable to describe the development of Nazi broadcast strategy vis-à-vis the Czechs, particularly with regard to the course of the Second World War? For instance, did the progress to the “total war” phase of the conflict mean an emphasis on light entertainment at the expense of Nazi political indoctrination?

Did Nazi broadcasting policy in the Protectorate play a role in their other strategic goals and objectives throughout Europe?

Study Structure and Methodological Approach

In order to ascertain the answers to as many of these questions as possible, I have employed two main methods of research. After briefly reviewing the background of the German-Czech conflict in the Czech provinces and the position of Czech Radio within the context of this conflict, I continue with a micro-historical review of the institution of Czech Radio itself. This entails looking at the development of the broadcast corporation’s actual institutional structure in terms of its ownership and command hierarchy over the course of the entire occupation period from 14/15 March 1939 to 9 May 1945. Obviously, the nature of a broadcast corporation in the context of mid-20th century Europe is extremely specific, which makes it different from other institutions such as banks or even from other media of the day, such as newspapers. Nevertheless, since there was only one official and legal broadcasting organization during the Nazi occupation of the Czech provinces, namely Czech Radio, a review of its institutional development over the course of the occupation should yield relevant results with regard to Nazi policy in a broader context. Thoughts in this regard include:

What can the micro-history of this one company tell us about Czech/German relations close-up within an organization?

What does it reveal about everyday media work in the Protectorate?

What does it tell us about the level of professionals the Reich employed in the Protectorate? Were they top-line radio experts or rather secondary staff?

Were they Reichs-Germans or were they Germans indigenous to Bohemia and Moravia?

← 11 | 12 → The second step is a program content analysis, i.e., an examination of program content in terms of the percentage of airtime dedicated to any individual topic. It is a relatively simple if also very time-consuming method for obtaining a view of ratios of program content, which I developed in my work at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Audience Research and Program Evaluation Department in the late 1990’s. Simply put, one identifies broadcast topics in a program log or broadcast schedule by minutes, tallies these and then quantifies them as a percentage either of total airtime or a subsection thereof (e.g., percentage of classical music in all music programming, percentage of German-language broadcasts in all talks programming, etc.). The analysis of program content in this study is based on the published broadcast schedules for nine weeks of programming spread throughout the years 1939 to 1945.1

Choosing the relevant weeks for analysis was not a simple task. The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia existed for approximately 320 weeks with the Nazi occupation starting in the 11th calendar week of 1939 and ending in the 19th calendar week of 1945. Each of these calendar weeks corresponds to a broadcast week of Czecho-Slovak/Czech Radio. Since the data input for a statistical breakdown required at least 60 working hours for each broadcast week analyzed, it was not practical to analyze the thousands of program hours broadcast on each of the Czech medium- and short-wave stations during the course of more than six years of occupation. Instead, a selection of representative broadcast weeks became necessary. Finding representative or average broadcast weeks required the elimination of periods in the year that for various reasons could contain large amounts of unusual programming. In practice, that meant specifically not analyzing the popular summer vacation period in July and August. Even in a time of “total war,” not only the listener, but also the Czech Radio staff members were likely to go on holiday at some point during this period, which could have had ← 12 | 13 → effects on program content. Another concern in this regard involved the main growing and harvesting seasons for farmers, and the potential for effects on programming stemming from that.

Furthermore, it was necessary to exclude program weeks containing special holidays: i.e., primarily Christmas, New Years, the establishment of the Protectorate on 15 March, Hitler’s birthday on 20 April, initially also the date of Jan Hus’s immolation on 6 July, and St. Wenceslas Day on 28 September. At the same time, consistency required a comparison of the same program weeks throughout the entire period. Ultimately the choice fell upon nine weeks for the overall period. These were the

48th calendar weeks for 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943 and 1944 and the

9th calendar weeks for 1939, 1942 and 1945

The logic of this choice was that the 48th calendar week, starting at the end of November, met all of the above-listed criteria for ordinary programming. The same was true for the 9th calendar week in the corresponding years. In 1939, the 9th calendar week – running from 26 February to 3 March – provided a view to the status quo ante, i.e., programming content just two weeks prior to the invasion. The intention here was to provide a view of Czecho-Slovak Radio’s programming at a point in time at which the political and state system of the Second Republic had basically stabilized, or at least progressed beyond the initial turbulent disruptions brought on by the effects of Munich.

For comparison purposes between Czecho-Slovak Radio and the German Reichsrundfunk, I chose the same week of broadcasting for the Reichssender Berlin. Berlin seemed the obvious choice, as, like Prague, it was the station located in the capital city alongside the central offices of state institutions. Under Goebbels’s leadership, the Reichssender Berlin also became the flagship station eventually merging with the national long-wave station, the Deutschlandsender. Thus, despite the stronger tradition of regionalism in Germany’s station network and programming, Goebbels centralization efforts eventually caused the Reichssender Berlin to play a similar role to that of the station Prague I within Czechoslovakia/Czecho-Slovakia and the Protectorate.

I also chose the 9th calendar week in 1945 to cast light on programming during the end phase of the occupation prior to the complete collapse of the Third Reich. For the 48th weeks of 1939 and 1940, I chose the programming of the Reichssender Böhmen (Mělník), as the relevant, local, German-language station for the Protectorate. Regrettably, no explicit program magazines are available for the period after May 1941, however.

The following program content criteria appeared to be the most relevant to the subject:

← 13 | 14 → 1.Duration of the broadcast day, i.e., the period when stations are on the air between the start of broadcasting in the morning and the end of broadcasting at night? Goebbels increased the average length of broadcast day by nearly 50% between 1933 and 1938.2 If the same were true for the Czech stations, it would support the premise of a similar Nazi radio policy towards the Czechs as towards the Germans.

2.Regionalization or station of origin. Greater levels of programming originating from Brno and Moravská Ostrava could imply a strengthening of the position of the provincial stations and a weakening of the position of the central flagship station Prague. That could suggest a divide et impera strategy within the Protectorate similar to that applied towards Austria after the Anschluss.

3.Programming Structure: Similarities between the Czech stations and the Reichsrundfunk in the structure of programming content (i.e., primarily music vs. talks, politics versus entertainment, etc.) would show the extent of the application of Goebbels’s broadcasting principles on Czech Radio. Regrettably, an exact analysis is not possible for the German stations after May 1941 due to the discontinuation of German radio program magazines.

4.Germanization: A) Music by German composers and B) German-language talks programming on the otherwise primarily Czech-language radio stations, i.e., Prague I, Brno and Moravská Ostrava, later also Plzeň;

5.Nazification: Overtly pro-German or pro-National Socialist political propaganda in the Czech language.

Although in totalitarian regimes like the Nazi-dominated Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia virtually all aspects of media production are subject to political manipulation on some level, it would exceed the framework of this study to deal with all of them. Obviously, no study can cover all aspects of the weekly 112 to 140 hours of broadcasting for a period of more than six years in detail. Thus, while providing a view to general program structures, this study also takes a closer look at three crucial program areas in the so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia:

Worker’s Radio – an all important, i.e., weapons-producing target group for the invaders, whose favor they courted.

← 14 | 15 → Anti-Semitic broadcasts – as anti-Semitism was a core element of National Socialist ideology on the one hand and a virtually universal and relatively “safe” field of activity for Czech collaborators on the other hand. That is, while publicly defaming exiled President Beneš or his colleagues could easily be interpreted as treason, and frequently was in post-war trials, expressing anti-Semitic thoughts was a far less serious offense.

Satirical programming in the form of the “Political Sketches” – as political humor was not a propaganda tool the National Socialists used on the German population as a whole, but rather a weapon turned specifically against the Czech-speaking population.

Regarding methodology, I employ a basically historic-chronological approach to the topics, recounting developments over the period. The specific program content analyses described above illustrate the overall structure and texture of programming at specific historic junctures throughout the occupation. Finally, since he played such an important role in pro-Nazi and pro-German radio propaganda to the Czechs, I also review some of the radio work of Protectorate Minister of Education and National Enlightenment Emanuel Moravec, one of the most-fervent Nazi collaborators of Czech origin.

Topics and Limitations of this Study

The National Socialist state was among the first of the many totalitarian regimes inflicted on humanity since 1917 to mobilize the new electronic media for its own political purposes. By the time the German Wehrmacht marched into Prague on 15 March 1939, radio as a medium had progressed well beyond infancy and Czech Radio had also grown into a complex public service provider of entertainment and information to nearly three-quarters of a million radio receivers throughout the country and to many thousands of Czechs abroad as well.3 Apart from a vast variety of musical productions covering a range of genres from operas to symphonies to folk music and popular dance tunes, there was specialized talks programming for children and adults and also for women. There was religious programming for believers. Other specialized programming addressed ← 15 | 16 → factory workers and employees, entrepreneurs and farmers respectively. For entertainment and educational purposes, the new genre of radio drama had developed in the decade and a half since the medium’s inception. Alongside all of this, there were the all-important daily reportage and newscast programs targeted at the public as a whole. Thus, radio programming in the Czech provinces was already an extremely complex and highly developed media when Hitler’s Germany invaded in 1939.

Regrettably, this study can not cover several interesting topics in depth. For example, music, which made up no less than 69% of all broadcast hours in Goebbels’s Reichsrundfunk in 1938 and 1939,4 was definitely also a serious battlefield of the airwaves in the Protectorate’s radio stations. Germans and Czechs sought to secure as much airtime as possible for musical works by their national composers. Unfortunately, only a profound musicological education would allow for a discussion sufficiently intelligent or in-depth to identify all the subtleties of music as a weapon. Thus it will not feature here extensively. However, this study is in any case primarily about the ideas and arguments used to influence listeners’ thinking, and these are most easily examined in words. Furthermore, and as the present-day perspective of a unified Europe so often reminds us, the nature of music is such that love of it often supersedes national boundaries. A Czech listener in the Protectorate could conceivably enjoy Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms just as much as a German listener could thrill to Dvořák, Smetana or Fibich. There is evidence, for example, that Czech listeners were not opposed to tuning into German Reichssender directly, especially Vienna, Leipzig and Munich, when those stations broadcast appealing light music programs.5 Thus, analysis of music content alone may also not ultimately reveal a great deal about its reception by the audience.

Nevertheless, judging from discussions within the occupation authority and the great extent to which the works of German composers came to make up airtime on the Protectorate’s radio stations over the course of the period, the Nazi authorities clearly did consider German music an important aspect of propaganda work. Therefore, neglecting music as a subject entirely would have meant omitting an important aspect of the overall picture of programming on ← 16 | 17 → Protectorate Radio. “German music” in the context of the times meant the works of ethnic-German or at least primarily German-speaking composers originating from and/or working in the German-speaking and adjacent areas of Europe, i.e., pre-Versailles Germany, Austria, Bohemia-Moravia and other territories annexed to the Reich after 1939, of non-Jewish heritage and whose style was officially approved of by Goebbels’s ministry. This proved to be a rather complicated process, requiring an analysis of the backgrounds of nearly 150 different composers. The result of this analysis is a simple depiction of the percentages of “German music” as a part of programming.

Another limitation is to Czech-language broadcasts originating in the Protectorate. There were, of course, German-language broadcasts that originated in the Protectorate from the Reichssender Böhmen (RSB) intended primarily for the local German audience and financed through the Reichsrundfunk. However, the RSB had only a limited independent life prior to being – for the most part – absorbed into the unified Reichsprogramm, i.e., the common, nation-wide broadcasts of all German stations, in June 1940. Thus, there is relatively little to deal with in this regard. Similarly, while Czech-language broadcasts from Czechs in exile played a very important role for the occupied nation, it would exceed the bounds of this study to examine them in detail. Therefore, they appear only to the extent these broadcasts by exiled Czechs had direct effects on or provoked specific reactions from the Protectorate’s broadcasting authorities.

Furthermore, initial research into this subject conducted in 2003 to 2006, implied that the occupiers sought to reach specific sub-sections of the population or target groups with specialized programming. Some of the main target groups, which received the most attention from the very beginning, were:


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
Tschechoslowakei Propaganda Drittes Reich Reichsprotektorat
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 388 pp., 8 tables, 53 graphs

Biographical notes

Peter Richard Pinard (Author)

Peter Richard Pinard studied German and Central European Area Studies at Bates College in Lewiston (USA), at the University of Bonn (Germany) and at Charles University in Prague. He works in Content Evaluation for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague.


Title: Broadcast Policy in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia