The beginning of a new era

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11. The beginning of a new era

After the death of Karl VI in 1740, the War of Austrian Succession broke out, which Frederick II of Prussia, whose reign had just begun, used as opportunity against Maria Theresia, Empress of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire. He did not dispute her inheritance, but demanded the surrender of three Silesian duchies. He marched into Silesia on the 16th of December 1740, starting the First Silesian War which was soon followed by the second one. Austria was also pressured severely by Bavaria, France and Spain. This phase ended with the Peace of Aachen compelling Maria Theresia to cede Parma and Piacenza to Spain and to accept the momentous and far-reaching loss of Silesia. She had hardly begun implementing generous reforms in her dominion when in 1756 the storm-bells of war sounded again. International political conflicts again laid the background to this new war, which subjected the Sudetenlands to severe trials. Known as The Seven Years War, it was a drawn-out interplay of bloody battles. Time and again, the Sudetenlands became the theater of war. The horrors of war appeared on the horizon again in 1778 when Prussia and Austria had a new controversy, this time over the Bavarian succession.

The cession of Silesia to Prussia made the Germans a minority under the Czechs in Bohemia thereby possibly precipitated the catastrophe of 1945. Had there been two equal contenders after 1918, a reasonable settlement between the two parties could possibly have been achieved and engendered a mutually more agreeeable political development. With the last third of the 18th century, when Austria obtained the provinces of Galicia, Lodomeria and Bukovina, the German element became a minority throughout the Austrian monarchy.

Changes were brought into the lives of the Sudetengermans not only by the wars, but also by the reforms the Empress and her son Josef II had initiated (enlightenment, mercantilism, industrialization, promotion of productivity in farming, abolition of serfdom, prohibition of torture, elementary schools for all children, fair distribution of taxes, freedom of religion). But Josef's reforms evoked criticism too. In the Alpine regions, in Hungary and in Galicia the peasants opposed the kaiser, and the Czechs grumbled, because Josef had taken the Wenzel-crown to Vienna and had not conceded to his coronation in Prague. In contrast, the Sudetengerman burghers and peasants served as Josef's enthusiastic and loyal followers. From the end of the 18th century up to 1918 they were the most important supporters and determined pioneers of Josef's state philosophy. No sovereign before him, since the kings of the Middle-Ages, had such firsthand knowledge of the conditions in towns and countryside. Often he appeared in disguise, and only on departing he revealed his identity of being the emperor. A personage most impressively embodying the Sudetengerman sentiments of Josef's time is the North-Bohemian dean Wenzel Hocke - the "Hockewanzel" in common usage. Josef's successor Leopold ended the reform era and returned the Bohemian crown to Prague, thereby reconciling the corporative orders of the land.


Copyright © by Inge Schwarz 1997 (Heimatstelle Maffersdorf) 
Copyright © by Anton Möller • 2005

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MAFFERSDORF - Marktgemeinde im Landkreis Reichenberg - SUDETENLAND