Nazi’s Demand to Take Over Embassy of Czechoslovakia (1939)

Minister Vladimir S. Hurban
Minister Vladimir S. Hurban in 1939

We came across a fascinating article from March 17th, 1939, printed in The New York Times. This was a few days after Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia.

Vladimir S. Hurban
Vladimir S. Hurban

After the occupation, Germany issued an order from Berlin to all embassies, requesting that they take over the embassies of Czechoslovakia in their respective countries.

Below is the account of what happened here in Washington, when the Minister from Czechoslovakia, Vladimir S. Hurban, refused to hand over the embassy.

WASHINGTON, March 16. — The spirit that gave birth to an independent Czech-Slovak State during the World War asserted itself dramatically today when Colonel Vladimir S. Hurban, the Czecho-Slovak Minister, rejected an order from Berlin to turn over his legation and the consulates of Czecho-Slovakia in this country to Germany.

M. Hurban took the position that he would retain possession of the legation until he had received written orders from President Emil Hacha of Czecho-Slovakia.

The officials who presented the demand were karl Resenberg, first secretary, and Ernst Ostermann von Roth, third secretary of the German Embassy. They were sent to the legation by Dr. Hans Thomsen, the Chargé d’Affaires, and read the order from Berlin to the Minister.

The two Germans were promptly admitted to the legation and into the presence of the Minister, who was in his office at the right of the main entrance on the first floor. As they entered they drew up stiffly, clicked their heels and greeted the Minister in German.

H. Hurban, who speaks German perfectly, requested them to address him in English. The Germans continued in German, and the Minister repeated his request. They then complied. If they had not, he probably would have addressed them in Slovak.

H. Hurban did not respond to the greeting with a clicking of the heels, but he shook hands.

Herr Resenberg, who conducted himself throughout with all formality, said that he had a telegram from his Foreign Office in Berlin directing him to take over the legation and the consulates. M. Hurban asked to read the telegram. This was refused. Herr Resenberg explained that it was a secret, but he could read the part of it that constituted the text of the order to take over the establishments. This he did.

M. Hurban replied that he had no orders from Prague confirming the authority for this action. Unless and until he had received written orders, the Minister continued politely but firmly, he would not recognize their right to take over the legation.

Hurban on the South Lawn of the White House for Roosevelt's 4th Inauguration
Hurban on the South Lawn of the White House for Roosevelt’s 4th Inauguration