As a 32-year-old Sudeten German Swede, coming to the Sudeten German Day for the first time was an emotional and wonderful experience. Truth to be told, once I had decided to go, I was quite nervous. But I am very happy that I did. In fact, I wished I would have gone already as a kid.
I am writing this article for other global Sudeten Germans like myself. To hopefully inspire more people to reach out to the Sudeten German Community. And if possible, also make your way to the annual Sudeten German Days in Bavaria. Because no matter your age or where on the planet you might live. I can tell you that in the Sudeten German Community, you have a second home and a very big family waiting for you to make contact.
As a third generation Swedish Sudeten German, my Sudeten German heritage was for me always present but never palpable or certain.
Becoming Swedish was my grandparent’s priority as for many first-generation Sudeten Germans who migrated to third countries and away from Germany after the expulsion. The same must have been the case for most people To become Canadian, Argentinian, French, Austrian, Italian etc. This must had been the priority. For you and your children to properly integrate and build a safe future in the new country.
At least this was the case for my mother’s family. A Bohemian family from Böhmerwald and Egerland, who became Swedish. None of my four aunts and uncles or my mother spoke much about the family past, which is understandable because they must have been quite disconnected to it. Being born in Sweden, speaking only little German and with only some connection to our Sudeten German relatives in Germany. Although introduced and talked about, there were never any expectations or encouragement for us children to take any deeper interest in our German heritage.
I never got to meet my grandfather who sadly passed away before I was born. He was a gathered and humble man. Who when asked, openly shared and discussed his experience in the Wehrmacht, the build-up to the war and the expulsion that followed. My beloved and very kind grandmother was on the other hand sensitive. For her it was painful to talk about the past. I got my firsthand exposure to our Sudeten German heritage through her German language, her cooking, and the secondhand stories about my grandfather. We also had visits from German relatives and made many family trips to Germany
As I grew up. I was Initially not drawn to the Sudeten German heritage itself, but rather to the larger historic circumstances that surrounded it. This did however, spark an ambition to work with international cooperation (which is what I am professionally doing today). My uncle had spoken about some kind of organisation for Sudeten Germans. But it wasn’t until I was 28 years old that I started to take a deeper interest in the Sudeten German Federation (the organization that together with the Bavarian Government arranges the Sudeten German Day). I wanted to know more facts about my family’s history. So I followed the federation online to learn more about this organization. Eventually I went to attend the Sudeten German Day.
I did not want to assume that I was welcome. And I was quite nervous when I contacted the federation to ask if I was welcome to attend the event. My German is not the best and everything was in German. Originally, me and my uncle planned to go together. But because of health concern and the pandemic he did not join this year. Apart from contacting the administration to register for the event. I also I contacted the President of the federation as well as the Young Sudeten Germans. To my great joy and relive, their responses were very warm and welcoming. They even suggested and helped me connect with other Sudeten Germans they believed I should meet. Arriving in Munich, I immediately felt welcomed into a big community and family.
That is what the Sudeten German Day feels like. Like a huge family gathering with distant relatives whom you never met or even knew you had. The Sudeten German Day normally gathers around 5.000 (sometimes 10.000) Sudeten Germans from all over world. Imagine a festival mixed with cultural events and different thematic forums, adding the Bavarian beerhouse culture. In 2021 the pandemic only allowed 500 people to gather in Munich. So, I cannot claim I have experienced a “real” Sudeten German Day. But I do believe that I have experienced some of the essence and spirit of that event. As well as that of the whole Sudeten German Community and its purposes.
These purposes are to me about community and family on the one hand. And about identity and heritage on the other. A heritage not just of culture but also with a solemn and inspiring sense of duty. A duty to learn from the past and prevent future human conflict and atrocities. There is such a political level to the event, but it takes second or third precedence. The event celebrates the Sudeten German heritage, culture and provides an open community for anyone interested. At the same time, it carries this weight of remembrance and importance of paying forward. That to me, is what is so beautiful about the Sudeten German heritage. A sometimes dark and painful past that has turned into a bright, warm and inspiring future.
This to me is of great inspiration. Personally, I have spent my entire life dedicated to empowerment of youth and international cooperation. For me my Sudeten German heritage is here providing me, not only with a great community of people. But also with a personal inspiration and sense of duty. One that is also materialized in the work of the Sudeten German Federation. A work I would divide into 6 points if someone asked me to describe:
- Providing a community & network for all Sudeten German descendants
- A homeland of the mind and belonging
- Preserving the Sudeten German Cultural Heritage
- Strengthen European solidarity
- Prevent future European war & ethnic conflict
- Further European democracy
This is only my own perceptive of the functions the Federation has. As always it is the people that matters. This I would say, is what it’s all about at the end of the day. To build stronger relations between people and through these relations create a community. I have found in the Sudeten German Federation and the Sudeten German Day. A warm and welcoming community. A global network and an extended family. This along with more knowledge of my family history. As well as a source of inspiration and proudness of my family heritage. Lastly, I also feel that I have found a piece of a puzzle in my life, that I did not know I was missing.
I am very excited to follow and be part of the future development of the Sudeten German community. It has great potential to grow and develop. And I am convinced, that many more global or non-active Sudeten Germans, can find similar source of inspiration, joy and friends, as I have in this community.
Please do reach out to me or anyone from the Federation if you are curious J
Juan Carlos Mauritz