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German in the Czech Republic: The Grandchildren

Marc BaderCopyright: Marc Bader
Ines from Bohemia: “These are simply our roots” (Photo: Marc Bader)

13 February 2013

A migrant background? This is something that Sandra, Ines, Hana and Ondřej do not have. And yet they belong to a minority in their own country. They grew up in the Czech Republic – with German roots. The project Showcase Generation Grandchildren presents them in video portraits.

When the Sudeten Germans are mentioned, one usually thinks in Germany of expellees and their associations. In German-Czech relations the topic of expulsion has always been a sensitive issue in past decades. Even last month in the run-off election for Czech President the issue played a decisive role according to many election observers: candidate Milos Zeman had accused his opponent Karel Schwarzenberg of intending to give Czech property to the Sudeten Germans.

It is often forgotten that many Germans still live in the Czech Republic today, and these are Germans without a migrant background. In the last population census in 2011 18,722 Czechs declared that they belonged to the German-speaking minority. The Goethe-Institut supports these people with funds from the Federal Republic in various initiatives. The latest project focuses on the young members of the German minority – the grandchildren. The Prague-based filmmaker Marc Bader visited and portrayed four of them.

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Ines, for example. She was born in 1987 in Kadaň (Kaaden) and grew up with a German-speaking mother and grandmother in Chomutov (Komotau). With her mother and grandmother she speaks in Bohemian dialect. Ines sees herself as a German from Bohemia. Today she lives and works as a nurse in Bavaria.

Ondřej, born five years earlier in Karlsbad, also grew up with a German-speaking mother and grandmother. Unlike Ines, however, he speaks hardly any German and feels himself to be exclusively Czech. Sandra and Hana, in contrast, both grew up speaking two languages and identify with both cultures.

All portraits as well as an interview with the linguist Claudia Maria Riehl and further information on the topic can be found on thewebsite of the Goethe-Institut Prague.

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