A barrier-free design hallmarked by clarity and variety provides the setting for the permanent exhibition. Exciting, fascinating and, at times, mind-boggling exhibits from 1,100 years of cultural history await you here. The mediation of content is supported by modern media technology in the form of audio and video stations as well as touch screens. There are also two large databases: one provides information on some 20,000 towns and villages in the Bohemian lands and the other details the homeland collections of the post-war period.
The homeland of the Sudeten Germans was not a unified settlement area. There were more than a dozen homeland regions, each of which had its own dialects, customs and branches of industry. It was not until 1919 that the Germans from these various regions were grouped together under the term “Sudeten German”. Religious customs left their mark not only on private and public feasts but also on everyday life.
From the Middle Ages onwards, the Sudeten regions witnessed the emergence of a diverse industrial landscape – starting with agriculture, forestry and mining – and a world-famous spa culture. In the 19th century, cultural life found expression not only in the fine arts, music and the theatre but also in the numerous associations and technical colleges that were founded at this time. An exhibit that stands out is the longest production motorcycle in the world – the Böhmerland.
Nationalism prevailed during the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. As a result, Germans and Czechs increasingly went their separate ways. The main areas of conflict were language, education and the associations. In Czechoslovakia (1918–38), Germans ceased to be a dominant minority and became a dominated one. The economic crisis led to political radicalization and the secession of the Sudetenland to the German Reich. In the National Socialist state, initial enthusiasm gave way to disillusionment owing to enforced conformity and persecutions. In World War II, every third Sudeten German soldier was killed.
One section of the permanent exhibition is devoted entirely to the years 1945–46, which witnessed the loss of homeland through flight and expulsion. This period was marked by reprisals, internment and forced labour for those held in camps; it also saw various forms of expulsion that elicited striking personal memories. Instead of order, chaos reigned – a situation captured by the eye-catching installation.
The Sudeten Germans’ arrival in a new environment in which they were initially not welcome, their integration through entrepreneurial achievements and the cultivation of the old traditions – these are the themes of the last section of the permanent exhibition. The invisible luggage that the expellees brought with them in the form of personal skills paved the way for new societies and associations to be founded. Meanwhile, visits to the old homeland have led to numerous partnerships with Czech parishes and municipalities, offering hope for the future.