World War II: South Africa declares war on Germany.
Alcoholics Anonymous, A.A.’s “Big Book”, is first published.
The book cover of Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th edition. AA derives its name from the title of this book and is written by AA members.
|Founded at||Akron, Ohio|
|Type||Mutual-help addiction recovery twelve-step program|
|Headquarters||New York, New York, United States|
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international mutual aid fellowship with the stated purpose of enabling its members to "stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety." AA is nonprofessional, self-supporting, and apolitical. Its only membership requirement is a desire to stop drinking. The AA program of recovery is set forth in the Twelve Steps.
AA was founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, when one alcoholic, Bill Wilson, talked to another alcoholic, Bob Smith, about the nature of alcoholism and a possible solution. With the help of other early members, the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism was written in 1939. Its title became the name of the organization and is now usually referred to as "The Big Book". AA's initial Twelve Traditions were introduced in 1946 to help the fellowship be stable and unified while disengaged from "outside issues" and influences.
The Traditions recommend that members remain anonymous in public media, altruistically help other alcoholics, and that AA groups avoid official affiliations with other organizations. They also advise against dogma and coercive hierarchies. Subsequent fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous have adapted the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions to their respective primary purposes.
AA membership has since spread internationally "across diverse cultures holding different beliefs and values", including geopolitical areas resistant to grassroots movements. Close to two million people worldwide are estimated to be members of AA, as of 2016.
AA sprang from The Oxford Group, a non-denominational movement modeled after first-century Christianity. Some members founded the Group to help in maintaining sobriety. "Grouper" Ebby Thacher was Wilson's former drinking buddy who approached Wilson saying that he had "got religion", was sober, and that Wilson could do the same if he set aside objections to religion and instead formed a personal idea of God, "another power" or "higher power".
Feeling a "kinship of common suffering" and, though drunk, Wilson attended his first Group gathering. Within days, Wilson admitted himself to the Charles B. Towns Hospital after drinking four beers on the way—the last alcohol he ever drank. Under the care of William Duncan Silkworth (an early benefactor of AA), Wilson's detox included the deliriant belladonna. At the hospital, a despairing Wilson experienced a bright flash of light, which he felt to be God revealing himself. Following his hospital discharge, Wilson joined the Oxford Group and recruited other alcoholics to the Group. Wilson's early efforts to help others become sober were ineffective, prompting Silkworth to suggest that Wilson place less stress on religion and more on "the science" of treating alcoholism. Wilson's first success came during a business trip to Akron, Ohio, where he was introduced to Robert Smith, a surgeon and Oxford Group member who was unable to stay sober. After thirty days of working with Wilson, Smith drank his last drink on 10 June 1935, the date marked by AA for its anniversaries.
The first female member Florence Rankin joined AA in March 1937, and the first non-Protestant member, a Roman Catholic, joined in 1939. The first Black AA group was established in 1945 in Washington, D.C. by Jim S., an African-American physician from Virginia.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many AA meetings moved to online meetings using platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and conference calls. Some members expressed concerns about anonymity and security and steps were taken, including having "digital bouncers" at some online meetings.
The Big Book, the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions
To share their method, Wilson and other members wrote the initially-titled book, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism, from which AA drew its name. Informally known as "The Big Book" (with its first 164 pages virtually unchanged since the 1939 edition), it suggests a twelve-step program in which members admit that they are powerless over alcohol and need help from a "higher power". They seek guidance and strength through prayer and meditation from God or a Higher Power of their own understanding; take a moral inventory with care to include resentments; list and become ready to remove character defects; list and make amends to those harmed; continue to take a moral inventory, pray, meditate, and try to help other alcoholics recover. The second half of the book, "Personal Stories" (subject to additions, removal and retitling in subsequent editions), is made of AA members' redemptive autobiographical sketches.
In 1941, interviews on American radio and favorable articles in US magazines, including a piece by Jack Alexander in The Saturday Evening Post, led to increased book sales and membership. By 1946, as the growing fellowship quarreled over structure, purpose, and authority, as well as finances and publicity, Wilson began to form and promote what became known as AA's "Twelve Traditions," which are guidelines for an altruistic, unaffiliated, non-coercive, and non-hierarchical structure that limited AA's purpose to only helping alcoholics on a non-professional level while shunning publicity. Eventually, he gained formal adoption and inclusion of the Twelve Traditions in all future editions of the Big Book. At the 1955 conference in St. Louis, Missouri, Wilson relinquished stewardship of AA to the General Service Conference, as AA grew to millions of members internationally.
Organization and finances
AA says it is "not organized in the formal or political sense", and Bill Wilson, borrowing the phrase from anarchist theorist Peter Kropotkin, called it a "benign anarchy". In Ireland, Shane Butler said that AA "looks like it couldn't survive as there's no leadership or top-level telling local cumanns what to do, but it has worked and proved itself extremely robust". Butler explained that "AA's 'inverted pyramid' style of governance has helped it to avoid many of the pitfalls that political and religious institutions have encountered since it was established here in 1946."
In 2018, AA counted 2,087,840 members and 120,300 AA groups worldwide. The Twelve Traditions informally guide how individual AA groups function, and the Twelve Concepts for World Service guide how the organization is structured globally.
A member who accepts a service position or an organizing role is a "trusted servant" with terms rotating and limited, typically lasting three months to two years and determined by group vote and the nature of the position. Each group is a self-governing entity with AA World Services acting only in an advisory capacity. AA is served entirely by alcoholics, except for seven "nonalcoholic friends of the fellowship" of the 21-member AA Board of Trustees.
AA groups are self-supporting, relying on voluntary donations from members to cover expenses. The AA General Service Office (GSO) limits contributions to US$3,000 a year. Above the group level, AA may hire outside professionals for services that require specialized expertise or full-time responsibilities.
Like individual groups, the GSO is self-supporting. AA receives proceeds from books and literature that constitute more than 50% of the income for its General Service Office. In keeping with AA's Seventh Tradition, the Central Office is fully self-supporting through the sale of literature and related products, and through the voluntary donations of AA members and groups. It does not accept donations from people or organizations outside of AA.
In keeping with AA's Eighth Tradition, the Central Office employs special workers who are compensated financially for their services, but their services do not include traditional "12th Step" work of working with alcoholics in need. All 12th Step calls that come to the Central Office are handed to sober AA members who have volunteered to handle these calls. It also maintains service centers, which coordinate activities such as printing literature, responding to public inquiries, and organizing conferences. Other International General Service Offices (Australia, Costa Rica, Russia, etc.) are independent of AA World Services in New York.
AA's program extends beyond abstaining from alcohol. Its goal is to effect enough change in the alcoholic's thinking "to bring about recovery from alcoholism" through "an entire psychic change," or spiritual awakening. A spiritual awakening is meant to be achieved by taking the Twelve Steps, and sobriety is furthered by volunteering for AA and regular AA meeting attendance or contact with AA members. Members are encouraged to find an experienced fellow alcoholic, called a sponsor, to help them understand and follow the AA program. The sponsor should preferably have experience of all twelve of the steps, be the same sex as the sponsored person, and refrain from imposing personal views on the sponsored person. Following the helper therapy principle, sponsors in AA may benefit from their relationship with their charges, as "helping behaviors" correlate with increased abstinence and lower probabilities of binge drinking.
AA's program is an inheritor of Counter-Enlightenment philosophy. AA shares the view that acceptance of one's inherent limitations is critical to finding one's proper place among other humans and God. Such ideas are described as "Counter-Enlightenment" because they are contrary to the Enlightenment's ideal that humans have the capacity to make their lives and societies a heaven on earth using their own power and reason. After evaluating AA's literature and observing AA meetings for sixteen months, sociologists David R. Rudy and Arthur L. Greil found that for an AA member to remain sober a high level of commitment is necessary. This commitment is facilitated by a change in the member's worldview. To help members stay sober AA must, they argue, provide an all-encompassing worldview while creating and sustaining an atmosphere of transcendence in the organization. To be all-encompassing AA's ideology places an emphasis on tolerance rather than on a narrow religious worldview that could make the organization unpalatable to potential members and thereby limit its effectiveness. AA's emphasis on the spiritual nature of its program, however, is necessary to institutionalize a feeling of transcendence. A tension results from the risk that the necessity of transcendence, if taken too literally, would compromise AA's efforts to maintain a broad appeal. As this tension is an integral part of AA, Rudy and Greil argue that AA is best described as a quasi-religious organization.
AA meetings are "quasi-ritualized therapeutic sessions run by and for, alcoholics". They are usually informal and often feature discussions with voluntary donations collected during meetings. (AA's 7th tradition encourages groups to be self-supporting, declining outside contributions). Local AA directories list weekly meetings. Those listed as "closed" are available to those with a self-professed "desire to stop drinking," which cannot be challenged by another member on any grounds. "Open" meetings are available to anyone (nonalcoholics can attend as observers). At speaker meetings (also known as gratitude meetings), one or more members who typically come in from a neighboring town's meeting tell their stories. At Big Book meetings, the group in attendance will take turns reading a passage from the AA Big Book and then discuss how they relate to it after. At twelve step meetings, the group will typically break out into subgroups depending on where they are in their program and start working on the twelve steps outlined in the program. In addition to those three most common types of meetings, there are also other kinds of discussion meetings which tend to allocate the most time for general discussion.
AA meetings do not exclude other alcoholics, though some meetings cater to specific demographics such as gender, profession, age, sexual orientation, or culture. Meetings in the United States are held in a variety of languages including Armenian, English, Farsi, Finnish, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Spanish. While AA has pamphlets that suggest meeting formats, groups have the autonomy to hold and conduct meetings as they wish "except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole". Different cultures affect ritual aspects of meetings, but around the world "many particularities of the AA meeting format can be observed at almost any AA gathering".
A study found an association between an increase in attendance at AA meetings with increased spirituality and a decrease in the frequency and intensity of alcohol use. The research also found that AA was effective at helping agnostics and atheists become sober. The authors concluded that though spirituality was an important mechanism of behavioral change for some alcoholics, it was not the only effective mechanism. Since the mid-1970s, a number of 'agnostic' or 'no-prayer' AA groups have begun across the U.S., Canada, and other parts of the world, which hold meetings that adhere to a tradition allowing alcoholics to freely express their doubts or disbelief that spirituality will help their recovery, and these meetings forgo use of opening or closing prayers. There are online resources listing AA meetings for atheists and agnostics.
Disease concept of alcoholism
More informally than not, AA's membership has helped popularize the disease concept of alcoholism which had appeared in the eighteenth century. Though AA usually avoids the term "disease", 1973 conference-approved literature said "we had the disease of alcoholism." Regardless of official positions, since AA's inception, most members have believed alcoholism to be a disease.
AA's Big Book calls alcoholism "an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer." Ernest Kurtz says this is "The closest the book Alcoholics Anonymous comes to a definition of alcoholism." Somewhat divergently in his introduction to The Big Book, non-member and early benefactor William Silkworth said those unable to moderate their drinking suffer from an allergy. In presenting the doctor's postulate, AA said "The doctor's theory that we have an allergy to alcohol interests us. As laymen, our opinion as to its soundness may, of course, mean little. But as ex-problem drinkers, we can say that his explanation makes good sense. It explains many things for which we cannot otherwise account." AA later acknowledged that "alcoholism is not a true allergy, the experts now inform us." Wilson explained in 1960 why AA had refrained from using the term "disease":
We AAs have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity. For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism. Therefore, we did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity. Hence, we have always called it an illness or a malady—a far safer term for us to use.
Since then medical and scientific communities have generally concluded that alcoholism is an "addictive disease" (aka Alcohol Use Disorder, Severe, Moderate, or Mild). The ten criteria are: alcoholism is a Primary Illness not caused by other illnesses nor by personality or character defects; second, an addiction gene is part of its etiology; third, alcoholism has predictable symptoms; fourth, it is progressive, becoming more severe even after long periods of abstinence; fifth, it is chronic and incurable; sixth, alcoholic drinking or other drug use persists in spite of negative consequences and efforts to quit; seventh, brain chemistry and neural functions change so alcohol is perceived as necessary for survival; eighth, it produces physical dependence and life-threatening withdrawal; ninth, it is a terminal illness; tenth, alcoholism can be treated and can be kept in remission.
Canadian and United States demographics
AA's New York General Service Office regularly surveys AA members in North America. Its 2014 survey of over 6,000 members in Canada and the United States concluded that, in North America, AA members who responded to the survey were 62% male and 38% female.
Average member sobriety is slightly under 10 years with 36% sober more than ten years, 13% sober from five to ten years, 24% sober from one to five years, and 27% sober less than one year. Before coming to AA, 63% of members received some type of treatment or counseling, such as medical, psychological, or spiritual. After coming to AA, 59% received outside treatment or counseling. Of those members, 84% said that outside help played an important part in their recovery.
The same survey showed that AA received 32% of its membership from other members, another 32% from treatment facilities, 30% were self-motivated to attend AA, 12% of its membership from court–ordered attendance, and only 1% of AA members decided to join based on information obtained from the Internet. People taking the survey were allowed to select multiple answers for what motivated them to join AA.
Studies of AA's efficacy have produced inconsistent results. While some studies have suggested an association between AA attendance and increased abstinence or other positive outcomes, other studies have not.
The Surgeon General of the United States 2016 Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health states "Well-supported scientific evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of twelve-step mutual aid groups focused on alcohol and twelve-step facilitation interventions."
Relationship with institutions
Many AA meetings take place in treatment facilities. Carrying the message of AA into hospitals was how the co-founders of AA first remained sober. They discovered great value in working with alcoholics who are still suffering, and that even if the alcoholic they were working with did not stay sober, they did. Bill Wilson wrote, "Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics". Bill Wilson visited Towns Hospital in New York City in an attempt to help the alcoholics who were patients there in 1934. At St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, Smith worked with still more alcoholics. In 1939, a New York mental institution, Rockland State Hospital, was one of the first institutions to allow AA hospital groups. Service to corrections and treatment facilities used to be combined until the General Service Conference, in 1977, voted to dissolve its Institutions Committee and form two separate committees, one for treatment facilities, and one for correctional facilities.
In the United States and Canada, AA meetings are held in hundreds of correctional facilities. The AA General Service Office has published a workbook with detailed recommendations for methods of approaching correctional-facility officials with the intent of developing an in-prison AA program. In addition, AA publishes a variety of pamphlets specifically for the incarcerated alcoholic. Additionally, the AA General Service Office provides a pamphlet with guidelines for members working with incarcerated alcoholics.
United States court rulings
United States courts have ruled that inmates, parolees, and probationers cannot be ordered to attend AA. Though AA itself was not deemed a religion, it was ruled that it contained enough religious components (variously described in Griffin v. Coughlin below as, inter alia, "religion", "religious activity", "religious exercise") to make coerced attendance at AA meetings a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the constitution. In 2007, the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals stated that a parolee who was ordered to attend AA had standing to sue his parole office.
American treatment industry
In 1939, High Watch Recovery Center in Kent, Connecticut, was founded by Bill Wilson and Marty Mann. Sister Francis who owned the farm tried to gift the spiritual retreat for alcoholics to Alcoholics Anonymous, however citing the sixth tradition Bill W. turned down the gift but agreed to have a separate non-profit board run the facility composed of AA members. Bill Wilson and Marty Mann served on the High Watch board of directors for many years. High Watch was the first and therefore the oldest 12-step-based treatment center in the world still operating today.
In 1949, the Hazelden treatment center was founded and staffed by AA members, and since then many alcoholic rehabilitation clinics have incorporated AA's precepts into their treatment programs. 32% of AA's membership was introduced to it through a treatment facility.
United Kingdom treatment industry
A cross-sectional survey of substance-misuse treatment providers in the West Midlands found fewer than 10% integrated twelve-step methods in their practice and only a third felt their consumers were suited for Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous membership. Less than half were likely to recommend self-help groups to their clients. Providers with nursing qualifications were more likely to make such referrals than those without them. A statistically significant correlation was found between providers' self-reported level of spirituality and their likelihood of recommending AA or NA.
"Thirteenth-stepping" is a pejorative term for AA members approaching new members for dates. A study in the Journal of Addiction Nursing sampled 55 women in AA and found that 35% of these women had experienced a "pass" and 29% had felt seduced at least once in AA settings. This has also happened with new male members who received guidance from older female AA members, in pursuit of sexual company. The authors suggest that both men and women need to be prepared for this behavior or find male-only or female-only groups. However, women report feeling safe in AA, women-only meetings are a very prevalent part of AA culture, and AA has become more welcoming for women. AA's pamphlet on sponsorship suggests that men be sponsored by men and women be sponsored by women.
Moderation or abstinence
Stanton Peele argued that some AA groups apply the disease model to all problem drinkers, whether or not they are "full-blown" alcoholics. Along with Nancy Shute, Peele has advocated that besides AA, other options should be readily available to those problem drinkers who are able to manage their drinking with the right treatment. The Big Book says "moderate drinkers" and "a certain type of hard drinker" are able to stop or moderate their drinking. The Big Book suggests no program for these drinkers, but instead seeks to help drinkers without "power of choice in drink."
One review of AA warned of detrimental iatrogenic effects of twelve-step philosophy and concluded that AA uses many methods that are also used by cults. A subsequent study concluded, however, that AA's program bore little resemblance to religious cults because the techniques used appeared beneficial. Another study found that the AA program's focus on admission of having a problem increases deviant stigma and strips members of their previous cultural identity, replacing it with the deviant identity. A survey of group members, however, found they had a bicultural identity and saw AA's program as a complement to their other national, ethnic, and religious cultures.
Alcoholics Anonymous publishes several books, reports, pamphlets, and other media, including a periodical known as the AA Grapevine. Two books are used primarily: Alcoholics Anonymous (the "Big Book") and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, the latter explaining AA's fundamental principles in depth. The full text of each of these two books is available on the AA website at no charge.
- Anonymous (2011). Alcoholics Anonymous: the story of how many thousands of men and women have recovered from alcoholism (multiple PDFs) (4th ed.). ISBN 978-1-893007-16-1. 575 pages. Also available in libraries.
- Anonymous (2002). Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (multiple PDFs). ISBN 978-0-916856-01-4. 192 pages. Also available in libraries.
- "Home Page". AA Grapevine. Alcoholics Anonymous. ISSN 0362-2584. OCLC 319167052. Also available in libraries.
AA in film
Films about Alcoholics Anonymous
- My Name Is Bill W. – dramatized biography of co-founder Bill Wilson.
- When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story – a 2010 film about the wife of founder Bill Wilson, and the beginnings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.
- Bill W. – a 2011 biographical documentary film that tells the story of Bill Wilson using interviews, recreations, and rare archival material.
Films where primary plot line includes AA
- A Walk Among the Tombstones (2015), a mystery/suspense film based on Lawrence Block's books featuring Matthew Scudder, a recovering alcoholic detective whose AA membership is a central element of the plot.
- When a Man Loves a Woman – an airline pilot's wife attends AA meetings in a residential treatment facility.
- Clean and Sober – an addict (alcohol, cocaine) visits an AA meeting to get a sponsor.
- Days of Wine and Roses – a 1962 film about a married couple struggling with alcoholism. Jack Lemmon's character attends an AA meeting in the film.
- Drunks – a 1995 film starring Richard Lewis as an alcoholic who leaves an AA meeting and relapses. The film cuts back and forth between his eventual relapse and the other meeting attendees.
- Come Back, Little Sheba – A 1952 film based on a play of the same title about a loveless marriage where the husband played by Burt Lancaster is an alcoholic who gets help from two members of the local AA chapter. A 1977 TV drama was also based on the play.
- I'll Cry Tomorrow – A 1955 film about singer Lillian Roth played by Susan Hayward who goes to AA to help her stop drinking. The film was based on Roth's autobiography of the same name detailing her alcoholism and sobriety through AA.
- You Kill Me – a 2007 crime-comedy film starring Ben Kingsley as a mob hit man with a drinking problem who is forced to accept a job at a mortuary and go to AA meetings.
- Smashed – a 2012 drama film starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead. An elementary school teacher's drinking begins to interfere with her job, so she attempts to get sober in AA.
- Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot – a 2018 biography/comedy/drama by Gus Van Sant, based on the life of cartoonist John Callahan.
- The Morning After starring Dick Van Dyke as a salesman struggling with alcoholism.
AA in television
Chuck Lorre's Mom (2013–), follows dysfunctional daughter/mother duo Christy and Bonnie Plunkett, who are estranged for years while simultaneously struggling with addiction. They attempt to pull their lives and relationships together by trying to stay sober and visiting Alcoholics Anonymous. The show also explores themes of alcoholism, drug addiction and relapse.
In Grey's Anatomy, AA plays a large role in the storylines of multiple characters. In season 6, Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) begins struggling with alcoholism and it is revealed that he has a history of alcohol addiction. AA and maintaining sobriety become an important part of Dr. Webber's life through out the rest of the series. Alcoholism, but more so drug addiction, is also heavily featured in the spin-off series Private Practice. In season 4, it is revealed that both Dr. Charlotte King (KaDee Strickland) and Dr. Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone) have a history of problem drinking and narcotics addiction. This becomes main theme in season 5 when Amelia relapses and begins using again following her friend's suicide. The season follows her relapse and recovery. When Amelia joins Grey's in season 11, overcoming addiction remains an important part of her story line. Both series commonly discuss AA meetings, sponsors, and the "serenity prayer".
In Aaron Sorkin's political drama, The West Wing, the character Leo McGarry is an admitted alcoholic and drug addict. He is reluctant to attend regular AA meetings, feeling the high-profile nature of his position as Chief of Staff of the White House would encourage a media frenzy. The vice president (Tim Matheson) invites him to a "weekly poker game", which turns out to be a secret AA meeting known only to those invited.
This is Us is family drama where two of the main characters are members of AA. Generational patterns of addiction are covered. Some episodes feature characters reading AA literature and attending meetings.
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by helping another alcoholic, he could save himself
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simply trying to help other had kept him from even thinking of drinking
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The titles include: Carrying the Message into Correctional Facilities, Where Do I Go From Here?, A.A. in Prison: Inmate to Inmate, A.A. in Correctional Facilities, It Sure Beats Sitting in a Cell, Memo to an Inmate Who May be an Alcoholic, A Message to Corrections Administrators
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AA has evolved in a dialectical fashion to become more accommodating to women
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Germany occupies Czechoslovakia
The German occupation of Czechoslovakia (1938–1945) began with the German annexation of Sudetenland in 1938, continued with the March 1939 invasion of the Czech lands and creation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and by the end of 1944 extended to all parts of the former Czechoslovakia.
Following the Anschluss of Austria to Nazi Germany in March 1938, the conquest and breakup of Czechoslovakia became Hitler's next ambition, which he obtained with the Munich Agreement in September 1938. Adolf Hitler justified the invasion by the purported suffering of the ethnic Germans living in these regions. The seizure of Sudetenland by Nazi Germany was detrimental to the future defense of Czechslovakia as the extensive Czechoslovak border fortifications were also located in the same area. The incorporation of the Sudetenland into Germany that began on 1 October 1938 left the rest of Czechoslovakia weak, and it became powerless to resist subsequent occupation. Moreover, a small northeastern part of the borderland region known as Zaolzie was occupied and annexed to Poland ostensibly to "protect" the local ethnic Polish community and as a result of previous territorial claims (Czech-Polish disputes in the years of 1918–20). Futhermore, by the First Vienna Award, Hungary received the southern territories of Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia, which was largely inhabited by Hungarians.
As the Slovak State was proclaimed on 14 March, the next day Hungary occupied and annexed the remainder of Carpathian Ruthenia and the German Wehrmacht moved into the remainder of the Czech Lands. On 16 March 1939 from the Prague Castle, Hitler proclaimed the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia after the negotiations with Emil Hácha, who remained as technical head of state with the title of State President. However, he was rendered all but powerless; real power was vested in the Reichsprotektor, who served as Hitler's personal representative.
In March 1944, during Operation Margarethe Hungary was occupied by Germany, while beginning at the end of August 1944 with the Slovak National Uprising, Slovakia shared the same fate. The occupation ended with the surrender of Germany following World War II. During the occupation, 265,000 Jews were murdered, making up most of the casualties of the occupation.
Demands for Sudeten autonomy
Sudeten German pro-Nazi leader Konrad Henlein offered the Sudeten German Party (SdP) as the agent for Hitler's campaign. Henlein met with Hitler in Berlin on 28 March 1938, where he was instructed to raise demands unacceptable to the Czechoslovak government led by president Edvard Beneš. On 24 April, the SdP issued the Karlsbader Programm, demanding autonomy for the Sudetenland and the freedom to profess National Socialist ideology. If Henlein's demands were granted, the Sudetenland would then be able to align itself with Nazi Germany.
I am asking neither that Germany be allowed to oppress three and a half million Frenchmen, nor am I asking that three and a half million Englishmen be placed at our mercy. Rather I am simply demanding that the oppression of three and a half million Germans in Czechoslovakia cease and that the inalienable right to self-determination take its place.— Adolf Hitler's speech at the NSDAP Congress 1938
As the tepid reaction to the German Anschluss with Austria had shown, the governments of France, the United Kingdom and Czechoslovakia were set on avoiding war at any cost. The French government did not wish to face Germany alone and took its lead from the British government and its prime minister, Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain contended that Sudeten German grievances were justified and believed that Hitler's intentions were limited. Britain and France, therefore, advised Czechoslovakia to concede to the German demands. Beneš resisted, and on 20 May 1938 a partial mobilization was under way in response to possible German invasion. It is suggested that mobilization could have been launched on basis of Soviet misinformation about Germany being on verge of invasion, which aimed to trigger war between Western powers. On 30 May, Hitler signed a secret directive for war against Czechoslovakia to begin no later than 1 October.
In the meantime, the British government demanded that Beneš request a mediator. Not wishing to sever his government's ties with Western Europe, Beneš reluctantly accepted. The British appointed Lord Runciman and instructed him to persuade Beneš to agree to a plan acceptable to the Sudeten Germans. On 2 September, Beneš submitted the Fourth Plan, granting nearly all the demands of the Karlsbader Programm. Intent on obstructing conciliation, however, the SdP held demonstrations that provoked police action in Ostrava on 7 September. The Sudeten Germans broke off negotiations on 13 September, after which violence and disruption ensued. As Czechoslovak troops attempted to restore order, Henlein flew to Germany, and on 15 September issued a proclamation demanding the takeover of the Sudetenland by Germany.
On the same day, Hitler met with Chamberlain and demanded the swift takeover of the Sudetenland by the Third Reich under threat of war. The Czechs, Hitler claimed, were slaughtering the Sudeten Germans. Chamberlain referred the demand to the British and French governments; both accepted. The Czechoslovak government resisted, arguing that Hitler's proposal would ruin the nation's economy and lead ultimately to German control of all of Czechoslovakia. The United Kingdom and France issued an ultimatum, making a French commitment to Czechoslovakia contingent upon acceptance. On 21 September, Czechoslovakia capitulated. The next day, however, Hitler added new demands, insisting that the claims of Poland and Hungary also be satisfied. Romania was also invited to share in the division of Carpathian Ruthenia, but refused, because of being an ally of Czechoslovakia (see Little Entente).
The Czechoslovak capitulation precipitated an outburst of national indignation. In demonstrations and rallies, Czechs and Slovaks called for a strong military government to defend the integrity of the state. A new cabinet—under General Jan Syrový—was installed, and on 23 September 1938 a decree of general mobilization was issued. The Czechoslovak army—modern and possessing an excellent system of frontier fortifications—was prepared to fight. The Soviet Union announced its willingness to come to Czechoslovakia's assistance. Beneš, however, refused to go to war without the support of the Western powers.
Neville Chamberlain, 27 September 1938, 8 p.m. radio broadcast
Hitler gave a speech in Berlin on 26 September 1938 and declared that the Sudetenland was "the last territorial demand I have to make in Europe". He also stated that he had told Chamberlain, "I have assured him further that, and this I repeat here before you, once this issue has been resolved, there will no longer be any further territorial problems for Germany in Europe!"
On 28 September, Chamberlain appealed to Hitler for a conference. Hitler met the next day, at Munich, with the chiefs of governments of France, Italy and Britain. The Czechoslovak government was neither invited nor consulted. On 29 September, the Munich Agreement was signed by Germany, Italy, France, and Britain. The Czechoslovak government capitulated on 30 September and agreed to abide by the agreement. The Munich Agreement stipulated that Czechoslovakia must cede Sudeten territory to Germany. German occupation of the Sudetenland would be completed by 10 October. An international commission representing Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Czechoslovakia would supervise a plebiscite to determine the final frontier. Britain and France promised to join in an international guarantee of the new frontiers against unprovoked aggression. Germany and Italy, however, would not join in the guarantee until the Polish and Hungarian minority problems were settled.
On 5 October 1938, Beneš resigned as President of Czechoslovakia, realising that the fall of Czechoslovakia was a fait accompli. Following the outbreak of World War II, he would form a Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London.
First Vienna Award
In early November 1938, under the First Vienna Award, which was a result of the Munich agreement, Czechoslovakia — it had failed to reach a compromise with Hungary and Poland— had to cede after the arbitration of Germany and Italy southern Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia to Hungary, while Poland invaded Zaolzie territory shortly after.
As a result, Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia lost about 38% of their combined area to Germany, with some 3.2 million German and 750,000 Czech inhabitants. Hungary, in turn, received 11,882 km2 (4,588 sq mi) in southern Slovakia and southern Carpathian Ruthenia; according to a 1941 census, about 86.5% of the population in this territory was Hungarian. Meanwhile, Poland annexed the town of Český Těšín with the surrounding area (some 906 km2 (350 sq mi)), some 250,000 inhabitants, Poles making up about 36% of population, and two minor border areas in northern Slovakia, more precisely in the regions Spiš and Orava. (226 km2 (87 sq mi), 4,280 inhabitants, only 0.3% Poles).
Soon after Munich, 115,000 Czechs and 30,000 Germans fled to the remaining rump of Czechoslovakia. According to the Institute for Refugee Assistance, the actual count of refugees on 1 March 1939 stood at almost 150,000.
On 4 December 1938, there were elections in Reichsgau Sudetenland, in which 97.32% of the adult population voted for the National Socialist Party. About 500,000 Sudeten Germans joined the National Socialist Party, which was 17.34% of the German population in Sudetenland (the average National Socialist Party participation in Nazi Germany was 7.85%). This means the Sudetenland was the most pro-Nazi region in the Third Reich. Because of their knowledge of the Czech language, many Sudeten Germans were employed in the administration of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and in Nazi organizations such as the Gestapo. The most notable was Karl Hermann Frank, the SS and police general and Secretary of State in the Protectorate.
Second Republic (October 1938 to March 1939)
Part of a series on the
|History of Czechoslovakia|
The greatly weakened Czechoslovak Republic was forced to grant major concessions to the non-Czechs. The executive committee of the Slovak People's Party met at Žilina on 5 October 1938, and with the acquiescence of all Slovak parties except the Social Democrats formed an autonomous Slovak government under Jozef Tiso. Similarly, the two major factions in Subcarpathian Ruthenia, the Russophiles and Ukrainophiles, agreed on the establishment of an autonomous government, which was constituted on 8 October. Reflecting the spread of modern Ukrainian national consciousness, the pro-Ukrainian faction, led by Avhustyn Voloshyn, gained control of the local government and Subcarpathian Ruthenia was renamed Carpatho-Ukraine. In 1939, during the occupation, the Nazis banned Russian ballet.
A last-ditch attempt to save Czechoslovakia from total ruin was made by the British and French governments, who on 27 January 1939, concluded an agreement of financial assistance with the Czechoslovak government. In this agreement, the British and French governments undertook to lend the Czechoslovak government £8 million and make a gift of £4 million. Part of the funds were allocated to help resettle Czechs and Slovaks who had fled from territories lost to Germany, Hungary, and Poland in the Munich Agreement or the Vienna Arbitration Award.
In November 1938, Emil Hácha, who succeeded Beneš, was elected president of the federated Second Republic, renamed Czecho-Slovakia and consisting of three parts: Bohemia and Moravia, Slovakia, and Carpatho-Ukraine. Lacking its natural frontier and having lost its costly system of border fortification, the new state was militarily indefensible. In January 1939, negotiations between Germany and Poland broke down. Hitler—intent on war against Poland—needed to eliminate Czechoslovakia first. He scheduled a German invasion of Bohemia and Moravia for the morning of 15 March. In the interim, he negotiated with the Slovak People's Party and with Hungary to prepare the dismemberment of the republic before the invasion. On 13 March, he invited Tiso to Berlin and on 14 March, the Slovak Diet convened and unanimously declared Slovak independence. Carpatho-Ukraine also declared independence but Hungarian troops occupied and annexed it on 15 March and a small part of eastern Slovakia as well on 23 March.
After the secession of Slovakia and Ruthenia, British Ambassador to Czechoslovakia Basil Newton advised President Hácha to meet with Hitler. When Hácha first arrived in Berlin, he first met with the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop prior to meeting with Hitler. Von Ribbentrop testified at the Nuremberg trials that during this meeting Hácha had told him that "he wanted to place the fate of the Czech State in the Führer's hands." Hácha later met with Hitler, where Hitler gave the Czech President two options: cooperate with Germany, in which case the "entry of German troops would take place in a tolerable manner" and "permit Czechoslovakia a generous life of her own, autonomy and a degree of national freedom..." or face a scenario in which "resistance would be broken by force of arms, using all means." Minutes of the conversation noted that for Hácha this was the most difficult decision of his life, but believed that in only a few years this decision would be comprehensible and in 50 years would probably be regarded as a blessing. After the negotiations had finished, Hitler told his secretaries, “It is the greatest triumph of my life! I shall enter history as the greatest German of them all.”
According to Joachim Fest, Hácha suffered a heart attack induced by Hermann Göring's threat to bomb the capital and by four o'clock he contacted Prague, effectively "signing Czechoslovakia away" to Germany. Göring acknowledged making the threat to the British ambassador to Germany, Neville Henderson, but said that the threat came as a warning because the Czech government, after already agreeing to German occupation, could not guarantee that the Czech army would not fire on the advancing Germans. Göring however does not mention that Hácha had a heart attack because of his threat. French Ambassador Robert Coulondre reported that according to an unnamed, considered a reliable source by Coulondre, by half past four, Hácha was "in a state of total collapse, and kept going only by means of injections." However, Hitler's interpreter Paul Schmidt, who was present during the meeting, in his memoirs denied such turbulent scenes ever taking place with the Czechoslovak President.
On the morning of 15 March, German troops entered remaining Czech parts of Czechoslovakia (Rest-Tschechei in German), meeting practically no resistance (the only instance of organized resistance took place in Místek where an infantry company commanded by Karel Pavlík fought invading German troops). The Hungarian invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine encountered resistance but the Hungarian army quickly crushed it. On 16 March, Hitler went to Czech lands and from Prague Castle proclaimed the German protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Besides violating his promises at Munich, the annexation of the rest of Czechoslovakia was, unlike Hitler's previous actions, not described in Mein Kampf. After having repeatedly stated that he was interested only in pan-Germanism, the unification of ethnic Germans into one Reich, Germany had now conquered seven million Czechs. Hitler's proclamation creating the protectorate claimed that "Bohemia and Moravia have for thousands of years belonged to the Lebensraum of the German people". British public opinion changed drastically after the invasion. Chamberlain realised that the Munich Agreement had meant nothing to Hitler. Chamberlain told the British public on 17 March during a speech in Birmingham that Hitler was attempting “to dominate the world by force”.
Subsequently, interwar Czechoslovakia has been idealized by its proponents as the only bastion of democracy surrounded by authoritarian and fascist regimes. It has also been condemned by its detractors as an artificial and unworkable creation of intellectuals supported by the great powers. Interwar Czechoslovakia comprised lands and peoples that were far from being integrated into a modern nation-state. Moreover, the dominant Czechs, who had suffered political discrimination under the Habsburgs, were not able to cope with the demands of other nationalities; however, some of the minority demands served as mere pretexts to justify intervention by Germany. Czechoslovakia was able to maintain a viable economy and a democratic political system under the adverse circumstances of the interwar period.
Second World War
Division of Czechoslovakia
Shortly before World War II, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist. Its territory was divided into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the newly declared Slovak State and the short-lived Republic of Carpathian Ukraine. While much of the former Czechoslovakia came under the control of the Third Reich, Hungarian forces (aided by Poland) swiftly overran the Carpathian Ukraine. Poland and Hungary annexed some areas (e.g., Zaolzie, Southern Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia) in the autumn of 1938. The Zaolzie region became part of the Third Reich after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.
The German economy—burdened by heavy militarisation—urgently needed foreign currency. Setting up an artificially high exchange-rate between the Czechoslovak koruna and the Reichsmark brought consumer goods to Germans (and soon created shortages in the Czech lands).
Czechoslovakia had fielded a modern army of 35 divisions and was a major manufacturer of machine guns, tanks, and artillery, most of them assembled in the Škoda factory in Plzeň. Many Czech factories continued to produce Czech designs until converted for German designs. Czechoslovakia also had other major manufacturing companies. Entire steel and chemical factories were moved from Czechoslovakia and reassembled in Linz (which incidentally remains a heavily industrialized area of Austria). In a speech delivered in the Reichstag, Hitler stressed the military importance of occupation, noting that by occupying Czechoslovakia, Germany gained 2,175 field cannons, 469 tanks, 500 anti-aircraft artillery pieces, 43,000 machine guns, 1,090,000 military rifles, 114,000 pistols, about a billion rounds of ammunition and three million anti-aircraft shells. This amount of weaponry would be sufficient to arm about half of the then Wehrmacht. Czechoslovak weaponry later played a major part in the German conquests of Poland (1939) and France (1940)—countries that had pressured Czechoslovakia's surrender to Germany in 1938.
Beneš—the leader of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile—and František Moravec—head of Czechoslovak military intelligence—organized and coordinated a resistance network. Hácha, Prime Minister Alois Eliáš, and the Czechoslovak resistance acknowledged Beneš's leadership. Active collaboration between London and the Czechoslovak home front was maintained throughout the war years. The most important event of the resistance was Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, SS leader Heinrich Himmler's deputy and the then Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Infuriated, Hitler ordered the arrest and execution of 10,000 randomly selected Czechs. Over 10,000 were arrested, and at least 1,300 executed. According to one estimate, 5,000 were killed in reprisals. The assassination resulted in one of the most well-known reprisals of the war. The Nazis completely destroyed the villages of Lidice and Ležáky; all men over 16 years from the village were murdered, and the rest of the population was sent to Nazi concentration camps where many women and nearly all the children were killed.
The Czechoslovak resistance comprised four main groups:
- The army command coordinated with a multitude of spontaneous groupings to form the Defense of the Nation (Obrana národa, ON) with branches in Britain and France. Czechoslovak units and formations with Czechs (c. 65–70%), and Slovaks (c. 30%) served with the Polish Army (Czechoslovak Legion), the French Army, the Royal Air Force, the British Army (the 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade), and the Red Army (I Corps). Two thousand eighty-eight Czechs and 401 Slovaks fought in 11th Infantry Battalion-East alongside the British during the war in areas such as North Africa and Palestine. Among others, Czech fighter pilot, Sergeant Josef František was one of the most successful fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain.
- Beneš's collaborators, led by , created the Political Center (Politické ústředí, PÚ). The PÚ was nearly destroyed by arrests in November 1939, after which younger politicians took control.
- Social democrats and leftist intellectuals, in association with such groups as trade unions and educational institutions, constituted the Committee of the Petition that We Remain Faithful (Petiční výbor Věrni zůstaneme, PVVZ).
- The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) was the fourth major resistance group. The KSČ had been one of over 20 political parties in the democratic First Republic, but it had never gained sufficient votes to unsettle the democratic government. After the Munich Agreement, the leadership of the KSČ moved to Moscow and the party went underground. Until 1943, however, KSČ resistance was weak. The 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression agreement between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, had left the KSČ in disarray. But ever faithful to the Soviet line, the KSČ began a more active struggle against the Germans after Operation Barbarossa, Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941.
The democratic groups—ON, PÚ, and PVVZ—united in early 1940 and formed the Central Committee of the Home Resistance (Ústřední výbor odboje domácího, ÚVOD). Involved primarily in intelligence gathering, the ÚVOD cooperated with a Soviet intelligence organization in Prague. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the democratic groups attempted to create a united front that would include the KSČ. Heydrich's appointment in the fall thwarted these efforts. By mid-1942, the Germans had succeeded in exterminating the most experienced elements of the Czechoslovak resistance forces.
Czechoslovak forces regrouped in 1942–1943. The Council of the Three (R3)—in which the communist underground was also represented—emerged as the focal point of the resistance. The R3 prepared to assist the liberating armies of the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In cooperation with Red Army partisan units, the R3 developed a guerrilla structure.
Guerrilla activity intensified with a rising number of parachuted units in 1944, leading to establishment of partisan groups such as 1st Czechoslovak Partisan Brigade of Jan Žižka, Jan Kozina Brigade or Master Jan Hus Brigade, and especially after the formation of a provisional Czechoslovak government in Košice on 4 April 1945. "National committees" took over the administration of towns as the Germans were expelled. More than 4,850 such committees were formed between 1944 and the end of the war under the supervision of the Red Army. On 5 May, a national uprising began spontaneously in Prague, and the newly formed Czech National Council (cs) almost immediately assumed leadership of the revolt. Over 1,600 barricades were erected throughout the city, and some 30,000 Czech men and women battled for three days against 40,000 German troops backed by tanks, aircraft and artillery. On 8 May, the German Wehrmacht capitulated; Soviet troops arrived on 9 May.
There are sources that highlighted the more favorable treatment of the Czechs during the German occupation in comparison to the treatment of the Poles and the Ukrainians. This is attributed to the view within the Nazi hierarchy that a large swath of the populace was "capable of Aryanization," hence, the Czechs were not subjected to a similar degree of random and organized acts of brutality that their Polish counterparts experienced. Such capacity for Aryanization was supported by the position that part of the Czech population had German ancestry. On the other hand, the Czechs/Slavs were not considered by the Germans as a racial equal due to its classification as a mixture of races with Jewish and Asiatic influences. This was illustrated in a series of discussion, which denigrated it as less valuable and, specifically, the Czechs as "dangerous and must be handled differently from Aryan peoples."
Aside from the inconsistency of animosity towards Slavs, there is also the claim that the forceful but restrained policy in Czechoslovakia was partly driven by the need to keep the population nourished and complacent so that it can carry out the vital work of arms production in the factories. By 1939, the country was already serving as a major hub of military production for Germany, manufacturing aircraft, tanks, artillery, and other armaments.
Slovak National Uprising
The Slovak National Uprising ("1944 Uprising") was an armed struggle between German Wehrmacht forces and rebel Slovak troops August–October 1944. It was centered at Banská Bystrica.
The rebel Slovak Army, formed to fight the Germans, had an estimated 18,000 soldiers in August, a total which first increased to 47,000 after mobilisation on 9 September 1944, and later to 60,000, plus 20,000 partisans. However, in late August, German troops were able to disarm the Eastern Slovak Army, which was the best equipped, and thus significantly decreased the power of the Slovak Army. Many members of this force were sent to concentration camps in the Third Reich; others escaped and joined partisan units.
The Slovaks were aided in the Uprising by soldiers and partisans from the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, USA, France, the Czech Republic, and Poland. In total, 32 nations were involved in the Uprising.
Edvard Beneš had resigned as president of the first Czechoslovak Republic on 5 October 1938 after the Nazi coup. In London, he and other Czechoslovak exiles organized a Czechoslovak government-in-exile and negotiated to obtain international recognition for the government and a renunciation of the Munich Agreement and its consequences. After World War II broke out, a Czechoslovak national committee was constituted in France, and under Beneš's presidency sought international recognition as the exiled government of Czechoslovakia. This attempt led to some minor successes, such as the French-Czechoslovak treaty of 2 October 1939, which allowed for the reconstitution of the Czechoslovak army on French territory, yet full recognition was not reached. The Czechoslovak army in France was established on 24 January 1940, and units of its 1st Infantry Division took part in the last stages of the Battle of France, as did some Czechoslovak fighter pilots in various French fighter squadrons.
Beneš hoped for a restoration of the Czechoslovak state in its pre-Munich form after the anticipated Allied victory, a false hope. The government in exile—with Beneš as president of republic—was set up in June 1940 in exile in London, with the President living at Aston Abbotts. On 18 July 1940, it was recognised by the British government. Belatedly, the Soviet Union (in the summer of 1941) and the U.S. (in the winter) recognised the exiled government. In 1942, Allied repudiation of the Munich Agreement established the political and legal continuity of the First Republic and de jure recognition of Beneš's de facto presidency. The success of Operation Anthropoid—which resulted in the British-backed assassination of one of Hitler's top henchmen, Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia Reinhard Heydrich, by Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš on 27 May—influenced the Allies in this repudiation.
The Munich Agreement had been precipitated by the subversive activities of the Sudeten Germans. During the latter years of the war, Beneš worked toward resolving the German minority problem and received consent from the Allies for a solution based on a postwar transfer of the Sudeten German population. The First Republic had been committed to a Western policy in foreign affairs. The Munich Agreement was the outcome. Beneš determined to strengthen Czechoslovak security against future German aggression through alliances with Poland and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, however, objected to a tripartite Czechoslovak-Polish-Soviet commitment. In December 1943, Beneš's government concluded a treaty just with the Soviets.
Beneš's interest in maintaining friendly relations with the Soviet Union was motivated also by his desire to avoid Soviet encouragement of a post-war communist coup in Czechoslovakia. Beneš worked to bring Czechoslovak communist exiles in Britain into cooperation with his government, offering far-reaching concessions, including nationalization of heavy industry and the creation of local people's committees at the war's end. In March 1945, he gave key cabinet positions to Czechoslovak communist exiles in Moscow.
Especially after the German reprisals for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, most of the Czech resistance groups demanded, with eerie irony and based on Nazi terror during the occupation, ethnic cleansing or the "final solution of the German question" (Czech: konečné řešení německé otázky) which would have to be "solved" by deportation of the ethnic Germans from their homeland. These reprisals included massacres in villages Lidice and Ležáky, although these villages were not connected with Czech resistance.
These demands were adopted by the government-in-exile, which sought the support of the Allies for this proposal, beginning in 1943. During the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Government-in-Exile promulgated a series of laws that are now referred to as the "Beneš decrees". One part of these decrees dealt with the status of ethnic Germans and Hungarians in postwar Czechoslovakia, and laid the ground for the deportation of some 3,000,000 Germans and Hungarians from the land that had been their home for centuries (see expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia, and Hungarians in Slovakia). The Beneš decrees declared that German property was to be confiscated without compensation. However, the final agreement authorizing the forced population transfer of the Germans was not reached until 2 August 1945 at the end of the Potsdam Conference.
End of the war
On 8 May 1944, Beneš signed an agreement with Soviet leaders stipulating that "Czechoslovak territory liberated by Soviet armies" would be placed under Czechoslovak civilian control.
On 21 September, Czechoslovak troops formed in the Soviet-liberated village, Kalinov, which was the first liberated settlement of Slovakia, located near the Dukla Pass in northeastern part of the country. Slovakia and the Czech lands was occupied mostly by Soviet troops (the Red Army), supported by Czech and Slovak resistance, from the east to the west; only southwestern Bohemia was liberated by other Allied troops from the west. Except for the brutalities of the German occupation in Bohemia and Moravia (after the August 1944 Slovak National Uprising also in Slovakia), They suffered relatively little from the war.[disputed ] Even at the end of the war, German troops massacred Czech civilians; the Massacre in Trhová Kamenice and the Massacre at Javoříčko are examples of this.
A provisional Czechoslovak government was established by the Soviets in the eastern Slovak city of Košice on 4 April 1945. "National committees" (supervised by the Red Army) took over the administration of towns as the Germans were expelled. Bratislava was taken by the Soviets on 4 April. Prague was taken on 9 May by Soviet troops during the Prague Offensive. When the Soviets arrived, Prague was already in a general state of confusion due to the Prague Uprising. Soviet and other Allied troops were withdrawn from Czechoslovakia in the same year.
On 5 May 1945, in the last moments of the war in Europe, the Prague uprising (Czech: Pražské povstání) began. It was an attempt by the Czech resistance to liberate the city of Prague from German occupation during World War II. The uprising went on until 8 May 1945, ending in a ceasefire the day before the arrival of the Red Army and one day after Victory in Europe Day.
Annexation of Subcarpathian Ruthenia by the Soviet Union
In October 1944, Subcarpathian Ruthenia was taken by the Soviets. A Czechoslovak delegation under František Němec was dispatched to the area. The delegation was to mobilize the liberated local population to form a Czechoslovak army and to prepare for elections in cooperation with recently established national committees. Loyalty to a Czechoslovak state was tenuous in Carpathian Ruthenia. Beneš's proclamation of April 1944 excluded former collaborationist Hungarians, Germans and the Rusynophile Ruthenian followers of Andrej Bródy and the Fencik Party (who had collaborated with the Hungarians) from political participation. This amounted to approximately ⅓ of the population. Another ⅓ was communist, leaving ⅓ of the population presumably sympathetic to the Czechoslovak Republic.
Upon arrival in Subcarpathian Ruthenia, the Czechoslovak delegation set up headquarters in Khust, and on 30 October issued a mobilization proclamation. Soviet military forces prevented both the printing and the posting of the Czechoslovak proclamation and proceeded instead to organize the local population. Protests from Beneš's government were ignored. Soviet activities led much of the local population to believe that Soviet annexation was imminent. The Czechoslovak delegation was also prevented from establishing a cooperative relationship with the local national committees promoted by the Soviets. On 19 November, the communists—meeting in Mukachevo—issued a resolution requesting separation of Subcarpathian Ruthenia from Czechoslovakia and incorporation into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. On 26 November, the Congress of National Committees unanimously accepted the resolution of the communists. The congress elected the National Council and instructed that a delegation be sent to Moscow to discuss union. The Czechoslovak delegation was asked to leave Subcarpathian Ruthenia. Negotiations between the Czechoslovak government and Moscow ensued. Both Czech and Slovak communists encouraged Beneš to cede Subcarpathian Ruthenia. The Soviet Union agreed to postpone annexation until the postwar period to avoid compromising Beneš's policy based on the pre-Munich frontiers.
The treaty ceding Carpathian Ruthenia to the Soviet Union was signed in June 1945. Czechs and Slovaks living in Subcarpathian Ruthenia and Ruthenians (Rusyns) living in Czechoslovakia were given the choice of Czechoslovak or Soviet citizenship.
Expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia
In May 1945, Czechoslovak troops took possession of the borderland. A Czechoslovak administrative commission composed exclusively of Czechs was established. Sudeten Germans were subjected to restrictive measures and conscripted for compulsory labor. On 15 June, however, Beneš called Czechoslovak authorities to order. In July, Czechoslovak representatives addressed the Potsdam Conference (the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union) and presented plans for a "humane and orderly transfer" of the Sudeten German population. There were substantial exceptions from expulsions that applied to about 244,000 ethnic Germans who were allowed to remain in Czechoslovakia.
The following groups of ethnic Germans were not deported:
- persons crucial for industries
- those married to ethnic Czechs
It is estimated that between 700,000 and 800,000 Germans were affected by "wild" expulsions between May and August 1945.:17 The expulsions were encouraged by Czechoslovak politicians and were generally carried out by the order of local authorities, mostly by groups of armed volunteers. However, in some cases it was initiated or pursued by assistance of the regular army.
The expulsion according to the Potsdam Conference proceeded from 25 January 1946 until October of that year. An estimated 1.6 million ethnic Germans were deported to the American zone of what would become West Germany. An estimated 800,000 were deported to the Soviet zone (in what would become East Germany). Several thousand died violently during the expulsion and many more died from hunger and illness as a consequence. These casualties include violent deaths and suicides, deaths in internment camps and natural causes. The joint Czech-German commission of historians stated in 1996 the following numbers: The deaths caused by violence and abnormal living conditions amount to approximately 10,000 persons killed. Another 5,000–6,000 people died of unspecified reasons related to expulsion making the total number of victims of the expulsion 15,000–16,000 (this excludes suicides, which make another approximately 3,400 cases).
- Fall Grün, the German invasion plan for Czechoslovakia rendered obsolete by the Munich Agreement
- Lety concentration camp
- Hodonin concentration camp
- International Students' Day
- Czechoslovak border fortifications – built 1935–1938 against Germany
- Battle of Czajánek's barracks
- Karel Pavlík
- Western betrayal
- Volker Ullrich. Hitler: Volume I: Ascent 1889–1939. pp. 752–753.
- Gruner 2015, p. 121. sfn error: no target: CITEREFGruner2015 (help)
- Consideration of the notes of the British Cabinet meeting, to be held on Monday 19th September 1938, strongly suggest, in contrast, that most British Ministers had few or no misconceptions about Hitler's ultimate aims in Central Europe. National Archives, CAB/23/95. http://filestore.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pdfs/small/cab-23-95-cc-40-38-4.pdf
- Lukes, Igor (23 May 1996). Czechoslovakia between Stalin and Hitler: The Diplomacy of Edvard Beneš in the 1930s. ISBN 9780199762057.
- Third Axis Fourth Ally by Mark Axworthy, page 13
- Max Domarus; Adolf Hitler (1990). Hitler: speeches and proclamations, 1932-1945 : the chronicle of a dictatorship. p. 1393.
- Siwek, Tadeusz (n.d.). "Statystyczni i niestatystyczni Polacy w Republice Czeskiej". Wspólnota Polska.
- Forced displacement of Czech population under Germans in 1938 and 1943, Radio Prague
- Zimmermann, Volker: Die Sudetendeutschen im NS-Staat. Politik und Stimmung der Bevölkerung im Reichsgau Sudetenland (1938–1945). Essen 1999. (ISBN 3884747703)
- Snodgrass, Mary Ellen (8 June 2015). The Encyclopedia of World Ballet. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-4526-6.
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- Nicoll, Britain’s Blunder (German edition) p. 63.
- Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 10 Friday, 29 March 1946 Avalon
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- The Road to War III: Appeasement to Occupation of Prague. 15 March 1939 Notes of Conversation between Adolf Hitler and Emil Hacha. Boston College
- Richard J. Evans (26 July 2012). The Third Reich in Power, 1933 - 1939: How the Nazis Won Over the Hearts and Minds of a Nation. Penguin Books Limited. p. 683. ISBN 978-0-7181-9681-3.
- Alan Bullock (1992). Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. Knopf. p. 602. ISBN 978-0-394-58601-4.
- IMT XXXI DOCUMENT 2861-PS, p. 246
- Robert Coulondre to Georges Bonnet, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Berlin, March 17, 1939., available online here: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/wwii/ylbk077.asp
- Schultze-Rhonhof, 1939 - the War that Had Many Fathers p. 231
- Gunther, John (1940). Inside Europe. New York: Harper & Brothers. pp. 130–131.
- Richard J. Evans (26 July 2012). The Third Reich in Power, 1933 - 1939: How the Nazis Won Over the Hearts and Minds of a Nation. Penguin Books Limited. p. 689. ISBN 978-0-7181-9681-3.
- Motl, Stanislav (2007), Kam zmizel zlatý poklad republiky (2nd ed.), Prague: Rybka publishers
- "Czechoslovak Bn No 11 East". www.rothwell.force9.co.uk.
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- Cordell, Karl; Wolff, Stefan (2005). Germany's Foreign Policy Towards Poland and the Czech Republic: Ostpolitik Revisited. Oxon: Routledge. pp. 30. ISBN 978-0415369749.
- Gerlach, Christian (2016). The Extermination of the European Jews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 158. ISBN 9780521706896.
- Bartulin, N. (2013). Honorary Aryans: National-Racial Identity and Protected Jews in the Independent State of Croatia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 7. ISBN 9781349464296.
- Zander, Patrick (2017). Hidden Armies of the Second World War: World War II Resistance Movements. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 118. ISBN 9781440833038.
- Morrock, Richard (2010). The Psychology of Genocide and Violent Oppression: A Study of Mass Cruelty from Nazi Germany to Rwanda. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. pp. 27. ISBN 9780786447763.
- Muehlenbeck, Philip (2016). Czechoslovakia in Africa, 1945-1968. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 88. ISBN 9781137561442.
- Naše geografická situace a historie naší země od 10. století tu může býti všem dostatečným důvodem a dokladem k tomu, že toto konečné řešení německé otázky u nás je naprosto nezbytné, jedině správné a opravdu logické. 
- "Memorial and Reverent Area". www.lidice-memorial.cz.
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- "The Voice of Russia ( PICTORIAL ART DURING THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR [ Exhibition 5. WW II: The Chronicle of Stone] )". 22 March 2001. Archived from the original on 22 March 2001.
- Statistický lexikon obcí v Republice československé I. Země česká. Prague. 1934.
Statistický lexikon obcí v Republice československé II. Země moravskoslezská. Prague. 1935.
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|journal=(help)CS1 maint: others (link)
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- P. WALLACE/BERLIN "Putting The Past to Rest", Time, Monday, 11 March 2002
- Z. Beneš, Rozumět dějinám. (ISBN 80-86010-60-0)
- http://www.fronta.cz/dotaz/odsun-pocet-umrti#pozn1 quoting Beneš, Z. – Kuklík, J. ml. – Kural, V. – Pešek, J., Odsun – Vertreibung (Transfer Němců z Československa 1945–1947), Ministerstvo mládeže a tělovýchovy ČR 2002, s. 49–50.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 2016-12-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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- Suppan, Arnold (2019). "Hitler's Occupation of Czechoslovakia". Hitler–Beneš–Tito: National Conflicts, World Wars, Genocides, Expulsions, and Divided Remembrance in East-Central and Southeastern Europe, 1848–2018. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press. pp. 373–402. doi:10.2307/j.ctvvh867x.13. ISBN 978-3-7001-8410-2. JSTOR j.ctvvh867x.
Nazi Germany mounts a false flag attack on the Gleiwitz radio station, creating an excuse to attack Poland the following day, thus starting World War II in Europe.
|Part of Operation Himmler|
Gliwice Radio Tower in 2012
|Type||False flag attack|
|Objective||Pretext for the invasion of Poland|
|Date||31 August 1939|
|Executed by||German SS|
The Gleiwitz incident (German: Überfall auf den Sender Gleiwitz; Polish: Prowokacja gliwicka) was a false flag attack on the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz, staged by Nazi Germany on the night of 31 August 1939. Along with some two dozen similar incidents, the attack was manufactured by Germany as a casus belli to justify the invasion of Poland, which began the next morning. The attackers posed as Polish nationals.
During his declaration of war, Hitler did not mention the Gleiwitz incident but grouped all provocations staged by the SS as an alleged "Polish assault" on Germany. The Gleiwitz incident is the best-known action of Operation Himmler, a series of special operations undertaken by the Schutzstaffel (SS) to serve German propaganda at the outbreak of war. The operation was intended to create the appearance of a Polish aggression against Germany in order to justify the invasion of Poland. Manufactured evidence for the Gleiwitz attack by the SS was provided by the German SS officer, Alfred Naujocks in 1945.
Events at Gleiwitz
Much of what is known about the Gleiwitz incident comes from the affidavit of SS-Sturmbannführer Alfred Naujocks at the Nuremberg Trials. In his testimony, he stated that he organised the incident under orders from Reinhard Heydrich and Heinrich Müller, chief of the Gestapo. On the night of 31 August, a small group of German operatives dressed in Polish uniforms and led by Naujocks seized the Gleiwitz station and broadcast a short anti-German message in Polish (sources vary on the content of the message). The operation was named "Grossmutter gestorben" (Grandmother died). The operation was to make the attack and the broadcast look like the work of Polish anti-German saboteurs.
To make the attack seem more convincing, the Gestapo murdered Franciszek Honiok, a 43-year-old unmarried German Silesian Catholic farmer, known for sympathising with the Poles. He had been arrested the previous day by the Gestapo and dressed to look like a saboteur, then killed by lethal injection and given gunshot wounds. Honiok was left dead at the scene so that he appeared to have been killed while attacking the station. His corpse was then presented to the police and press as proof of the attack. Several prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp were drugged, shot dead on the site and their faces disfigured to make identification impossible. The Germans referred to them by the code phrase "Konserve" (canned goods). Some sources incorrectly refer to the incident as Operation Canned Goods. In an oral testimony at the trials, Erwin von Lahousen stated that his division of the Abwehr was one of two that were given the task of providing Polish Army uniforms, equipment and identification cards; he was later told by Wilhelm Canaris that people from concentration camps had been disguised in these uniforms and ordered to attack the radio stations.
Oskar Schindler who later is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust, played a role in supplying the Polish uniforms and weapons used in the operation as an agent for the Abwehr.
The Gleiwitz incident was a part of a larger operation carried out by Abwehr and SS forces. Other orchestrated incidents were conducted along the Polish-German border at the same time as the Gleiwitz attack, such as a house burning in the Polish Corridor and spurious propaganda. The project was called Operation Himmler and comprised incidents giving the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany. German newspapers and politicians, including Adolf Hitler, had made accusations against Polish authorities for months before the 1939 invasion of organising or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans living in Poland. On 1 September, the day following the Gleiwitz attack, Germany launched Fall Weiss (Case White), the invasion of Poland, which precipitated World War II in Europe. Hitler cited the border incidents in a speech in the Reichstag on the same day, with three of them called very serious, as justification for his invasion of Poland. Hitler had told his generals on 22 August, "I will provide a propagandistic casus belli. Its credibility doesn't matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth".
American correspondents were summoned to the scene the next day but no neutral parties were allowed to investigate the incident in detail and the international public was skeptical of the German version of the incident.
In popular culture
There have been several adaptations of the incident in cinema. Der Fall Gleiwitz (1961), directed by Gerhard Klein for DEFA studios (The Gleiwitz Case; English subtitles), is an East German film that reconstructs the events.
It was also mentioned in a video game; Codename: Panzers (2004), which stirred up some controversy in Poland where the game was briefly discussed in Polish media as anti-Polish falsification of history, before the issue was cleared up as a case of poor reporting.
- Jablunkov incident
- Mukden Incident, a similar false flag operation that started the Japanese invasion of Manchuria
- Nazi crimes against the Polish nation
- 1939 in Poland
- 1939 Tarnow rail station bomb attack
- Operation Greif
- Shelling of Mainila
- Gleiwitz casus belli. 2018.
Nazi government under Hitler's leadership staged the Gleiwitz incident as a casus belli for the invasion of Poland the following morning
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- The World War II's first victim. A farmer was murdered as part of a Nazi plot to provide an excuse to invade Poland, the story of a man forgotten by history. By Bob Graham, 29 Aug 2009. The Telegraph.
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- Bradley Lightbody, The Second World War: Ambitions to Nemesis, Routledge, 2004; ISBN 0-415-22405-5, Google Print, p.39
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The Wizard of Oz premieres at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, California.
|The Wizard of Oz|
Theatrical release poster
|Produced by||Mervyn LeRoy|
|Based on||The Wonderful Wizard of Oz|
by L. Frank Baum
|Edited by||Blanche Sewell|
|Distributed by||Loew's, Inc|
|Box office||$29.7 million|
The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 American musical fantasy film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Often seen as one of the greatest films of all time, it is the most commercially successful adaptation of L. Frank Baum's 1900 children's fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Directed primarily by Victor Fleming (who left the production to take over the troubled Gone with the Wind), the film stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale alongside Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr and Margaret Hamilton.
Characterized by its use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score, and memorable characters, the film has become an American pop culture icon. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but lost to Gone with the Wind, also directed by Fleming. It did win in two other categories: Best Original Song for "Over the Rainbow" and Best Original Score by Herbert Stothart. While the film was considered a critical success upon release in August 1939, it failed to make a profit for MGM until the 1949 re-release, earning only $3,017,000 on a $2,777,000 budget, not including promotional costs, which made it MGM's most expensive production at that time.
The 1956 television broadcast premiere of the film on the CBS network reintroduced the film to the public; according to the Library of Congress, it is the most seen film in movie history. In 1989, it was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress as one of the first 25 films for preservation in the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It is also one of the few films on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. It was among the top ten in the 2005 BFI (British Film Institute) list of "50 films to be seen by the age of 14", and is on the BFI's updated list of "50 films to be seen by the age of 15" released in May 2020.
The Wizard of Oz is the source of many quotes referenced in contemporary popular culture. Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf received credit for the screenplay, but others made uncredited contributions. The songs were written by Edgar "Yip" Harburg and composed by Harold Arlen. The musical score and incidental music were composed by Stothart.
Dorothy Gale lives with her dog Toto on a Kansas farm belonging to her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Toto bites neighbor Miss Almira Gulch on the leg, leading her to obtain a sheriff's order to have him euthanized. Miss Gulch takes Toto away, but he escapes and returns to Dorothy; she decides to run away to save her dog. Not far from the farm, she runs into Professor Marvel, a fortune-teller who uses his crystal ball to make Dorothy believe that Aunt Em is heartbroken. Dorothy rushes home as a tornado approaches. Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and the farmhands take shelter in the storm cellar and lock it behind them. Dorothy has to seek shelter in her bedroom, where the window is blown in and hits her on the head, knocking her unconscious. The house is sent spinning into the air, and she awakens to see various figures fly by, including Miss Gulch, who transforms into a witch on a broomstick.
The house lands in Munchkinland in the Land of Oz. (The film switches from sepia tone Kansas to Oz in color.) Glinda the Good Witch of the North and the Munchkins welcome her as a heroine, as the falling house has killed the Wicked Witch of the East. Her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, arrives to claim her sister's ruby slippers, but Glinda transfers them onto Dorothy's feet. Enraged, the Wicked Witch swears revenge on Dorothy and vanishes. Glinda tells Dorothy to follow the Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City, where she can ask the Wizard of Oz to help her return home. On her journey, Dorothy meets the Scarecrow, who wants a brain; the Tin Woodman, who seeks a heart; and the Cowardly Lion, who desires courage. She invites them to accompany her and ask the Wizard for what they lack. Despite the Witch's attempts to stop them with sleeping spells and other magic, they reach the city and see the Wizard, who appears as a giant ghostly head. He agrees to grant their requests if they bring him the Witch's broomstick.
As they make their way to the Witch's castle, the Witch captures Dorothy and plots to kill her, as she cannot remove the slippers otherwise. Toto escapes and leads her three friends to the castle. They ambush three guards, don their uniforms, and free Dorothy. The Witch and more guards pursue and surround them. The Witch sets fire to the Scarecrow, causing Dorothy to toss a bucket of water on him, inadvertently splashing the Witch, who melts until only her black witch outfit remains. The guards rejoice and give Dorothy her broomstick. Upon their return, the Wizard stalls in fulfilling his promises until Toto pulls back a curtain, exposing the "Wizard" as a fraud operating machinery. Admitting to being a humbug, he insists he is "a good man, but a bad wizard." He gives the Scarecrow a diploma, the Lion a medal, and the Tin Man a ticking heart-shaped clock, helping them see that they already possessed the qualities they wanted. He offers to take Dorothy and Toto home in his hot air balloon, revealing that he is also from Kansas, and was originally a carnival showman before his balloon escaped the Earth and brought him to the Emerald City.
As Dorothy and the Wizard prepare to depart, the Wizard places the Scarecrow in charge of Emerald City, with the Tin Man and the Lion as his aides. Toto leaps from Dorothy's arms. As Dorothy pursues Toto, the balloon departs with the Wizard. Glinda then appears and tells Dorothy that she has always had the power to return home using the ruby slippers. After Dorothy bids the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion goodbye, Glinda instructs her to tap her heels together three times and say, "There's no place like home." When Dorothy does, she wakes up in her bedroom, surrounded by her family and friends. Everyone dismisses her adventure as a dream, but Dorothy insists it was real. She says she will never run away again and declares, "There's no place like home!"
- Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale
- Frank Morgan as Professor Marvel/The Gatekeeper/The Carriage Driver/The Guard/Wizard of Oz
- Ray Bolger as "Hunk"/Scarecrow
- Jack Haley as "Hickory" / Tin Woodman
- Bert Lahr as "Zeke" / The Cowardly Lion
- Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch
- Margaret Hamilton as Miss Almira Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West
- Charley Grapewin as Uncle Henry
- Pat Walshe as Nikko the Winged Monkey King
- Clara Blandick as Aunt Em
- Terry as Toto
- Mitchell Lewis as the Winkie Guard Captain (credited only in the IMAX version)
- Adriana Caselotti as the voice of Juliet in the Tin Man's song "If I Only Had a Heart" (uncredited)
Production on the film began when Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) showed that films adapted from popular children's stories and fairytale folklore could still be successful. In January 1938, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought the rights to L. Frank Baum’s hugely popular novel from Samuel Goldwyn. Goldwyn had toyed with the idea of making the film as a vehicle for Eddie Cantor, who was under contract to Samuel Goldwyn Productions and whom Goldwyn wanted to cast as the Scarecrow.
The script went through several writers and revisions before the final shooting. Mervyn LeRoy's assistant, William H. Cannon, had submitted a brief four-page outline. Because recent fantasy films had not fared well, he recommended toning down or removing the magical elements of the story. In his outline, the Scarecrow was a man so stupid that the only employment open to him was literally scaring crows from cornfields. Also in his outline, the Tin Woodman was a criminal so heartless that he was sentenced to be placed in a tin suit for eternity. This torture softened him into somebody gentler and kinder. Cannon's vision was similar to Larry Semon's 1925 film adaptation of the story, in which the magical elements are absent.
Afterward, LeRoy hired screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who soon delivered a 17-page draft of the Kansas scenes. A few weeks later, Mankiewicz delivered a further 56 pages. LeRoy also hired Noel Langley and poet Ogden Nash to write separate versions of the story. None of these three knew about the others, and this was not an uncommon procedure. Nash delivered a four-page outline; Langley turned in a 43-page treatment and a full film script. Langley then turned in three more scripts, this time incorporating the songs written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg. Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf submitted a script and were brought on board to touch up the writing. They were asked to ensure that the story stayed true to Baum's book. However, producer Arthur Freed was unhappy with their work and reassigned it to Langley. During filming, Victor Fleming and John Lee Mahin revised the script further, adding and cutting some scenes. Jack Haley and Bert Lahr are also known to have written some of their dialogue for the Kansas sequence.
They completed the final draft of the script on October 8, 1938, following numerous rewrites. All in all, it was a mish-mash of many creative minds, but Langley, Ryerson, and Woolf got the credits. Along with these already mentioned, others who contributed to the adaptation without credit include Irving Brecher, Herbert Fields, Arthur Freed, Yip Harburg, Samuel Hoffenstein, Jack Mintz, Sid Silvers, Richard Thorpe, George Cukor and King Vidor.
In addition, songwriter Harburg's son (and biographer) Ernie Harburg reported:
So anyhow, Yip also wrote all the dialogue in that time and the setup to the songs and he also wrote the part where they give out the heart, the brains, and the nerve, because he was the final script editor. And he – there was eleven screenwriters on that – and he pulled the whole thing together, wrote his own lines and gave the thing a coherence and unity which made it a work of art. But he doesn't get credit for that. He gets lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, you see. But nevertheless, he put his influence on the thing.
The original producers thought that a 1939 audience was too sophisticated to accept Oz as a straight-ahead fantasy; therefore, it was reconceived as a lengthy, elaborate dream sequence. Because they perceived a need to attract a youthful audience by appealing to modern fads and styles, the score had featured a song called "The Jitterbug", and the script had featured a scene with a series of musical contests. A spoiled, selfish princess in Oz had outlawed all forms of music except classical music and operetta. The princess challenged Dorothy to a singing contest, in which Dorothy's swing style enchanted listeners and won the grand prize. This part was initially written for Betty Jaynes, but was later dropped.
Another scene, which was removed before final script approval and never filmed, was an epilogue scene in Kansas after Dorothy's return. Hunk (the Kansan counterpart to the Scarecrow) is leaving for an agricultural college, and extracts a promise from Dorothy to write to him. The scene implies that romance will eventually develop between the two, which also may have been intended as an explanation for Dorothy's partiality for the Scarecrow over her other two companions. This plot idea was never totally dropped, but is especially noticeable in the final script when Dorothy, just before she is to leave Oz, tells the Scarecrow, "I think I'll miss you most of all."
Much attention was given to the use of color in the production, with the MGM production crew favoring some hues over others. It took the studio's art department almost a week to settle on the shade of yellow used for the Yellow Brick Road.
Several actresses were reportedly considered for the part of Dorothy, including Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox, at the time, the most prominent child star; Deanna Durbin, a relative newcomer, with a recognised operatic voice; and Judy Garland, the most experienced of the three. Officially, the decision to cast Garland was attributed to contractual issues.
Ray Bolger was originally cast as the Tin Man and Buddy Ebsen was to play the Scarecrow. Bolger, however, longed to play the Scarecrow, as his childhood idol Fred Stone had done on stage in 1902; with that very performance, Stone had inspired him to become a vaudevillian in the first place. Now unhappy with his role as the Tin Man (reportedly claiming, "I'm not a tin performer; I'm fluid"), Bolger convinced producer Mervyn LeRoy to recast him in the part he so desired. Ebsen did not object; after going over the basics of the Scarecrow's distinctive gait with Bolger (as a professional dancer, Ebsen had been cast because the studio was confident he would be up to the task of replicating the famous "wobbly-walk" of Stone's Scarecrow), he recorded all of his songs, went through all the rehearsals as the Tin Man and began filming with the rest of the cast.
W. C. Fields was originally chosen for the title role of the Wizard (after Ed Wynn turned it down, considering the part "too small"), but the studio ran out of patience after protracted haggling over Fields' fee. Wallace Beery lobbied for the role, but the studio refused to spare him during the long shooting schedule. Instead, another contract player, Frank Morgan, was cast on September 22.
An extensive talent search produced over a hundred little people to play Munchkins; this meant that most of the film's Oz sequences would have to already be shot before work on the Munchkinland sequence could begin. According to Munchkin actor Jerry Maren, the little people were each paid over $125 a week (equivalent to $2,300 today). Meinhardt Raabe, who played the coroner, revealed in the 1990 documentary The Making of the Wizard of Oz that the MGM costume and wardrobe department, under the direction of designer Adrian, had to design over 100 costumes for the Munchkin sequences. They photographed and cataloged each Munchkin in his or her costume so they could consistently apply the same costume and makeup each day of production.
Gale Sondergaard was originally cast as the Wicked Witch of the West, but withdrew from the role when the witch's persona shifted from sly and glamorous (thought to emulate the Evil Queen in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) to the familiar "ugly hag". She was replaced on October 10, 1938, just three days before filming started, by MGM contract player Margaret Hamilton. Sondergaard said in an interview for a bonus feature on the DVD that she had no regrets about turning down the part. Sondergaard would go on to play a glamorous feline villainess in Fox's version of Maurice Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird in 1940. Hamilton played a role remarkably similar to the Wicked Witch in the Judy Garland film Babes in Arms (1939).
According to Aljean Harmetz, the "gone-to-seed" coat worn by Morgan as the Wizard was selected from a rack of coats purchased from a second-hand shop. According to legend, Morgan later discovered a label in the coat indicating it had once belonged to Baum, that Baum's widow confirmed this, and that the coat was eventually presented to her. But Baum biographer Michael Patrick Hearn says the Baum family denies ever seeing the coat or knowing of the story; Hamilton considered it a rumor concocted by the studio.
Richard Thorpe as director
Filming for The Wizard of Oz started on October 13, 1938 on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio lot in Culver City, California, with Richard Thorpe as director, replacing original director Norman Taurog, who filmed a few early Technicolor tests and was then reassigned. Thorpe initially shot about two weeks of footage, nine days in total, involving Dorothy's first encounter with the Scarecrow, and a number of sequences in the Wicked Witch's castle, such as Dorothy's rescue, which, though unreleased, includes the only footage of Buddy Ebsen's Tin Man.
Ebsen replaced by Haley
The production faced the challenge of creating the Tin Man's costume. Several tests were done to find the right makeup and clothes for Ebsen. Ten days into the shoot, Ebsen suffered a reaction to the aluminum powder makeup he wore, though he did recall taking a breath one night without suffering any immediate effects. He was hospitalized in critical condition and was subsequently forced to leave the project. In a later interview (included on the 2005 DVD release of The Wizard of Oz), he recalled that the studio heads appreciated the seriousness of his illness only after he was hospitalized. Filming halted while a replacement for him was sought.
No footage of Ebsen as the Tin Man has ever been released – only photos taken during filming and makeup tests. His replacement, Jack Haley, assumed Ebsen had been fired. The makeup used for Haley was quietly changed to an aluminum paste, with a layer of clown white greasepaint underneath, in order to protect his skin. Although it did not have the same dire effect on Haley, he did at one point suffer an eye infection from it. To keep down on production costs, Haley only rerecorded "If I Only Had a Heart" and solo lines during "If I Only Had the Nerve" and the scrapped song "The Jitterbug"; as such, Ebsen's voice can still be heard in the remaining songs featuring the Tin Man in group vocals.
George Cukor's brief stint
LeRoy, after reviewing the footage and feeling Thorpe was rushing the production, adversely affecting the actors' performances, had Thorpe replaced. During reorganization on the production, George Cukor temporarily took over under LeRoy's guidance. Initially, the studio had made Garland wear a blond wig and heavy "baby-doll" makeup, and she played Dorothy in an exaggerated fashion. Cukor changed Garland's and Hamilton's makeup and costumes, and told Garland to "be herself". This meant that all the scenes Garland and Hamilton had already completed had to be reshot. Cukor also suggested the studio cast Jack Haley, on loan from Fox, as the Tin Man.
Victor Fleming, the main director
Cukor did not shoot any scenes for the film, but acted merely as a creative advisor to the troubled production. His prior commitment to direct Gone with the Wind required him to leave on November 3, 1938, when Victor Fleming assumed directorial responsibility. As director, Fleming chose not to shift the film from Cukor's creative realignment, as producer LeRoy had already expressed his satisfaction with the film's new course.
Production on the bulk of the Technicolor sequences was a long and exhausting process that ran for over six months, from October 1938 to March 1939. Most of the cast worked six days a week and had to arrive as early as 4 a.m. to be fitted with makeup and costumes, and often did not leave until 7 pm or later. Cumbersome makeup and costumes were made even more uncomfortable by the daylight-bright lighting the early Technicolor process required, which could heat the set to over 100 °F (38 °C). Bolger later said that the frightening nature of the costumes prevented most of the Oz principals from eating in the studio commissary; and the toxicity of Hamilton's copper-based makeup forced her to eat a liquid diet on shoot days. It took as many as twelve takes to have Toto run alongside the actors as they skipped down the Yellow Brick Road.
All the Oz sequences were filmed in three-strip Technicolor. The opening and closing credits, and the Kansas sequences, were filmed in black and white and colored in a sepia-tone process. Sepia-tone film was also used in the scene where Aunt Em appears in the Wicked Witch's crystal ball. The film was not the first to use Technicolor, which was introduced in The Gulf Between (1917).
In Hamilton's exit from Munchkinland, a concealed elevator was installed to lower her below stage level, as fire and smoke erupted to dramatize and conceal her exit. The first take ran well, but on the second take, the burst of fire came too soon. The flames set fire to her green, copper-based face paint, causing third-degree burns to her hands and face. She spent three months recuperating before returning to work.
King Vidor's finishing work as director
On February 12, 1939, Fleming hastily replaced Cukor in directing Gone with the Wind. The next day, the studio assigned Fleming's friend, King Vidor, to finish directing The Wizard of Oz (mainly the early sepia-toned Kansas sequences, including Garland's singing of "Over the Rainbow" and the tornado). Although the film was a hit on its release, Vidor chose not to take public credit for his contribution until Fleming died in 1949.
Special effects, makeup and costumes
Arnold Gillespie, the film's special effects director, employed several visual-effect techniques. Developing the tornado scene was especially costly. Gillespie used muslin cloth to make the tornado flexible, after a previous attempt with rubber failed. He hung the 35 ft (11 m) of muslin from a steel gantry and connected the bottom to a rod. By moving the gantry and rod, he was able to create the illusion of a tornado moving across the stage. Fuller's earth was sprayed from both the top and bottom using compressed air hoses to complete the effect. Dorothy's house was recreated using a model.
The Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow masks were made of foam latex makeup created by makeup artist Jack Dawn. Dawn was one of the first to use this technique. It took an hour each day to slowly peel Bolger's glued-on mask from his face, a process that eventually left permanent lines around his mouth and chin.
Hamilton received severe burns to her hands and face in an accident with the flame effect during her exit from Munchkinland. At the time, she was wearing her green makeup, which was usually removed with acetone due to its toxic copper content. Because of Hamilton's burns, makeup artist Jack Young removed the makeup with alcohol to prevent infection. The Tin Man's costume was made of leather-covered buckram, and the oil used to grease his joints was made from chocolate syrup. The Cowardly Lion's costume was made from real lion skin and fur. For the "horse of a different color" scene, Jell-O powder was used to color the white horses. Asbestos was used to achieve some of the special effects, such as the witch's burning broomstick and the fake snow that covers Dorothy as she sleeps in the field of poppies.
The Wizard of Oz is famous for its musical selections and soundtrack. Its songs were composed by Harold Arlen, with lyrics by Yip Harburg. They won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Over the Rainbow". The song ranks first in the AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs and the Recording Industry Association of America's "365 Songs of the Century".
Georgie Stoll was associate conductor, and screen credit was given to George Bassman, Murray Cutter, Ken Darby and Paul Marquardt for orchestral and vocal arrangements. (As usual, Roger Edens was also heavily involved as an unbilled musical associate to Freed.)
The songs were recorded in the studio's scoring stage before filming. Several of the recordings were completed while Ebsen was still with the cast. Although he had to be dropped from the cast because of a dangerous reaction to his aluminum powder makeup, his singing voice remained on the soundtrack (as mentioned in the notes for the CD Deluxe Edition). He can be heard in the group vocals of "We're Off to See the Wizard". Haley spoke with a distinct Boston accent and did not pronounce the R in "wizard." Ebsen, a Midwesterner like Garland, pronounced it clearly.
Bolger's original recording of "If I Only Had a Brain" was far more sedate than the version in the film. During filming, Cukor and LeRoy decided a more energetic rendition better suited Dorothy's initial meeting with the Scarecrow, and it was rerecorded. The original version was considered lost until a copy was discovered in 2009.
- "Over the Rainbow" – Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale
- Munchkinland Sequence:
- "Come Out ..." – Billie Burke as Glinda, and the Munchkins
- "It Really Was No Miracle" – Judy Garland as Dorothy, Billy Bletcher and the Munchkins
- "We Thank You Very Sweetly" – Frank Cucksey and Joseph Koziel
- "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" – Billie Burke as Glinda (speaking) and the Munchkins
- "As Mayor of the Munchkin City"
- "As Coroner, I Must Aver"
- "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" (Reprise) – The Munchkins
- "The Lullaby League"
- "The Lollipop Guild"
- "We Welcome You to Munchkinland" – The Munchkins
- "Follow the Yellow Brick Road/You're Off to See the Wizard" – Judy Garland as Dorothy, and the Munchkins
- "If I Only Had a Brain" – Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, and Judy Garland as Dorothy
- "We're Off to See the Wizard" – Judy Garland as Dorothy, and Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow
- "If I Only Had a Heart" – Jack Haley (originally Buddy Ebsen) as the Tin Man
- "We're Off to See the Wizard" (Reprise 1) – Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, and Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man
- "If I Only Had the Nerve" – Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Jack Haley as the Tin Man, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, and Judy Garland as Dorothy
- "We're Off to See the Wizard" (Reprise 2) – Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man, and Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion
- "Optimistic Voices" – MGM Studio Chorus
- "The Merry Old Land of Oz" – Frank Morgan as Cabby, Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as Scarecrow, Jack Haley as the Tin Man, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion and the Emerald City townspeople
- "If I Were King of the Forest" – Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow and Jack Haley as the Tin Man
- "The Jitterbug" – Although this song was removed from the final film, it is still available on some extended edition CDs.
Some musical pieces were filmed and deleted later, in the editing process.
The song "The Jitterbug", written in a swing style, was intended for a sequence where the group journeys to the Witch's castle. Due to time constraints, it was cut from the final theatrical version. The film footage of the song has been lost, although silent home-film footage of rehearsals has survived. The audio recording of the song was preserved, and was included in the two-CD Rhino Records deluxe edition of the soundtrack, as well as on the film's VHS and DVD editions. A reference to "The Jitterbug" remains in the film: The Witch tells her flying monkeys that they should have no trouble apprehending Dorothy and her friends because "I've sent a little insect on ahead to take the fight out of them."
Another musical number cut before release came right after the Wicked Witch of the West was melted and before Dorothy and her friends returned to the Wizard. This was a reprise of "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" (blended with "We're Off to See the Wizard" and "The Merry Old Land of Oz") with the lyrics altered to "Hail! Hail! The witch is dead!" This started with the Witch's guard saying "Hail to Dorothy! The Wicked Witch is dead!" and dissolved to a huge celebration by the citizens of the Emerald City, who sang the song as they accompanied Dorothy and her friends to the Wizard. Today, the film of this scene is also lost, and only a few stills survive, along with a few seconds of footage used on several reissue trailers. The entire audio track was preserved and is included on the two-CD Rhino Record "deluxe" soundtrack edition.
Garland was to sing a brief reprise of "Over the Rainbow" while Dorothy was trapped in the Witch's castle, but it was cut because it was considered too emotionally intense. The original soundtrack recording still exists, and was included as an extra in all home media releases from 1993 onward.
Extensive edits in the film's final cut removed vocals from the last portion of the film. However, the film was fully underscored, with instrumental snippets from the film's various leitmotifs throughout. There was also some recognizable classical and popular music, including:
- Excerpts from Schumann's "The Happy Farmer", at several points early in the film, including the opening scene when Dorothy and Toto hurry home after their encounter with Miss Gulch; when Toto escapes from her; and when the house "rides" the tornado.
- An excerpt of Mendelssohn's "Opus 16, #2", when Toto escapes from the Witch's castle.
- An excerpt of Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain", when Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion try to escape from the Witch's castle.
- "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree", when Dorothy and the Scarecrow discover the anthropomorphic apple trees.
- "Gaudeamus Igitur", as the Wizard presents awards to the group.
- "Home! Sweet Home!", in part of the closing scene, at Dorothy's house in Kansas.
- An excerpt of Tchaikovsky's "Waltz of the Flowers", Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, Toto. Poppy field sleeping
(This list is excerpted from the liner notes of the Rhino Records collection.)
Principal photography concluded with the Kansas sequences on March 16, 1939. Reshoots and pick-up shots were done through April and May and into June, under the direction of producer LeRoy. When the "Over the Rainbow" reprise was revived after subsequent test screenings in early June, Garland had to be brought back to reshoot the "Auntie Em, I'm frightened!" scene without the song. The footage of Blandick's Aunt Em, as shot by Vidor, had already been set aside for rear-projection work, and was reused.
After Hamilton's torturous experience with the Munchkinland elevator, she refused to do the pick-ups for the scene where she flies on a broomstick that billows smoke, so LeRoy had stunt double Betty Danko perform instead. Danko was severely injured when the smoke mechanism malfunctioned.
At this point, the film began a long, arduous post-production. Herbert Stothart composed the film's background score, while A. Arnold Gillespie perfected the special effects, including many of the rear-projection shots. The MGM art department created matte paintings for many scene backgrounds.
A significant innovation planned for the film was the use of stencil printing for the transition to Technicolor. Each frame was to be hand-tinted to maintain the sepia tone. However, it was abandoned because it was too expensive and labor-intensive, and MGM used a simpler, less-expensive technique: During the May reshoots, the inside of the farmhouse was painted sepia, and when Dorothy opens the door, it is not Garland, but her stand-in, Bobbie Koshay, wearing a sepia gingham dress, who then backs out of frame. Once the camera moves through the door, Garland steps back into frame in her bright blue gingham dress (as noted in DVD extras), and the sepia-painted door briefly tints her with the same color before she emerges from the house's shadow, into the bright glare of the Technicolor lighting. This also meant that the reshoots provided the first proper shot of Munchkinland. If one looks carefully, the brief cut to Dorothy looking around outside the house bisects a single long shot, from the inside of the doorway to the pan-around that finally ends in a reverse-angle as the ruins of the house are seen behind Dorothy and she comes to a stop at the foot of the small bridge.
Test screenings of the film began on June 5, 1939. Oz initially ran nearly two hours long. In 1939, the average film ran for about 90 minutes. LeRoy and Fleming knew they needed to cut at least 15 minutes to get the film down to a manageable running time. Three sneak previews in San Bernardino, Pomona and San Luis Obispo, California, guided LeRoy and Fleming in the cutting. Among the many cuts were "The Jitterbug" number, the Scarecrow's elaborate dance sequence following "If I Only Had a Brain", reprises of "Over the Rainbow" and "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead", and a number of smaller dialogue sequences. This left the final, mostly serious portion of the film with no songs, only the dramatic underscoring.
"Over the Rainbow" was almost deleted. MGM felt that it made the Kansas sequence too long, as well as being far over the heads of the target audience of children. The studio also thought that it was degrading for Garland to sing in a barnyard. LeRoy, uncredited associate producer Arthur Freed and director Fleming fought to keep it in, and they eventually won. The song went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song, and came to be identified so strongly with Garland herself that she made it her signature song.
After the preview in San Luis Obispo in early July, the film was officially released in August 1939 at its current 101-minute running time.
Original theatrical run
The film premiered at the Orpheum Theatre in Green Bay, Wisconsin on August 10, 1939. The first sneak preview was held in San Bernardino, California. The film was previewed in three test markets: in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Dennis, Massachusetts on August 11, 1939, and at the Strand Theatre in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, on August 12.
The Hollywood premiere was on August 15, 1939, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. The New York City premiere, held at Loew's Capitol Theatre on August 17, 1939, was followed by a live performance with Garland and her frequent film co-star Mickey Rooney. They continued to perform there after each screening for a week. Garland extended her appearance for two more weeks, partnered with Rooney for a second week and with Oz co-stars Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr for the third and final week. The film opened nationwide on August 25, 1939.
MGM sold CBS the rights to televise the film for $225,000 per broadcast. It was first shown on television on November 3, 1956 as the last installment of the Ford Star Jubilee. It was a ratings success, with a Nielsen rating of 33.9 and an audience share of 53%.
It was repeated on December 13, 1959, and gained an even larger television audience, with a Nielsen rating of 36.5 and an audience share of 58%. It became an annual television tradition.
On October 25, 1980, the film was released on videocassette (in both VHS and Betamax format) by MGM/CBS Home Video. All current home video releases are by Warner Home Video (via current rights holder Turner Entertainment).
The film's first LaserDisc release was in 1983. In 1989, there were two releases for the 50th anniversary, one from Turner and one from The Criterion Collection, with a commentary track. Laserdiscs came out in 1991 and 1993, and the final LaserDisc was released September 11, 1996.
The film was released on the CED format once, in 1982, by MGM/UA Home Video. It has also been released multiple times outside of the North American and European markets, in Asia, in the Video CD format.
The first DVD release was on March 26, 1997, by MGM/Turner. It contained no special features or supplements. On October 19, 1999, Oz was re-released by Warner Bros to celebrate the picture's 60th anniversary, with its soundtrack presented in a new 5.1 surround sound mix. The DVD also contained a behind-the-scenes documentary, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic, produced in 1990 and hosted by Angela Lansbury, which was originally shown on television immediately following the 1990 telecast of the film. It had been featured in the 1993 "Ultimate Oz" LaserDisc release. Outtakes, the deleted "Jitterbug" musical number, clips of pre-1939 Oz adaptations, trailers, newsreels, and a portrait gallery were also included, as well as two radio programs of the era publicizing the film.
In 2005, two DVD editions were released, both featuring a newly restored version of the film with an audio commentary and an isolated music and effects track. One of the two DVD releases was a "Two-Disc Special Edition", featuring production documentaries, trailers, outtakes, newsreels, radio shows and still galleries. The other set, a "Three-Disc Collector's Edition", included these features, as well as the digitally restored 80th-anniversary edition of the 1925 feature-length silent film version of The Wizard of Oz, other silent Oz adaptations and a 1933 animated short version.
The film was released on Blu-ray on September 29, 2009 for its 70th anniversary, in a four-disc "Ultimate Collector's Edition", including all the bonus features from the 2005 Collector's Edition DVD, new bonus features about Victor Fleming and the surviving Munchkins, the telefilm The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story, and the miniseries MGM: When the Lion Roars. For this edition, Warner Bros. commissioned a new transfer from the original negatives at 8K resolution. The restoration job was given to Prime Focus World. This restored version also features a lossless 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track.
On December 1, 2009, three Blu-ray discs of the Ultimate Collector's Edition were repackaged as a less expensive "Emerald Edition". An Emerald Edition four-disc DVD arrived the following week. A single-disc Blu-ray, containing the restored movie and all the extra features of the two-disc Special Edition DVD, became available on March 16, 2010.
Many special editions were released in celebration of the film's 75th anniversary in 2013, including one exclusively by Best Buy (a SteelBook of the 3D Blu-ray) and another by Target stores that came with a keepsake lunch bag.
Although the 1949 re-issue used sepia tone, as in the original film, beginning with the 1955 re-issue, and continuing until the film's 50th anniversary VHS release in 1989, the opening Kansas sequences were shown in black and white instead of the sepia tone as originally printed. (This includes television showings.)
The MGM "Children's Matinees" series re-released the film twice, in both 1970 and 1971. It was for this release that the film received a G rating from the MPAA.
For the film's upcoming 60th anniversary, Warner Bros. released a "Special Edition" on November 6, 1998, digitally restored with remastered audio.
On September 23, 2009, the film was re-released in select theaters for a one-night-only event in honor of its 70th anniversary and as a promotion for various new disc releases later in the month. An encore of this event took place in theaters on November 17, 2009.
An IMAX 3D theatrical re-release played at 300 theaters in North America for one week only beginning September 20, 2013, as part of the film's 75th anniversary. Warner Bros. spent $25 million on advertising. The studio hosted a premiere of the film's first IMAX 3D release on September 15, 2013, in Hollywood at the newly remodeled TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the site of the film's Hollywood premiere). It was the first picture to play at the new theater and served as the grand opening of Hollywood's first 3D IMAX screen. It was also shown as a special presentation at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. This re-release grossed $5.6 million at the North American box office.
In 2013, in preparation for its IMAX 3D release, the film was submitted to the MPAA for re-classification. According to MPAA rules, a film that has been altered in any way from its original version must be submitted for re-classification, and the 3-D conversion fell within that guideline. Surprisingly, the 3D version received a PG rating for "Some scary moments", although no change was made to the film's original story content. The 2D version still retains its G rating.
The film was re-released by Fathom Events on January 27, 29, 30, 2019 and February 3 and 5, 2019 as part of its 80th anniversary. It also had a one-week theatrical engagement in Dolby Cinema on October 25, 2019 to commemorate the anniversary.
The Wizard of Oz received widespread acclaim upon its release. Writing for The New York Times, Frank Nugent considered the film a "delightful piece of wonder-working which had the youngsters' eyes shining and brought a quietly amused gleam to the wiser ones of the oldsters. Not since Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has anything quite so fantastic succeeded half so well." Nugent had issues with some of the film's special effects, writing,
with the best of will and ingenuity, they cannot make a Munchkin or a Flying Monkey that will not still suggest, however vaguely, a Singer's Midget in a Jack Dawn masquerade. Nor can they, without a few betraying jolts and split-screen overlappings, bring down from the sky the great soap bubble in which Glinda rides and roll it smoothly into place.
According to Nugent, "Judy Garland's Dorothy is a pert and fresh-faced miss with the wonder-lit eyes of a believer in fairy tales, but the Baum fantasy is at its best when the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion are on the move."
Writing in Variety, John C. Flinn predicted that the film was "likely to perform some record-breaking feats of box-office magic," noting, "Some of the scenic passages are so beautiful in design and composition as to stir audiences by their sheer unfoldment." He also called Garland "an appealing figure" and the musical numbers "gay and bright."
Harrison's Reports wrote, "Even though some persons are not interested in pictures of this type, it is possible that they will be eager to see this picture just for its technical treatment. The performances are good, and the incidental music is of considerable aid. Pictures of this caliber bring credit to the industry."
Film Daily wrote:
Leo the Lion is privileged to herald this one with his deepest roar—the one that comes from way down—for seldom if indeed ever has the screen been so successful in its approach to fantasy and extravaganza through flesh-and-blood... handsomely mounted fairy story in Technicolor, with its wealth of humor and homespun philosophy, its stimulus to the imagination, its procession of unforgettable settings, its studding of merry tunes should click solidly at the box-office.
Not all reviews were positive. Some moviegoers felt that the 16-year-old Garland was slightly too old to play the little girl who Baum intended his Dorothy to be. Russell Maloney of The New Yorker wrote that the film displayed "no trace of imagination, good taste, or ingenuity" and declared it "a stinkeroo," while Otis Ferguson of The New Republic wrote: "It has dwarfs, music, Technicolor, freak characters, and Judy Garland. It can't be expected to have a sense of humor, as well – and as for the light touch of fantasy, it weighs like a pound of fruitcake soaking wet." Still, the film placed seventh on Film Daily's year-end nationwide poll of 542 critics naming the best films of 1939.
According to MGM records, during the film's initial release, it earned $2,048,000 in the US and Canada and $969,000 in other countries throughout the world, for total earnings of $3,017,000. However, its high production cost, plus the costs of marketing, distribution, and other services, resulted in a loss of $1,145,000 for the studio. It did not show what MGM considered a profit until a 1949 re-release earned an additional $1.5 million (about $16 million today). For all the risks and cost MGM undertook to produce the film, it was certainly more successful than anyone expected. Christopher Finch, author of the Judy Garland biography Rainbow: The Stormy Life of Judy Garland, wrote: "Fantasy is always a risk at the box office. The film had been enormously successful as a book, and it had also been a major stage hit, but previous attempts to bring it to the screen had been dismal failures." He also wrote that after the film's success, Garland signed a new contract with MGM giving her a substantial increase in salary, making her one of the top ten box office stars in the United States.
The film was also re-released domestically in 1955. Subsequent re-releases between 1989 and 2019 have grossed $25,173,032 worldwide, for a total worldwide gross of $29,690,032.
Roger Ebert chose it as one of his Great Films, writing that "The Wizard of Oz has a wonderful surface of comedy and music, special effects and excitement, but we still watch it six decades later because its underlying story penetrates straight to the deepest insecurities of childhood, stirs them and then reassures them."
In his 2002 critique of the film for the British Film Institute, author Salman Rushdie acknowledged its effect on him, noting "The Wizard of Oz was my very first literary influence" . In Step Across This Line, he wrote: "When I first saw The Wizard of Oz, it made a writer of me." His first short story, written at the age of 10, was titled "Over the Rainbow".
“...the entire Munchkinland sequence, from Dorothy's arrival in Oz to her departure on the yellow brick road, has to be one of the greatest in cinema history – a masterpiece of set design, costuming, choreography, music, lyrics, storytelling, and sheer imagination."
On the film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, The Wizard of Oz has a 98% rating based on 117 reviews, with an average score of 9.4/10. Its critical consensus reads, "An absolute masterpiece whose groundbreaking visuals and deft storytelling are still every bit as resonant, The Wizard of Oz is a must-see film for young and old." At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film received the maximum score of 100 out of 100, based on 4 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim", which, as of March 2020, is matched only by eight other films.
Awards and honors
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient||Outcome|
|Academy Awards||February 29, 1940||Best Picture||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Cedric Gibbons and William A. Horning|
|Best Effects, Special Effects||A. Arnold Gillespie and Douglas Shearer|
|Best Music, Original Score||Herbert Stothart||Won|
|Best Music, Original Song||"Over the Rainbow"|
Music by Harold Arlen; Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
|Academy Juvenile Award||Judy Garland
For her outstanding performance as a screen juvenile during the past year. (She was jointly awarded for her performances in Babes in Arms and The Wizard of Oz).
American Film Institute lists
The American Film Institute (AFI) has compiled various lists which include this film or its elements.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – No. 6
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – No. 43
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains:
- Wicked Witch of the West – No. 4 villain
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." (Dorothy Gale) – No. 4
- "There's no place like home." (Dorothy) – No. 23
- "I'll get you, my pretty – and your little dog, too!" (Wicked Witch of the West) – No. 99
- AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals – No. 3
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – No. 26
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – No. 10
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – No. 1 Fantasy film
- 1989: The film was one of the inaugural group of 25 films added to the National Film Registry list.
- 1999: Rolling Stone's 100 Maverick Movies – No. 20.
- 1999: Entertainment Weekly's 100 Greatest Films – No. 32.
- 2000: The Village Voice's 100 Best Films of the 20th Century – No. 14.
- 2002: Sight & Sound's Greatest Film Poll of Directors – No. 41.
- 2005: Total Film's 100 Greatest Films – No. 83.
- 2005: The British Film Institute ranked it second on its list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14, after Spirited Away.
- 2006: The film placed 86th on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
- 2007: It topped Total Film's 23 Weirdest Films.
- 2007: The film was listed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.
- 2007: The Observer ranked the film's songs and music at the top of its list of 50 greatest film soundtracks.
- 2020: The British Film Institute changed its list to “50 films to see by age 15–UPDATED” calling Oz “The most wonderful of musicals”
Differences from the novel
Among the many dramatic differences between the film and the novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, are the era (1900); the character of Dorothy Gale, who is not given an age in the novel but depicted as much younger than Judy Garland in the illustrations; and the magic slippers, which are Silver Shoes.
We are not told the Tin Woodman's rather gruesome backstory in the film. He started off a human being and kept lopping off bits of himself by accident. Baum's Oz is divided into regions where people dress in the same color. Munchkins, for example, all wear blue. Obviously this did not lend itself to the brilliant palette that was the hallmark of Technicolor films at the time.
Dorothy's adventures in the book last much longer, and take her and her friends to more places in Oz, where they meet interesting characters. In the end, her friends are invited to rule different areas of Oz.
In some cases—including the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Munchkins (in style if not color), Dorothy's long pigtails and the unusual Oz noses—the film's designers were clearly inspired by the book's illustrations by William Wallace Denslow. In others, including the costumes for the witches, good and bad, they created their own visions. The Wicked Witch of the West has green skin in the film and dresses in black, while the book describes her as having one eye and has Boq explain that "only witches and sorceresses wear white" and "white is the witch color", but combining it with Munchkin blue indicates that Dorothy is a "friendly witch". The illustrations show her wearing light-colored clothing and an eye patch. The book describes the good witch and two Munchkins who greet her as all about as tall as a well-grown child like Dorothy, and the illustrations generally depict denizens of Oz as Dorothy's height; it was the film that made short stature a trait of Munchkins in particular.
Sequels and reinterpretations
In 1975, a comic book adaptation of the film titled MGM's Marvelous Wizard of Oz was released. It was the first co-production between DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Marvel planned a series of sequels based on the subsequent novels. The first, The Marvelous Land of Oz, was published later that year. The next, The Marvelous Ozma of Oz was expected to be released the following year but never came to be.
In 1985, Walt Disney Productions released the live-action fantasy film Return to Oz, starring Fairuza Balk in her film debut as a young Dorothy Gale and based on The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904) and Ozma of Oz (1907). With a darker story, it fared poorly with critics unfamiliar with the Oz books and was not successful at the box office, although it has since become a popular cult film, with many considering it a more loyal and faithful adaptation of what L. Frank Baum envisioned.
The Broadway play Wicked premiered in 2003, and is based on the film and original novel. It has since gone on to become the second-highest grossing Broadway play of all time, and won three Tony Awards, seven Drama Desk Awards, and a Grammy Award.
An animated film called Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz was released in 2011 by Warner Home Video, incorporating Tom and Jerry into the story as Dorothy's "protectors". A sequel titled Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz was released on DVD on June 21, 2016.
In 2013, Walt Disney Pictures released a spiritual prequel titled Oz the Great and Powerful. It was directed by Sam Raimi and starred James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. It was the second film based on Baum's Oz series to be produced by Disney, after Return to Oz. It was a commercial success but received a mixed reception from critics.
In 2014, independent film company Clarius Entertainment released a big-budget animated musical film, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, which follows Dorothy's second trip to Oz. The film fared poorly at the box office and was received negatively by critics, largely for its plot and unmemorable musical numbers.
According to the US Library of Congress exhibition The Wizard of Oz: an American Fairy Tale (2010):
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is America's greatest and best-loved home-grown fairytale. The first totally American fantasy for children, it is one of the most-read children's books ... Despite its many particularly American attributes, including a wizard from Omaha, [the 1939 film adaptation] has universal appeal... Because of its many television showings between 1956 and 1974, it has been seen by more viewers than any other movie”.
Because of their iconic stature, the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the film are now among the most treasured and valuable film memorabilia in movie history. Dorothy actually wore Silver Shoes in the book series, but the color was changed to ruby to take advantage of the new Technicolor process. Adrian, MGM's chief costume designer, was responsible for the final design. Five known pairs of the slippers exist. Another, differently styled pair, not used in the film, was sold at auction by actress Debbie Reynolds for $510,000 (not including the buyer's premium) in June 2011.
Theme park attractions
The Wizard of Oz has a presence at the Disney Parks and Resorts. The film has its own scene at the Disney Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort, and is also represented in miniature at Disneyland and at Disneyland Paris as part of the Storybook Land Canal Boats attraction in Fantasyland.
- Dark Side of the Rainbow
- Friend of Dorothy
- Political interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- Wizard of Oz festival
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John Fricke, a historian who has written books about The Wizard of Oz, said that MGM executives arranged advance screenings in a handful of small communities to find out how audiences would respond to the musical adventure, which cost nearly $3 million to produce. Fricke said he believes the first showings were on the 11th, one day before Oconomowoc's preview, on Cape Cod in Dennis, Massachusetts, and in another southeastern Wisconsin community, Kenosha.
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Oconomowoc's Strand Theatre was one of three small-town movie theaters across the country where "Oz" premiered in the days prior to its official Hollywood opening on Aug. 15, 1939 ... It's possible that one of the other two test sites – Kenosha and the Cape Cinema in Dennis, Massachusetts – screened the film a day earlier, but Oconomowoc is the only one to lay claim and embrace the world premiere as its own.
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