Driving the Sudeten Germans out of Schönbach and Graslitz: A déjà-vu of violin-making history
The Great Depression did major damage to the export-orientated production of musical instruments, and then the National Socialists' policy of autarky exacerbated the situation further. In 1939, orders were given to found an “association of Vogtland and Sudeten German makers of stringed instruments” — a mandatory consortium which represented the region's final cross-border enterprise before WWII ended the 200 or so years of Bohemian-Saxonian violin-making history. After the war, some 12,000 Germans were expelled from the region and, in a kind of historical déjà-vu, they took their art with them.
As was the case during the Counter-Reformation, this wave of deportations led to the development of a new centre of musical-instrument production. After attempts to create a joint settlement in Mittenwald failed due to the heated resistance of local violin makers, the majority of the people in Schönbach then found a new home in Bubenreuth in 1949. They turned the Franconian village into a rapidly blossoming musical venue; soon other former masters and merchants from Markneukirchen, among them Ernst Heinrich Roth, relocated there as well because they no longer had entrepreneurial horizons in the German Democratic Republic.
Schönbach, which was known as Luby from then on, remained a city of instrument building despite this second round of figurative blood-letting. It developed independently of Markneukirchen; the historical link across the border had dissolved. The few German violinmakers who had remained in Luby were joined by specialists from other towns in Czechoslovakia. They primarily worked for the production cooperative “Cremona,” which formed the basis for “Strunal AG” after the Velvet Revolution. Some of today's violinmakers in Luby attribute the city's new name to “luba,” the Czech word for the rib of a violin. And with its turbulent history, why should Luby not be a city – perhaps the only one – in which violin making is quite literally part of the name?
Recommended reading (in German): Kurt Kauert, Vogtländisch-westböhmischer Geigenbau in fünf Jahrhunderten. Entstehung – Standorte – Strukturen. Verlag der Kunst, Dresden 2006. 156 pages, multiple images. ISBN 978-3-86530-079-9.