The head of Germany’s biggest and most important region, Bavaria, is making a landmark visit to the Czech Republic. The two-day trip by minister president Horst Seehofer is the first ever being made by a Bavarian premier to its neighbour since the end of WWII. While relations have been complicated by recent history, this visit is putting the accent on the present and future.
Czech film director David Vondráček is to receive a prize for his film “Zabíjení po česku,” which roughly translates as “Killing Czech style” in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sunday. The Franz Werfel Human Rights Prize has been awarded by the German foundation, the Centre Against Expulsions. The film deals with Czech murders of German civilians at the end of WWII. In particular it concentrates on the murder of 763 civilians by members of the Czech army and revolutionary guards at the town of Postoloprty in the north of the country. The film was screened in prime time by Czech Television.
German President Christian Wulff told the Czech Press Agency on Friday that Germans must never forget the “indescribable suffering” they inflicted upon Czechs during the Second World War. In an interview ahead of his first trip to Prague on Monday, President Wulff said that even he, who was born 14 years after the war, shares responsibility for that history, which he must pass on to the next generations. The comments were in response to others made by his Czech counterpart, Václav Klaus, signalled his frustration that the dimensions and chronology of the occupation are being forgotten, in a speech to mark the Czech student resistance on Wednesday’s national holiday. Post-war Czech violence on Germans, Mr Klaus reminded, was incomparably smaller than the violence committed by the Nazis in the occupied countries. Mr Wulff also said he would like to pay respect in Prague to the Czech intellectuals and students who were sent to Nazi concentration camps on November 17, 1939.
Speaking at an event on Wednesday commemorating the students’ 1939 resistance to Nazi rule, Czech President Václav Klaus stressed that Czech violence committed against Germans following the end of the war was incomparable to atrocities committed by the Nazis. The president called it frustrating that - in his view - the true dimensions and chronology of the historic events were being forgotten, and said that while it was not possible to be proud of what some fellow citizens did in the post-war period, it was, in his words, “a far cry” from what had taken place in Nazi-occupied areas, prisons and concentration camps.
Czechoslovakia was one of the first victims of the Nazis, with the march into the Sudetenland in I938 followed by the occupation of the rest of the country in March 1939 and an increasingly oppressive regime for most of the population. The backlash at the end of WWII was harsh and violent. And that backlash against the Nazi occupiers, Sudeten Germans and Czechs believed to have collaborated in some way is the subject of US historian Benjamin Frommer’s book “National Cleansing: Retribution against Nazi Collaborators in Postwar Czechoslovakia.”
The first German speakers settled in the Czech lands in the 13th century, and in the interwar period there were around three million ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. That changed completely after World War II, when almost all of them were forcibly expelled from the country. Now, however, their history is being reclaimed – with plans to open the first museum in the Czech Republic dedicated to the country’s former German minority.
What do Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler and Ferdinand Porsche have in common? Most of us would assume that these well-known personalities were all born in Germany or Austria, but all of them, in fact, started life in what is now the Czech Republic. You won't find that much written about them in Czech schoolbooks however - they're not really regarded by Czechs as ' one of us'. But a new exhibition in Prague is trying to change that.
Meanwhile, the leader of the displaced Sudeten Germans, Bernd Posselt, welcomed the efforts of the Czech authorities to cast light on crimes relating to the displacement. In a statement to the press, Mr Posselt also called upon Prime Minister Nečas to support investigations into post-war offences and annul so-called impunity laws that sanctioned numerous offences again German civilians in the aftermath of the war.
A gruesome find has made headlines in the Czech Republic: police have uncovered human remains in what appears to be a mass grave in a field near the village of Dobronin, in the Jihlava region. Fifteen Germans are said to have been brutally murdered there by the locals in the turbulent days after the end of World War II. The discovery is the first piece of evidence pertaining to this long-forgotten massacre and has once again re-opened a dark chapter of Czech-German history.
Sixty-five years ago on August 2, the Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš published the Beneš decrees, one of the most important and most controversial chapters in Czech history. The Beneš decrees declared that German and Hungarian minorities living in Czechoslovakia were to be stripped of their Czechoslovak citizenship if they had acquired German or Hungarian citizenship. Historians believe that those decrees furnished the basis for the expulsion of some three million Germans and 80,000 Hungarians from Czechoslovak lands in the 1940s. After the Velvet Revolution, the Beneš decrees became a frequent topic of discussion in Czech-German and Czech-Austrian relations. In 1997, the Czech Republic and Germany signed the Czech-German declaration of mutual relations. Both countries apologized for the wrong they had done and pledged to respect each others’ legitimacy.