It is entirely up to the Czech Republic whether it will see fit to scrap
the post-war Benes decrees, the head of the Sudeten German Homeland
Association (Sudeten German Landsmannschaft ), Berndt Posselt said on
Friday on the eve of the association’s annual meeting. Mr. Posselt said
that he personally hoped to see the decrees scrapped one day. The said
decrees sanctioned the expulsion of Sudeten Germans and Hungarians from
Czechoslovakia after World War II and the confiscation of their property.
The leader of the Czech Christian Democratic Party, Pavel Bělobrádek, will attend the meeting of the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft together with Culture Minister Daniel Herman. MPs from the Communist Party have criticized the decision describing it as a “provocation” at a time when Czechs will be marking the anniversary of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich and the atrocities that followed.
A Prague court of appeal has rejected a property claim by Ernst Waldstein-Wartenberg pertaining to real estate in Prague’s prestigious Lesser Town. The buildings in Malá Strana and Hradčany were confiscated by the state on the grounds of the Benes decrees. The court of appeal upheld an earlier ruling by a Prague district court, according to which the claimant failed to meet the requirements of the law on restitution.
The 66th Sudeten German Congress began in Augsburg, Bavaria, on Saturday with improved relations between Germany and the Czech Republic at the forefront of discussions. No mention was made of the Beneš Decrees, which controversially expelled around 3 million Germans, mostly living in the Sudetenland, from Czechoslovakia after WWII. German Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Emilia Müller said the Sudeten community, many of whom live in Bavaria, could be a foundation stone for improved German-Czech relations. She praised the resolution by Brno’s Council last week expressing regret for the expulsion of Germans to Austria in 1945. Around 1700 are believed to have died on a forced march out of the Czech city
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has rejected an appeal by Bavarian Social Affairs Minister Emilia Müller for Prague to consider rescinding the Beneš decrees which sanctioned the post-war expulsion of 2.5 million Sudeten Germans from the border areas of Czechoslovakia. Ms. Müller said at a meeting of the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft that the decrees were unjust and have no place in the European legal order. The Czech prime minister countered that this painful chapter of Czech-German history had been addressed in the 1997 Czech-German declaration and the Czech government had no reason to question the validity of the decrees or reopen painful issues relating to WWII.
A court in Brno on Thursday rejected an appeal by Mercedes Dietrichstein who demanded the return of her former family property confiscated after WWII on the basis of the so-called Beneš decrees. Ms Dietrichstein sued several public institutions which now own the property including the chateau in Mikulov but a court in Břeclav rejected the lawsuit three years ago. For several centuries, the Dietrichsteins were one of the most significant aristocratic families in Moravia. Their property was confiscated after the Second World War as Ms Dietrichstein’s father was a member of the pro-Nazi Sudetendeutsche Partei. In a separate lawsuit against the town of Mikulov, Mercedes Dietrichstein has asked for the return of her family crypt and other property located in the town. A court in Břeclav is scheduled to hear the case in November.
Descendants of Jan Antonín Baťa -founder of the successful shoe-making empire - have asked Slovakia for millions of euros in compensation for property confiscated under the Beneš Decrees in 1947. The move comes following Baťa’s rehabilitation by Slovakia's courts and a decision to scrap the validity of the 1947 verdict which found him guilty of collaboration with Nazi Germany. The Czechoslovak shoe manufacturer set up four industrial centres in Slovakia and invested in hotels, spa resorts, and real estate. Baťa’s descendants have staked a similar claim in the Czech Republic where they are demanding 56 million crowns in compensation for confiscated property.
In a historic address to the Bavarian Parliament on Thursday Prime Minister Petr Nečas expressed regret over the post-war expulsion of millions of Sudeten Germans. He said the principle of collective guilt applied at the end of the war was an injustice that hurt thousands of innocent people, people who had significantly contributed to the economic and cultural development of the border region, but he made it clear that there could be no question of abolishing the Beneš decrees or making property claims relating to the expulsions. Very few wrongs of the past are ever corrected, the Czech prime minister noted. Mr. Nečas who is the first Czech prime minister ever to address the Bavarian Parliament, highlighted the common cultural heritage of Bavarians and Czechs expressing the hope that their common roots would help the two sides overcome the sensitive issues of the past and focus on their future in Europe.
A new photography exhibition that gets underway in Prague on Thursday takes a novel approach to one of the thornier subjects in modern Czech history: the massacres that took place during the expulsion of millions Germans at the end of WWII. Photographer Lukáš Houdek has reconstructed some of those actual events – using Barbie and Ken dolls. Ahead of the opening of The Art of Killing, Houdek told me about how he prepared for the unusual project.
The first ever direct presidential election brought renewed focus on a trauma that continues to haunt Czech society even sixty years after it occurred. The forced deportations of some three million Germans from Czechoslovakia after the end of WWII still divide Czech society, as does the historical role of Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš, who sanctioned the move.