A stone monument was revealed on Sunday to honour the memory of 23 people who were killed in the aftermath of the Second World War near the town of Teplice nad Metuji in East Bohemia. Senior Czech politicians and representatives of Sudeten Germans attended the ceremony which wasn't without controversy. Pavla Horakova has the details.
Several hundred people both from the Czech Republic and Germany gathered in woods close to Teplice nad Metuji to commemorate the victims of the tragedy and raise a cross of reconciliation. Fifty-seven years ago, two months after the end of the Second World War, 22 Germans and 1 Czech woman were killed during the process of expelling ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia. Those 23 people were shot dead in a nearby forest by a Czechoslovak armed unit in charge of the town, but the case was never properly investigated and those responsible were never punished. The tragedy has haunted the region ever since, some locals say, and that was one of the reasons why they decided to put up the memorial. Petr Kulisek was one of the organisers of the event.
"I'm sure some people still feel a certain internal conflict and we want to make clear that now we can start from scratch. We shall not forget what happened but it's important to go forward and not return to the conflict. The events of 1945 offered us the opportunity to make this friendly gesture. In the middle ages there used to be this nice custom that whenever some kind of conflict was over, a cross of reconciliation was erected."
The ceremony was attended by the chairmen of both houses of Czech parliament, Petr Pithart and Lubomir Zaoralek, who both said that what happened in Teplice nad Metuji was a direct consequence of a terrible war and not a state-controlled action. The leader of the Sudeten Germans Association Bernd Posselt said in a speech that the ceremony was not an opportunity for historical and political discussion.
"Totalitarian ideologies, expulsion and murder are sins," Mr Posselt said, "just like attempts to whitewash them."
Not everybody in the region seems to like the idea of a Czech-German reconciliation monument and the mayor of Teplice nad Metuji, Vera Vitova, says she faced threats over the sculpture. Opponents have argued the cross points only at the collective guilt on the part of the Czechs. A local military history club therefore revealed their own memorial close to the reconciliation cross, reading "To the memory of those forgotten in the reconciliation."
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