Sudeten Germans to open Prague office amid dispute over post-war expulsion

25-03-2002

The dispute over the post-war expulsion of two and a half million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia was reinvigorated on Sunday, after the head of the Landsmannschaft - the largest organisation representing Sudeten Germans - appeared on a Czech TV discussion programme. Landsmannschaft chairman Bernt Posselt confirmed that plans were underfoot to open an office in Prague, a delicate announcement given the simmering dispute over the post-war expulsion and possible compensation. Earlier my colleague Rob Cameron spoke to the BBC's Petr Brod, a Czech journalist who has spent many years in Germany, and he began by asking him what the majority of Sudeten Germans really wanted from the Czech government.

Logo of Sudeten LandsmannschaftLogo of Sudeten Landsmannschaft "I think many Sudeten Germans would like to hear from the Czech Republic that the Czech government and the Czech parliament regret the fact of the expulsion of Sudeten Germans after the war, that they regret that this took place, that they consider it a crime against humanity, and that they are willing to make some kind of amends. It's however very difficult to say whether a majority of the Sudeten Germans now really expect such a gesture from the Czech Republic because it's very difficult to canvass the opinion of the Sudeten Germans. There is no way to conduct a poll among Sudeten Germans only, and for the time being we have to be content with the declarations of the official "roof" organisation of all the Sudeten German organisations, and that's the Landsmannschaft - an organisation which tends to put forward radical demands towards the Czech government and I don't think that a majority of the Sudeten Germans would really support all of these demands."

Bernd Posselt, photo CTKBernd Posselt, photo CTK Well as you say the largest one, the Landsmannschaft, the head of that organisation, Bernt Posselt, said at the weekend that there were plans to open an office in Prague. Seeing as there has been so much rhetoric recently, and that the dispute over the Benes decrees has reared its ugly head once again, do you think it was the right time to make that announcement?

"It's not really a new announcement. It's one in a series of announcements that have been spread over the last three years or so. The Landsmannschaft has been saying that it intends to open a representation in Prague for such a long time that I really wonder whether they are really going to go ahead with it now. And I think one of their concerns is about security, which I understand, because that representation, when it happens, will be opened in a rather hostile environment."

Indeed. Of course Mr Posselt also issued an apology for the sins of the Nazi regime. Do you think that apology will be enough to satisfy his critics in the Czech Republic?

"I don't think so. And it was immediately visible in the reactions of the Czech politicians that Czech Television interviewed during the lengthy conversation with Bernt Posselt. I think those reactions were fairly representative of the general public view."

The BBC's Petr Brod, speaking there to my colleague Rob Cameron on the lingering dispute over the post-war expulsion of Czechoslovakia's Sudeten Germans.

25-03-2002