Far-right group protests against Sudeten Germans in Prague

09-05-2007

Events were held around the country on Tuesday, remembering Czechs who fell in World War II. But the focus was also on a chapter from Czechoslovakia's post-war history, with a small right wing group marching through Prague in support of the expulsion of the country's ethnic Germans.

Bernd Posselt symbolicaly expelled by Czech extremists, photo: Jan RichterBernd Posselt symbolicaly expelled by Czech extremists, photo: Jan Richter 'The expulsion was right', shouted about 30 members and sympathizers of the small far-right National Party during their march in Prague on Tuesday. Ironically, the protest began on Franz Kafka Square in the Old Town, named after the German speaking Prague Jewish writer who would probably not have matched the group's criteria for a Czech national.

After crossing the Charles Bridge and pushing their way through some bewildered sightseers and visitors, the march ended in Tomasska Street in Mala Strana, the home of the Czech office of the Sudeten German Association, or Landsmannschaft. Michael, a new National Party member who refused to share his full name, explained why the march was being held.

March against Sudeten Germans on Charles Bridge, photo: Jan RichterMarch against Sudeten Germans on Charles Bridge, photo: Jan Richter "We are in this street because we would like to show that the German Association is against Czech interests, because they are trying to reconsider the results of the WWII and they are trying to change history. That is the main reason why we are here."

The marching protesters were holding a rope forming a symbolic train wagon. In the middle of the wagon walked the major villain in the eyes of the National Party, Bernd Posselt. Mr Posselt, the head of the Sudeten German Association and MEP, was represented by a person with his hands bound behind his back and a box with Posselt's photograph on his head. Symbolic train tickets were also issued to other "enemies" of the far-right group, including former president Vaclav Havel, ministers Martin Bursik, Karel Schwarzenberg and Petr Gandalovic. I asked Mr Posselt how he felt about it.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK "If you see who was expelled yesterday, it was not only me and the Sudeten Germans; it was half of the Czech government. The symbol also included the founder of the modern democratic Czech Republic Vaclav Havel so I think it was an honour for me to be expelled together with these people. This shows that we as Europeans and democrats have to work together against these extremists."

Although the National Party, known for its xenophobic attitudes towards foreigners and minorities, only received over 9 000 votes, or 0.17 %, in the last parliamentary elections of 2006, their views of the Sudeten Germans and their expulsion is shared by many. According to a 2005 survey by the STEM institute, 75 % of Czechs consider the post-war expulsions to be justified.

Does Mr. Posselt see a possibility of the extremist agenda being adopted by mainstream Czech politics and diminishing the chances for dialogue between Czechs and Sudeten Germans?

"I always had good relations with the foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and I have good relations with some members of the present government. The problem is that these good relations were not used to take steps forward, to make the atmosphere better. This is what we have to do in the next months; we have to create a better atmosphere. And it is possible, I think."

09-05-2007