Original Munich agreement to go on display in Prague next month

29-09-2008

This Tuesday marks exactly 70 years since the signing of the Munich agreement, under which Czechoslovakia’s German-speaking territories were sliced off and handed to Hitler. The document was signed on September 30, 1938 by Britain, Germany, Italy and France. Just a week ago, Germany unexpectedly agreed to loan the original version of the document to the Czech Republic. It will go on display at Prague’s National Museum as part of a large exhibition commemorating 90 years since the foundation of Czechoslovakia. Ruth Fraňková spoke with the museum’s historian Marek Junek, who says talks with Germany on borrowing the treaty lasted nearly a year:

Marek JunekMarek Junek “When we met for the first time, they said that the document has never been abroad. They didn’t know the concept of our exhibition and they were afraid that we would display the agreement in a negative way. But after a few meetings they finally agreed to loan the agreement to the Czech Republic.”

A copy of the original Munich agreement on display in the Czech SenateA copy of the original Munich agreement on display in the Czech Senate How did you persuade them to loan the agreement to Prague?

“The first argument was that this is not an exhibition about the Munich agreement but about the First Czechoslovak Republic and that the Munich events are just a part of the whole exhibition. We also promised to display the document in circumstances that will be historically objective.”

What about the other versions, the British, French and Italian?

A copy of the original Munich agreement on display in the Czech SenateA copy of the original Munich agreement on display in the Czech Senate “The Munich agreement was signed only in German and English versions so the original documents are in Berlin and London. Our colleagues from the government archives in London have already promised to lend us the document. The French and Italian versions are copies that were translated soon after the Munich meeting but they are not original pieces of the agreement.

A copy of the original Munich agreement on display in the Czech SenateA copy of the original Munich agreement on display in the Czech Senate “We would of course like to exhibit all four pieces of the agreement but our French colleagues had lost the document during the WWII are they now trying to find it. Our Italian colleagues didn’t want to loan us the treaty at first but they changed their mind when they found out that the Germans agreed with the loan.”

Finally, how important is it for the National Museum to have the Munich agreement exhibited?

“I think it is very important because the document will be part of the exhibition about the Czechoslovak Republic founded in 1918 and it is a very important part of our history.”

The original copies of the Munich agreement will be on display at the National Museum between October 28 and March 15. In the mean-time, a copy of the document went on show at the Czech Senate on Sunday.

29-09-2008