Reconciliation project organiser: Sudetens returning impossible so why not try friendship?

A group of young Czechs are currently raising funding to bring now elderly Germans expelled from the Czech lands after WWII to Prague in November for events including a concert and an exhibition. Unlikely as it may sound, they also want to highlight friendships between expelled Germans and the Czechs who today live in their former homes. I discussed the project with one of its initiators, Vlaďka Vojtíšková of Smíření (Reconciliation) 2016.

Expulsion of Sudeten Germans, photo: Sudetendeutsches Archiv / Creative Commons 1.0 GenericExpulsion of Sudeten Germans, photo: Sudetendeutsches Archiv / Creative Commons 1.0 Generic “I got the idea to organise something for those Germans when I was studying in Dresden six years ago.

“I met expelled Germans there and heard their stories and since then we have been friends, we have been visiting each other.

“Those people are now 70 or 80 years old.

“It was always in my mind to do something for them because it seemed to me that it was a little bit of a taboo in Czech society.

“At least among politicians, it can still serve as a factor of fear – that the Sudeten Germans will come back and they will take back houses in the border regions.

“I wanted so show that the young generation in the Czech Republic sees it differently – at least part of the young generation.”

You are inviting these people to Prague. Did they previously, prior to the end of WWII, live here in Prague?

“Among the people who will come to the concert there might be some from Prague, but most of them will probably come from different regions.

“Prague is such a big city that there wasn’t so much cohesion among the people, so it is now difficult to find people directly from Prague.

“But people from small cities are now more in contact with local representatives, in smaller towns.”

I was also reading that you want to highlight relationships between [Czech] people who live in the former homes of those who were expelled and the original German inhabitants, with whom they stay in touch. Is this really the case? Are people in contact with the previous German owners of their homes?

'Zmizelé Sudety' exhibition, photo: archive of Radio Prague'Zmizelé Sudety' exhibition, photo: archive of Radio Prague “Yes, there are families that are in contact.

“The exhibition will be prepared by the organisation, which has prepared different exhibitions in the past. One was very well known – it was called Zmizelé Sudety [Disappeared Sudetenland].

“They found people who have good contacts; they met them and did interviews with them.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s common that the people who are now living in the houses have good contacts with the expellees.

“But there are such examples. And we wanted to show those examples, because now people don’t have to fear that the Sudetens will come back and take the houses back.

“That’s out of the question, so there’s no reason not to have good friendships with them.”

Generally, what is the reaction to activities like this in the Czech Republic? I guess it’s probably fair to say that your position on the Sudeten Germans is a minority position.

“I think it is changing. I’ve seen reactions to our project that were negative, that were saying, The Sudeten Germans supported Hitler so it was our right to expel them for the things they did during WWII.

“Certainly there are those reactions, but there are also positive reactions.

“People say, Thank you for this, I really support it – I think it’s a good project.

“Definitely among the young generation the stance on this question is changing.”