In May 1945, millions of Czechs could breath freely again after six years of Nazi occupation. The German defeat brought about the end of the Nazi rule of terror, and the re-establishment of Czechoslovakia. But for thousands of ethnic Germans, the end of the war meant the beginning of a new ordeal. They were expelled from the country, and many of them were killed during the first day of peace. In this edition of Czech Today, Radio Prague talks to Marie Ranzenhoferová, who survived one of the violent expulsions, known today as the Brno death
The south Moravian town of Mikulov, located just on the Austrian border, was for many centuries the seat of the aristocratic family of the Dietrichsteins. After the Second World War, Mikulov chateau together with the rest of the family property was confiscated by the state. Ever since the fall of communism, Mercedes Dietrichstein, who was born in Mikulov and lives in Buenos Aires, has fought to get the family estates back. But last week, a court in nearby Břeclav dismissed the claim. Radio Prague spoke to Mercedes Dietrichstein and asked her how
A regional court has rejected Mercedes Dietrichstein’s claim to extensive family property in Mikulov, Moravia. The property was confiscated in 1946 on the grounds of the Benes decrees, which sanctioned the post-war expulsion of close to three million Germans from Czechoslovakia and the confiscation of their property. A lawyer representing the state argued that the confiscation had been legally justified since Mrs. Dietrichstein’s father had been a German national and a member of the SdP and NSDAP.
Public broadcaster Czech TV will screen a documentary film on Thursday entitled Zabíjení po česku, or ‘Killings Czech style’. It features unique footage of a massacre of over 40 ethnic Germans that took place in Prague in May, 1945, shortly after the end of the war. The authors say they want to draw attention to the atrocities committed on German civilians in post-war Czechoslovakia, though some historians believe this particular murder was carried out by Soviet troops.
German journalist and historian Andreas Wiedemann is the author of a book about the resettlement of the Sudetenland following the expulsion of the German population at the end of World War II. The title translates from German as ‛Come with us to the borderland: resettlement and new settlers in the former Sudetenland 1945-1952.’ Unlike the expulsion, the resettlement has been given scant coverage although the consequences still scar large parts of the country. I asked him why he seized upon the subject.
The Austrian president, Heinz Fischer, has lashed out against the Beneš
decrees, legislation that sanctioned the expulsion and confiscation of
property of some 2.5 million ethnic Germans from post-war Czechoslovakia.
In an open letter to the Sudeten German Landsmanschaft in Austria,
President Fischer said the decrees had been a gross injustice imposed on
the Sudeten German community in post-war Czechoslovakia, and should not be
sanctioned by the European Union. He said he would fight for human rights
to be respected within and outside Austria’s borders and firmly believed
that the chance of justice being done in the present day EU was far greater
than it had been in 20th century Europe.
After the fall of communism politicians in Austria and Germany called for the decrees to be revoked, opening the way for compensation claims. President Vaclav Klaus tried to block this possibility when he demanded an opt-out from the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights before signing the Lisbon Treaty late last year. In reaction to the letter, President Klaus said it was essential that the opt-out should be approved as soon as possible.
The novel “Peníze od Hitlera” (Money from Hitler), is one of the best Czech books I’ve read for a long time, and luckily for English-speaking readers, it has just been published in an excellent English translation by Women’s Press in Toronto. When it first appeared in Czech over three years ago, Money from Hitler caused quite a stir; it won the prestigious Magnesia Litera award, but Czech critics remained divided. Perhaps this is no surprise. The author, 41-year-old Radka Denemarková, chose one of the most sensitive and painful episodes of modern
President Václav Klaus said he wanted an opt-out from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to shield Czech courts from European law, mentioning in particular the prospect of property claims from Sudeten Germans – ethnic Germans who were expelled en masse from what was then Czechoslovakia after the war. But not everyone in the Czech Republic shares Mr Klaus’s concerns, in fact some organisations highlight the country’s German heritage as a positive thing. Rob Cameron visited the former Sudeten city of Ústí nad Labem, and spoke to Ondřej Matějka
EU Commissioner Günther Verheugen has said that the EU will have to deal
with the condition Czech President Václav Klaus set down for ratifying
Lisbon treaty. Mr Verheugen told the German radio station Deutschlandfunk
on Sunday that heads of governments of EU members states will have to see
if and how the condition could be met.
The Czech president announced earlier this month he would not finalize the treaty’s ratification unless the Czech Republic is granted an opt-out concerning possible property claims from ethnic Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia. However, Commissioner Verheugen said he did not believe the EU’s reform document could lead to that. Mr Verheugen, who is German, also blamed Bavaria’s Christian Social Union party for keeping the issue of the expulsion alive.
Meanwhile, the Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico, told Czech TV on Sunday that his country might push for an opt-out similar to that pursued by President Klaus. Mr Fico said his government would decide depending on whether the Czech demand is successful.
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