A gruesome find has made headlines in the Czech Republic: police have uncovered human remains in what appears to be a mass grave in a field near the village of Dobronin, in the Jihlava region. Fifteen Germans are said to have been brutally murdered there by the locals in the turbulent days after the end of World War II. The discovery is the first piece of evidence pertaining to this long-forgotten massacre and has once again re-opened a dark chapter of Czech-German history.
Sixty-five years ago on August 2, the Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš published the Beneš decrees, one of the most important and most controversial chapters in Czech history. The Beneš decrees declared that German and Hungarian minorities living in Czechoslovakia were to be stripped of their Czechoslovak citizenship if they had acquired German or Hungarian citizenship. Historians believe that those decrees furnished the basis for the expulsion of some three million Germans and 80,000 Hungarians from Czechoslovak lands in the 1940s. After the Velvet Revolution, the Beneš decrees became a frequent topic of discussion in Czech-German and Czech-Austrian relations. In 1997, the Czech Republic and Germany signed the Czech-German declaration of mutual relations. Both countries apologized for the wrong they had done and pledged to respect each others’ legitimacy.
A Czech noble has weighed into ongoing talks about whether the Czech state should sell one of Prague’s Baroque architectural masterpieces to its current tenants: the German embassy. For the Germans, the building is more than a 17th century architectural jewel, it is also part of their recent history.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told the Austrian daily Die Presse on Sunday that the post-war Beneš decrees, which legalized the expulsion of around three million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia, could not be abolished. Mr Schwarzenberg admitted however the decrees were a breach of human rights, but could not be lifted retroactively. The Czech foreign minister also said it was not necessary for the Czech Parliament to pass a resolution about the decrees as a symbol of reconciliation but that the Czech society was engaged in a public debate about sensitive issues in recent Czech history.
Contrary to popular belief, the legendary 15th century Czech military leader Jan Žižka allegedly fought alongside the Teutonic Knights against the Poles in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, a representative of the order told the daily Lidové noviny on Thursday. Žižka, who later became the leader of the Hussite army fighting against the Catholics in the Czech lands and beyond, was hired as a mercenary, the order’s representative said, citing archive documents. Most Czech historians believe that Jan Žižka did take part in the battle, but on the side of the Poles against the German knights; some point out however that Bohemian and Moravian mercenaries fought on both sides.
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.
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