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.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, may have surprised everyone with his new condition for signing the Lisbon treaty, but here in the Czech Republic the argument that the treaty may undermine the country’s post-war Beneš decrees is not altogether new. Such rhetoric was used by several Eurosceptic parties in the run-up to this summer’s elections to the European Parliament. Many pundits agree that President Klaus has brought up a sensitive subject by suggesting Lisbon could open the door to German property claims. Earlier today, I spoke to political
The Freedom Train commemorating the 20th anniversary of the departure of thousands of East Germans to West Germany from the then Czechoslovakia left Prague’s main railway station on Thursday morning. The train will retrace the historic journey with a group of former East German refugees on board. This time around it will stop at stations in what was the former communist German Democratic Republic before arriving in the Bavarian border town of Hof. Thousands of East Germans camped out in the grounds of the West German embassy in Prague in the autumn of 1989 before being given permission to leave for the West on September 30, 1989.
The Freedom Train commemorating the escape of thousands of East Germans to West Germany via Prague in the autumn of 1989, arrived in the Czech capital on Wednesday. September 30 marks 20 years since thousands of refugees, camping on the premises of West German embassy in Prague, were allowed to emigrate to the West. The Freedom Train will leave for Bavaria on Thursday retracing the historic journey, with a group of former East German refugees.
Two decades ago the attention of the world’s media was on the West German Embassy in a normally quiet corner of Prague, where thousands of East Germans were living in a makeshift camp, desperate to escape from communism. On the 30th of September, 1989 the then West German foreign minister made a dramatic announcement: those refugees were free to emigrate to the West.
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The history of the “German Czechs”