Czechoslovakia was one of the first victims of the Nazis, with the march into the Sudetenland in I938 followed by the occupation of the rest of the country in March 1939 and an increasingly oppressive regime for most of the population. The backlash at the end of WWII was harsh and violent. And that backlash against the Nazi occupiers, Sudeten Germans and Czechs believed to have collaborated in some way is the subject of US historian Benjamin Frommer’s book “National Cleansing: Retribution against Nazi Collaborators in Postwar Czechoslovakia.”
The first German speakers settled in the Czech lands in the 13th century, and in the interwar period there were around three million ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia. That changed completely after World War II, when almost all of them were forcibly expelled from the country. Now, however, their history is being reclaimed – with plans to open the first museum in the Czech Republic dedicated to the country’s former German minority.
What do Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler and Ferdinand Porsche have in common? Most of us would assume that these well-known personalities were all born in Germany or Austria, but all of them, in fact, started life in what is now the Czech Republic. You won't find that much written about them in Czech schoolbooks however - they're not really regarded by Czechs as ' one of us'. But a new exhibition in Prague is trying to change that.
Meanwhile, the leader of the displaced Sudeten Germans, Bernd Posselt, welcomed the efforts of the Czech authorities to cast light on crimes relating to the displacement. In a statement to the press, Mr Posselt also called upon Prime Minister Nečas to support investigations into post-war offences and annul so-called impunity laws that sanctioned numerous offences again German civilians in the aftermath of the war.
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
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