Czech government makes apology to German anti-fascists

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Aug 29 15:05:33 UTC 2005

Czech government makes apology to German anti-fascists
Biel/ Bienne, Thursday, 25 August 2005 by Peter Josika

Yesterday the Czech government officially announced an apology towards
German anti-fascists in Prague.  The gesture only applies to people of
German ethnicity that supported the Czechoslovak state before and after
the Munich agreement of 1938. It contains a formal apology for their
mistreatment after the War and the implementation of a research and
information campaign. However, there will be no financial compensation for
any of the victims.

The Czech state will invest about CZK 30 million (1 million euro) into a
research and information campaign aiming to honour and raise general
awareness about German anti-fascists. The public has been invited to
forward the names of individual Sudeten Germans who fall into this
pre-defined category. The gesture equally applies to remaining members of
the German minority as well as expelled Sudeten Germans. Both the German
minority, represented by the Council of Germans in Bohemia, Moravia and
Silesia, as well as post-War expellees living in Germany, represented by
the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft of Germany, welcomed what they called a
first step in the right direction. The gesture was also applauded by all
Czech government parties as well as the opposition Communists. Only the
conservative Civic Democratic Party (ODS)  criticised it.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, former leader and founder of the ODS,
compared the gesture initiated by Prime Minister Paroubek and his
government to opening a Pandoras box. He said that the difficult chapter
of Czech-German history was closed with the Czech-German agreement of
1998. Historians and experts know that such a group of anti-fascists can
hardly be defined anyway, concluded Mr Klaus.

Many elderly members of the German minority are disappointed that the
gesture does not contain any financial compensation for their suffering.
Many had to perform forced labour between the years 1945 and 1952 and were
subject to confiscations and the loss of citizenship enacted by the
infamous Benes decrees.  They have never been compensated for the labour,
nor can they count those years towards an often meagre old age pension.
Their hopes to receive at least an increase in their pensions as part of
the government measures were dashed with the yesterdays announcement.

Some members of the German minority also hoped for cultural compensation
in the form of bilingual signs and bilingual education, particularly in
those areas where Germans formed the majority until 1945. However, the
gesture does not contain a word on the protection of German heritage in
the Czech Republic. The Sudeten German Landsmannschaft of Austria
criticised the Czech gesture for being an artificial division of Sudeten

The definition of anti-fascist is the most difficult and controversial
part of the gesture. Many Sudeten Germans felt repressed by an
increasingly centralist and anti-German climate in inter-War
Czechoslovakia and did not identify with the state. Some did not support
the Czechoslovak state, but were still engaged in anti-Nazi resistance.
Thousands of Germans, many of them socialists and Catholics, assisted Jews
or other victims of Nazism in various ways, often endangering their own
lives. However it seems that the majority of those Germans will not now be
honoured and that many will remain vilified for not fighting for the
re-establishment of Czechoslovakia. (Eurolang 2005)

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