Bavarian leader demands discussion of Sudetenland Germans

11th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Bavarian Prime Minister Guenther Beckstein has called on the Czech government to consider the claims of ethnic Germans expelled in 1945

Nuremberg -- Bavarian Prime Minister Guenther Beckstein has called for  dialogue with the Czech government to resolve outstanding issues related to the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II.

For this to happen, "Prague had to face up to the chapter of history relating to the expulsions," he claimed at a rally of the Sudeten German Association in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg.

"Concealment will not resolve the problem. A lasting reconciliation is possible only on the basis of the historical truth," Beckstein said at the gathering attended by around 8,000 mostly elderly expellees.

Beckstein shared the view of Sudeten leaders that Prague might be willing to discuss the issue, but said the "difficult conditions of government" at the moment made a breakthrough unlikely.

He said obstacles on the path to reconciliation were the decrees proclaimed by the late president Edvard Benes that led to the confiscation of German property and the deportation of more than 2 million Sudeten Germans, who were accused of being Nazi collaborators.

Another impediment was a law that granted immunity from prosecution to those who committed crimes during the expulsion, Beckstein said.

Many died in the brutal expulsion and hundreds of thousands later settled in Germany and Austria where they and their descendants still live, preserving their dialect and folk customs.

Beckstein said one of Bavaria's goals was to strengthen relations with the Czech Republic, with which it shares a common border. "This will not always be easy but it is a necessary task," he said.

The Czech government, meanwhile, dampened the hopes of the Sudeten Germans for an early dialogue, saying it saw no need for such discussions.

"There is no change in our position. If the Sudeten Germans see things differently it might be linked to a change in their relationship to the Czech Republic," foreign ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova was quoted as saying by the Czech news agency CTK.

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler forced Czechoslovakia to cede its western Sudetenland region to Germany in 1938, saying German speakers were being persecuted there.  The occupation was a pretext for the full scale invasion of Czechoslovakia a few months later.

After the war, the seized territory was restored to Czechoslovakia, but the postwar expulsions under the Benes Decrees, which have never been repealed, remain a sore point for many Germans.

Germany still has an active political movement aimed at claiming reparations for the forced expulsions, whilst some extreme groups still demand a recognition of formerly German-speaking areas of Poland and the Czech Republic as part of Germany. DPA/Expatica

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