Czech police investigation names two responsible for June 1945 murder of Sudeten Germans

02-06-2009

One of the darkest chapters in modern Czech history has just been reopened, with the news that police in north Bohemia have named two men responsible for the killing of Sudeten Germans in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Though the alleged culprits are long dead, some have welcomed the fact that the matter has finally been investigated.

Detectives in Žatec say a Czechoslovak army officer named Vojtěch Černý ordered the killing by firing squad of five Sudeten Germans aged 12 to 15 who had tried to escape from a holding camp in Postoloprty in June 1945. A policeman called Bohuslav Marek is believed responsible for three other murders, the news website aktualne.cz reported.

These events took place in the so-called “wild”, initial phase of the mass expulsion of an estimated three million Germans after the war.

Investigator Pavel Karas told aktualne.cz that he believed the two were very likely also to blame for other killings. Over 750 Germans were executed at Postoloprty, after being forced to dig their own mass graves. It is regarded as the country’s biggest massacre in the post-war period.

Officer Karas said the then penal code did not include the crime of genocide; if it had done, he would have accused the two of that rather than murder. His was the third attempt to get to the bottom of what happened, after two previous investigations were shelved.

Postoloprty barracksPostoloprty barracks Many of his conclusions were based on testimonies given by Černý and Marek to a parliamentary commission in 1947, which found that no crimes had been committed.

Historian Matěj Spurný is involved with a group called AntiKomplex, who believe that Czechs need to come to terms more with the part played by ethnic Germans in their country’s past. Spurný says the new revelations are not actually that new at all.

“Actually I don’t understand it really. Because as a historian I have known all the names maybe 10 years, and this whole record is known by historians. Also parts have been published for maybe 15 years by Tomáš Staněk in his books.

“I think it’s OK, I’m glad to read that the police are also interested in the case and that they now somehow officially said that a crime was committed. That’s actually the information and it is important information.

“But the information about the people isn’t – these are all things which are quite well known.”

But don’t you think that it represents at least some progress when the Czech authorities have at least publicly named the guilty parties in this massacre?

“Yes. I welcome it, it’s a small step which can be important. And I also feel there is generational change…also a generational change in politics. There are people in politics who actually are quite critical of the things that happened here after the war.”

Generally how do you think Czech society today views that period immediately after the war when the Sudeten Germans were expelled?

“Nowadays I think that most people would say that some bad things happened. Most people wouldn’t say that the transfer, the expulsion, of the Germans was bad, and that it was, that it is a problem.

“But most know that many bad things happened to the Germans. And that is progress, that is different from, let’s say, 15 or 20 years ago.

“There is also a big difference between the generations. The younger generation of course is somehow not so interested…but if you ask younger people, they mostly are more critical of this period and the problematic things that happened directly after the war.”

02-06-2009