USA backs post-WWII Czech actions

13-07-2000

On Wednesday the United States confirmed the validity of the post-World War Two actions of Czechoslovakia, the most controversial of which was the expulsion of Czechoslovakia's Sudeten German population. The Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion, have long been a point of tension between Czechs and Germans, and now the United States government has made an important ruling. Linda Mastalir has the details.

Czechoslovakia's pre-war president, Edvard Benes, speaking just months before his country was carved up under the Munich Agreement. Less than a year later Czechoslovakia was occupied by Nazi Germany. When the war ended in 1945, however, there was immediate retribution against Czechoslovakia's two and half million Sudeten Germans. Those who hadn't fled were expelled, the expulsions sanctioned under decrees issued by Benes. German-owned property was confiscated by the Czechoslovak state.

Prague has finally gained protection against potential political pressures from Germany - but the reassurance comes not from Berlin, but from across the Atlantic, from the US capital, Washington. On Wednesday the United States confirmed the validity of the post-war Benes decrees that saw thousands of Germans exiled from their homes in Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. More specifically, the United States expressed its agreement with the property confiscation conducted by President Benes' government. Decree #108 of the Benes Decrees allowed for the confiscation of Sudeten German property in retaliation for the damage caused by the Nazis.

Jiri Sitler of the Czech Republic's Foreign Ministry has been in charge of the Czech campaign for assurance. In an interview for the Czech press, Sitler said, "We wanted the American government to confirm that as a result of the German-American agreement, Germany will not have the right to makes demands for compensations against the Czech Republic. That was confirmed for us." In recent years, the Czech Republic and interest groups in Germany fighting for property compensation have been at odds. The property taken from Germans after their flight from Czechoslovakia was nationalized, and occupied by new Czech and Slovak settlers.

The American government also issued a statement in which it expressed its pleasure at the fact that Germany recently confirmed its commitment to not complicate Czech-German relations by raising politically sensitive historical issues. On the same token, in the interest of good relations, the Czech Republic has refused to collect reparation payments from Germany. The reparation payments for the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia were set at 20 million US dollars.

As part of the agreement between the United States and Germany, Washington has also agreed to stop collecting reparation payments from Berlin, thus putting World War Two even farther into the past.

13-07-2000