Borderlands are fascinating areas where cultures either meet and intermingle, or in some cases are cordoned off to coldly stare at one another. The Czech/German/Austrian tri-border has experienced both. Over the last century it went from being an imaginary line through the woods to a literal Iron Curtain and back again. What’s emerging here today is a cross-cultural region deep in the Bohemian Forest National Park.
President Václav Klaus says the displacement of Sudeten Germans after WWII was the logical conclusion of a tragic period of Czech history. Speaking at an event marking the 70th anniversary of the Nazi annihilation of the village of Ležáky, President Klaus said that Czechs have long been asked to forget the horrors of the war for friendship’s sake and to share the guilt for atrocities committed. While countering a claim that he was hostile to Germany, Klaus said he could not, must not and did not want to forget what happened in Bohemia and elsewhere in Europe during the war.
In the heart of Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood is Rixdorf, an area that is also known as the Bohemian Village. The settlement originated in the first half of the 18th century, under the auspices of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I., who welcomed Bohemian Protestant refugees into his empire. In the Habsburg Empire, they had been banned from exercising their faith. We recently visited this fascinating area of Berlin and talked to Cordelia Pollina, the director of the Bohemian Museum, which is devoted to the history of this neighborhood.
German President Joachim Gauck said in a letter to Czech counterpart
Václav Klaus on Friday that Germany was aware of its historical
responsibility for massacres at the Czech villages of Lidice and Ležáky
during World War II. Mr Gauck wrote the letter ahead of the 70th
anniversary of the destruction of Lidice and Ležáky by the Nazis in
retaliation for the assassination of acting Reichsprotector of Bohemia and
Moravia Reinhard Heydrich on May 27, 1942. Heydrich succumbed to wounds
suffered in the attack which was orchestrated by Czech paratroopers.
As a result, Lidice, in Central Bohemia, was obliterated on June 10 and Ležáky, East Bohemia, was burnt to the ground on June 24. In Lidice alone, all 173 men were executed, while most women and children were sent to concentration camps. Some of the children were selected for re-education in Nazi Germany. In his letter, German President Gauck wrote that the despicable acts in Lidice and Ležáky filled him with “deep sorrow and shame”, but cited positive ties between Germany and the Czech Republic today as reason for hope. In response, Václav Klaus thanked his German counterpart, saying that he considered the letter a strong statement and positive gesture.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has addressed a statement from Sudeten Germans, who said at the weekend that they expect "a considerable breakthrough" in relations with the Czech government. In an interview for the German news agency DPA, Mr Schwarzenberg said he wasn’t sure what they expected, but that they may want an official apology for the expulsion of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia at the close of WWII. The late president Václav Havel expressed regret for the acts in 1990. Mr Schwarzenberg said he was not fond of empty gestures and that real cooperation between Sudeten Germans and Czechs was the most important thing. Decrees issued at the end of WWII allowed about 2.5 million ethnic Germans to be transferred from the country and their property confiscated.
Franz Pany, the head of the Sudetengerman group Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, has slammed Czech President Václav Klaus at the group’s annual gathering on Sunday. He said that the Czech head of state had a contrarian attitude toward Germany and Europe. Good sense, realism and an openness for mutual understanding needed to return to Prague castle, he added. On Saturday, the group had honored the Czech-born writer Max Mannheimer, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, with its Karl IV. prize.
The Sudetengerman group Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, which on Saturday
kicked off its annual meeting in Nuremberg, has awarded the writer and
painter Max Mannheimer, who was born in Czechoslovakia, with its Karl IV.
prize. The 92-year-old Mannheimer, who was born in Nový Jičín, is a
Jewish Holocaust survivor. He said in his acceptance speech that he felt no
hatred towards either the Czech or the German nation for what he had
The award is meant to honor contributions to the Czech-German dialogue and good relations between both countries as well as people who fight against extremism and intolerance.
Bernd Posselt, the head of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, the main
interest group of Sudetengerman expellees, is pushing for a more direct
dialogue between the Sudetengerman minority and the Czech government. Mr.
Posselt urged German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to bring up the
Sudetengermans’ call for more direct communication with the Czech
government during his working visit to Prague on Tuesday. Mr. Posselt also
called on the German government to discuss all matters that concern
Czech-German relations with the Sudetengerman Lanndsmannschaft ahead of
discussing them with Prague.
Mr. Westerwelle is travelling to Prague on the occasion of the 20-year-anniversary of the signing of the Czech-German Declaration on Mutual Relations and Their Future. Since its signature, Czech-German relations have improved significantly, with both countries now stating that ties between the two states have never been stronger.
The European Court of Human Rights denounced the Czech state for having denied a fair trial to František Oldřich Kinský, an Austrian aristocrat who sued the country over his property claims. The court said that Mr Kinský, who passed away nearly three years ago, had been subjected to abusive treatment by the Czech authorities when he sued to get back family property worth around 40 billion crowns.
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