Efforts to commemorate ethnic Germans murdered by Czechs during a wave of post-war expulsions have frequently led to heated debate in this country. One such controversy is the subject of Jan Gebert’s debut documentary Stone Games, which follows a vocal campaign by a group of locals to remove a monument to eight Sudeten Germans killed in the north Bohemian town of Nový Bor in 1945. The protesters are led by an eccentric would-be politician – and their cause attracts the attention of national figures, including now presidential candidate Miloš
President Václav Klaus on Thursday concludes a three-day state visit to Austria. During his trip, the Czech president met with the Austrian president and prime minister, launched a Czech-Austrian business forum and visited the Austrian Parliament. But his last visit to the neighbouring country as the Czech head of state did little to improve the strained relations between the two countries.
German President Joachim Gauck arrived on Wednesday for a one-day working
visit in the Czech Republic, the first in his capacity as president. On
Wednesday morning, he met with his Czech counterpart Václav Klaus at
Prague Castle and later with Prime Minister Petr Nečas. After his meeting
with Mr Klaus, the German president praised Czech-German relations as the
best they had ever been. On Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by President
Klaus, he travelled to Lidice - a village which the Nazis razed to the
ground in 1942 in retaliation for the assassination of Nazi governor
Reinhard Heydrich. In Lidice, all 173 men were executed, women and
were sent to concentration camps, while some of the children were selected
for re-education in Germany. After the war, only 143 women and 17 children
returned to the country.
The visit to Lidice was on the agenda at the German president’s request and he became the first German head-of-state to visit the site of the village. Mr Gauck laid wreaths at the graves of those killed in the massacre and at the Lidice memorial.
The European Parliament will open a discussion on the so-called “Beneš decrees”, which resulted in the expulsion of the Czechoslovak German and Hungarian populations and the seizure of their property after WWII. The discussion will be based on a Hungarian petition against the 2007 decision of the Slovak National Council declaring that the decrees are immutable. The parliament has asked Bratislava to send delegates to explain the circumstances around the declaration, which some Hungarian and other MEPs have called discriminatory. The Czech parliament issued a similar declaration in 2002.
Remains of twelve ethnic Germans were put to rest on Saturday in the city of Jihlava in the Vysočina region. The remains were taken from a mass grave two years ago in the Budínka field near the town of Dobronín. The mass grave allegedly contains the remains of victims of the “revolutionary guards”, murdered in the final month of World War II. The service at the St. Jacob’s Church in Jihlava was attended by approximately 200 people and was led in German by reverend Dieter Lang. Reverend Lang, whose own family comes from the Vysočina region, called for reconciliation between Czechs and Germans in his sermon. In May and June of 1945, some Czech towns and villages saw spontaneous violent acts committed by the Czech-speaking population against ethnic German residents. Between 1945 and 1947, three million ethnic Germans and Hungarians were forced to leave Czechoslovakia by the government, based on the so-called Beneš Decrees. It is still unkown how many ethnic Germans perished as a result of the deportation and sporatic violence that took place in the wake of the Allies‘ victory.
For a few weeks in the late summer of 1989, Prague became the scene of a bizarre – and now largely forgotten - refugee crisis. It had all begun in the spring, when Hungary had declared its decision to take down the barbed wire on its borders with Austria. A growing number of East Germans, desperate at the suffocating lack of reform in their country, took advantage of this new gap in the Iron Curtain as a way of fleeing to the West. But smuggling themselves into Austria was an uncertain business, and before long, they started seeking refuge at the
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.
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