German President Joachim Gauck on Wednesday concludes his official three-day visit to the Czech Republic. Together with his host, Czech President Miloš Zeman, Mr Gauck paid homage to the victims of Nazism at the former concentration camp in Terezín. But he also recalled the fate of millions of ethnic Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War.
The German president, Joachim Gauck, visited the former WWII ghetto and concentration camp at Terezín in central Bohemia on Tuesday afternoon. He was accompanied by his Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman, who said Mr. Gauck’s visit followed logically from his 2012 visit to Lidice. The German head of state viewed the small fortress at Terezín, which the Prague Gestapo used as a prison. Around 155,000 people, almost all of the Jewish, passed through Terezín in the course of the war; nearly 120,000 died, around 35,000 of them at Terezín itself. Prague’s Rabbi Karel Sidon, who brought Tuesday’s memorial ceremony to a close, said he regarded Mr. Gauck’s visit not as a mere gesture but an expression of interest. The German head of state is on a three-day state visit to the Czech Republic.
The German occupation of the Czech lands was the sad culmination of the two nations’ coexistence, the German president, Joachim Gauck, said in Prague on Tuesday. Speaking to students at Charles University on the second day of a state visit, Mr. Gauck said the post-war expulsion of ethnic Germans had been the final act of that drama. He praised the work of young Czech academics and others in exploring that subject, and commended the Czech recognition of Sudeten German resisters in 2005.
Justice Minister Helena Válkova has apologized for making an insensitive statement relating to WWII events. In an interview for the news site Echo 24 Mrs. Válkova strongly condemned the post-war expulsion of 2.5 million Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia, saying that while the expulsion was in response to what had taken place before, nothing much had happened to Czechs under the protectorate. The statement sparked a storm of protests from opposition MPs. The center-right TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats said the words were an insult to the thousands of Jews who had suffered and died in concentration camps and a slight to the memory of the victims of Lidice and Ležáky, two villages raised to the ground by the Nazis. Mrs. Válkova explained in a statement that she had uttered the phrase as a comparison to what had happened in Poland or the former Soviet Union and said she should have expressed herself more clearly.
On a working visit to Germany, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on
Friday paid homage to 677 Czech Nazi resistence fighters who were executed
in the Plotzensee jailhouse. Laying a wreath at the Plotzensee Memorial
Centre the prime minister said it was important that the heroic deeds of
resistance fighters should not be forgotten. Almost 3,000 executions were
conducted in the Plotzensee jailhouse between 1933 and 1945.
The Czech prime minister is on a two-day working visit to Germany, his first since taking office. His talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top officials on Thursday focused on bilateral ties, European integration and the crisis in Ukraine. The Czech prime minister also visited the Volkswagen headquarters in Wolfsburg; the German firm owns the Czech carmaker Škoda Auto.
The coalition Christian Democrats have announced they last month held talks with representatives of the Sudendeutsche Landsmannschaft, an organisation associating ethnic Germans expelled from post-war Czechoslovakia. In a statement, the Christian Democrats said that party leader and deputy prime minister Pavel Bělobrádek, Culture Minister Daniel Herman and other party officials met with four Landsmannschaft officials to discuss cooperation between the Czech Republic and the German state of Baden-Württemberg, particularly in the area of science and research.
Descendants of Jan Antonín Baťa -founder of the successful shoe-making empire - have asked Slovakia for millions of euros in compensation for property confiscated under the Beneš Decrees in 1947. The move comes following Baťa’s rehabilitation by Slovakia's courts and a decision to scrap the validity of the 1947 verdict which found him guilty of collaboration with Nazi Germany. The Czechoslovak shoe manufacturer set up four industrial centres in Slovakia and invested in hotels, spa resorts, and real estate. Baťa’s descendants have staked a similar claim in the Czech Republic where they are demanding 56 million crowns in compensation for confiscated property.
Lukáš Houdek is a man of varied interests. As well as being a photographer who has explored the post-war massacres of Czechoslovakia’s ethnic Germans, he is co-curator of an exhibition entitled Transgender Me that gets underway in Prague on Monday. In addition, Houdek, a Romani Studies graduate, writes for a leading Roma affairs website; indeed, for much of our interview I was under the mistaken impression that he himself was a member of the ethnic minority.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Wednesday criticized President Miloš Zeman over his remarks over the post-war expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia. During his visit to Austria, Mr Zeman on Tuesday said the expulsion of around three million Germans was justified as 90 percent of them had voted for a Nazi party. He also suggested that for collaborators with an occupying power, the expulsion was less severe punishment than death penalty. Speaking in Prague on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nečas said the president should adopt a more measured tone, and realize that “we live in 2013 and are members of the EU”.
In a historic address to the Bavarian Parliament on Thursday Prime Minister Petr Nečas expressed regret over the post-war expulsion of millions of Sudeten Germans. He said the principle of collective guilt applied at the end of the war was an injustice that hurt thousands of innocent people, people who had significantly contributed to the economic and cultural development of the border region, but he made it clear that there could be no question of abolishing the Beneš decrees or making property claims relating to the expulsions. Very few wrongs of the past are ever corrected, the Czech prime minister noted. Mr. Nečas who is the first Czech prime minister ever to address the Bavarian Parliament, highlighted the common cultural heritage of Bavarians and Czechs expressing the hope that their common roots would help the two sides overcome the sensitive issues of the past and focus on their future in Europe.
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