A new photography exhibition that gets underway in Prague on Thursday takes a novel approach to one of the thornier subjects in modern Czech history: the massacres that took place during the expulsion of millions Germans at the end of WWII. Photographer Lukáš Houdek has reconstructed some of those actual events – using Barbie and Ken dolls. Ahead of the opening of The Art of Killing, Houdek told me about how he prepared for the unusual project.
The first ever direct presidential election brought renewed focus on a trauma that continues to haunt Czech society even sixty years after it occurred. The forced deportations of some three million Germans from Czechoslovakia after the end of WWII still divide Czech society, as does the historical role of Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš, who sanctioned the move.
The final days of campaigning before the weekend's presidential election were marked by a bitter row over the postwar Benes decrees that legitimised the expulsion of three and a half million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia. Certainly 'the German card' appears to have played a role, if not a decisive one, in the election of Milos Zeman over Karel Schwarzenberg - an aristocrat who spent four decades living in Austria and whose Austrian wife doesn't speak Czech. Mr Zeman's campaign rhetoric has upset some in neighbouring Germany and Austria - but
The campaign ahead of the Czech presidential election’s second round has heated up following remarks by one of the candidates, Karel Schwarzenberg, about the so-called Beneš decrees. Mr Schwarzenberg’s denouncement of the post-war legislation which sanctioned the expulsions of ethnic Germans prompted an attack by his rival for the post, Miloš Zeman. The outgoing president Václav Klaus, has also weighed in, openly criticizing Mr Schwarzenberg’s position.
President Václav Klaus has condemned the presidential candidate Karel Schwarzenberg for his criticism of the Beneš decrees. The president told an online news server novinky.cz on Saturday evening that he cannot forgive the foreign minister for doubting the post-World War Two "settlement" instituted by president Eduard Beneš. Mr Schwarzenberg said in a presidential debate on Thursday that the deportation of Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of the war would be considered a gross violation of human rights by today's standards. Responding to the president's statement, the presidential candidate said he feels the matter of the Beneš decrees to have been settled, and that nobody's property is at stake. Mr Schwarzenberg thus refered to Mr Klaus's long-term efforts to prevent descendants of Sudeten Germans from making claims on Czech land and property.
The two presidential candidates - Miloš Zeman and Karel Schwarzenberg - faced off in a second televized debate on Friday evening, this time on the private Prima Family channel. The atmosphere was more laid back than in the Czech Television debate the night before, but candidates took the opportunity to take stabs at each other. Mr Zeman came back to the issue of the Beneš decrees and the expulsion of Sudeten Germans at the end of World War two, which Mr Schwarzenberg described on Thurdsay as a gross violation of human rights according to today’s standards. The former prime minister strongly retorted in the Friday debate that describing a former Czechoslovak president as a war criminal is not presidential. According to some polls, Mr Zeman has been gaining more ground over his opponent in the last week, after the two finished less than a percentage point apart in the first round of the elections.
Most political commentators have agreed that the Thursday night debate on Czech Television between the two presidential candidates – Karel Schwarzenberg and Miloš Zeman – ended in a draw. Mr Zeman tried attacking his opponent on a number of issues including his stance on the recent presidential amnesty, his opinion of the deportation of Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of World War Two, and the mistakes the foreign minister makes when speaking Czech. Mr Schwarzenberg fended off the criticism without changing his previously held positions on the issues. The candidates are scheduled to appear in two more televised debates and one more radio debate before Czechs vote in the second round of the presidential election next Friday.
Czech police have closed their enquiry into the alleged post-war murder of 16 ethnic Germans near Dobronín in the area of Jihlava, Czech Radio reported Thursday. Human remains were uncovered in the Budínka and U Viaduktu localities near Dobronín more than two years ago in a mass grave. Anthropologists said the bodies of at least 13 people, between the ages of 30 to 60, were buried there. The cause of their death remains unclear but according to some sources, they were killed by assailants with shovels and other tools in a rampage of violence that erupted against local Germans after the end of World War II. The police are not commenting the enquiry in detail and have stressed that only those linked to the case will be acquainted with the results. Those are to be translated into German and sent to 20 or so surviving relatives.
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
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