Deputy PM Bělobrádek emphasises friendly relations during Sudeten congress visit

Pavel Bělobrádek, Bernd Posselt, photo: CTK

On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek became the highest Czech official ever to attend the annual Sudeten German congress in Bavaria. It was the 68th such meeting of the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft, an organisation of German Czechoslovaks expelled after the Second World War.

Pavel Bělobrádek,  Bernd Posselt,  photo: CTK
The fate of the roughly three million Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia following the defeat of Nazi Germany has been a sore spot in Czech-German relations for decades.

Over the weekend, Czech Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek attended a congress of the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft in the Bavarian city of Augsburg. Also in attendance was his fellow Christian Democrat, Culture Minister Daniel Herman, who made the same trip last year.

The Landsmannschaft has existed since the 1950s, and seeks a Czech repudiation of the Beneš Decrees – an order by then President Edvard Beneš which led to the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia.

During his visit, Pavel Bělobrádek stated that he had neither come to apologise nor to foster reconciliation. Rather, he said, he was simply there to accept an invite. However, he did add that never again in history should people be expelled from their homes because of their nationality, religion or ethnic origins. And that meant, Bělobrádek continued, both the 1946 expulsion and the 1938 one, when Czechs had to flee the Sudeten areas after the Munich Agreement ceded Czechoslovak territory to Nazi Germany.

Expulsion of Sudeten Germans,  photo: Bundesarchiv,  Bild 146-1985-021-09 / CC-BY-SA
But former Civic Democrat MEP Ivo Strejček expressed opposition to the Czech participation:

“This association of Sudeten compatriots is not a partner of the Czech government. The federal government of Angela Merkel is the partner of the Czech government. The Sudeten Germans and the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft have an interest in having the Czech government take part, and thus rise to the level of formal relations between the Czech government and the Landsmannschaft – and with that to lay the groundwork for who knows what...”

Meanwhile Culture Minister Herman emphasised a less-known aspect of the former German community in Czechoslovakia:

“There was a far from insignificant number of Czechoslovak Germans – from Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia – who actively fought against Hitler. And after the war they met the same fate as those who had collaborated. Of course it is true that the collaborators represented the majority. But there were also those who were brave enough to resist [the Nazis] and I admire them for doing so.”

Daniel Herman,  photo: Martin Svozílek
During his visit Bělobrádek also met with Bernd Posselt, chairman of the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft, who saluted the two Czech officials for their “enormous bravery” in attending. In recent years, the Sudeten organisation has softened its line regarding compensation for the expulsion. The Czech side, too, has been working towards the process of reconciliation, beginning in 1989 with future Czechoslovak president Václav Havel talking of the need to “apologise” for an “evil” act of revenge, but also stating that this did not mean that expelled Germans should be permitted to return.