Mercedes Dietrichstein: We just want justice

Mercedes Dietrichstein, photo: CTK

The south Moravian town of Mikulov, located just on the Austrian border, was for many centuries the seat of the aristocratic family of the Dietrichsteins. After the Second World War, Mikulov chateau together with the rest of the family property was confiscated by the state. Ever since the fall of communism, Mercedes Dietrichstein, who was born in Mikulov and lives in Buenos Aires, has fought to get the family estates back. But last week, a court in nearby Břeclav dismissed the claim. Radio Prague spoke to Mercedes Dietrichstein and asked her how she felt about the verdict.

“I think it’s the first step; it doesn’t mean it’s forever. We will continue fighting for justice, and I think that in some years, perhaps we’ll have better luck.”

The court highlighted the fact that your father, whose property was confiscated in 1946 on the basis of the Beneš decrees, was a member of the German party, the Sudetendeutsche Partei. How do you want to go about this because that seems to be the core of the case?

Mercedes Dietrichstein,  photo: CTK
“I think it’s a big confusion. I had never heard about that. [The respective documents] were written in different handwriting, so we don’t know yet whether it’s true or not. But it’s probably not, because my father was never in any Sudeten German party, which I’ve heard from many people, even from those who were involved, and they knew he was never a member of anything helping the Sudeten Germans. But we’ll see.”

I understand you are going to appeal the verdict. Are you going to bring any new evidence to support your claim?

“We’ll see. We will appeal, and we will see what we can do.”

Do you feel you have been given a fair trial in Břeclav?

“Yes, we were given a fair trial.”

It seems the whole issue comes down inevitably to the Beneš decrees. Do you think that this might perhaps be too big an obstacle?

“The only thing I can say is I think that the Beneš decrees at the time, in 1946, probably made sense. Now we are very far away; times have changed all around the world, so why can’t we make peace between Germans and Czechs? We were together for so long… I don’t know. In any case, were not Sudeten Germans; we lived here for 400 years, and it’s really my home there. So I hope that with time, the Beneš decrees will get lighter. I don’t think they will ever go away, but if we can prove my father was no Nazi, it could be very important. We’ll see.”

Do you know how people in Mikulov feel about your claims?

“I think they are divided. Some people wouldn’t mind that at all and they think we could really do something for the town, you know, as my family has always done. We do it in Argentina – why shouldn’t we do it here. My mother put a lot of money in Mikulov; she sold part of her property to invest in Mikulov. That shows how much interest my family had in Mikulov, and I would prefer to help here if I could; our plan was always that. But then there are probably people who wouldn’t like it.”

Many people could be wondering what would happen to the chateau in Mikulov in case you win the case and the property returns to you. Do you have any specific plans?

Mikulov chateau,  photo: CzechTourism
“I don’t think anything would change greatly. We would probably want to live in some rooms there but the museum would stay, and many things that are working perfectly well – why shouldn’t they continue. Nobody wants to disturb anybody, nobody wants to destroy anything, and nobody wants to take away things that are functioning well. We would just like some justice. But not aggressively, not against any individuals. That is absolutely not our plan.”