Former foes soothe old war wounds

Germans and Czechs apologise after 60 years. Adrian Bridge reports

Czech government officials yesterday confirmed that after two years' negotiation, agreement had been reached with Germany on a declaration aimed at drawing a line under one of the last pieces of unfinished business dating back to the war: the Sudeten German issue.

Foreign ministry officials in Prague said that the Czechs had agreed to express regret over "injustices" that took place during the mass expulsion of more than 2.5 million Sudeten Germans after the war.

German officials confirmed that Bonn was prepared to apologise for the injustices suffered by the Czechs under the Nazis and to admit that the Nazi occupation, which began with Hitler's annexation of the largely German-speaking Sudetenland in 1938, laid the foundation for the subsequent expulsions.

"The German side ... is aware of the fact that the National Socialist policy of violence against the Czech people helped to create the basis for the post-war escape, expulsion and forced resettlement [of the Sudeten Germans]," states the declaration, which is set to be initialled next week and formally signed by the Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Prague early next year.

"The Czech side is sorry," the document continues, "that by the post- war expulsion, as well as by the forced resettlement of Sudeten Germans from then Czechoslovakia, by expropriating and revoking citizenship, much suffering and injustice was caused to innocent people."

The mutual apologies come almost 60 years after the infamous Munich Pact that ceded the Sudetenland to Hitler in a bid to satisfy his territorial ambitions, and more than 50 years after the decrees which authorised the expulsion and often violent hounding of Sudeten Germans out of their homes.

The Germans are long used to apologising for actions done in Hitler's name. And, alongside the words, Bonn has pledged some 140m marks for a Czech-German Future Fund, a key aim of which will be to compensate Czech victims of Nazism.

For the Czechs, however, it is a novel experience. Under Communism, the legitimacy of the expulsions - accompanied by mob-style lynchings - was never questioned, and even today many Czechs feel they were totally justified, given what had gone before.

Despite the apology the declaration makes it clear that the validity of the expulsions will not be questioned and there will be no question of compensation for those who were expelled.

"Unlike the Germans we are only just beginning to digest our past," said Adam Cerny, a commentator on the weekly Tydenik. "But while we can now bring ourselves to say sorry for some aspects of the expulsions, we could never accept a reversal of their legal validity."

Representatives of the expelled Sudeten Germans, most of whom settled in Bavaria, have fought to have the decrees declared illegal. They yesterday dismissed the declaration and vowed to continue their fight for "justice" and the right to return to their former homeland. Although most of the expellees are now dead, annual Sudeten German rallies in Nuremberg attract crowds of more than 100,000 and the groups remain an important political force in Bavaria.

Most Czechs and Germans, however, hope the declaration will pave the way to a genuine reconciliation. Looking ahead, the document stresses Bonn's whole-hearted support for the Czech Republic's bid to joinNato and the European Union.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine