Sunday, 20 April 2014

President Zeman defends expulsion of Sudeten Germans

24 April 2013

Vienna, April 23 (CTK) - Czech President Milos Zeman repeated in an interview for the APA Austrian press agency yesterday his previous opinion that the postwar transfer of Sudeten Germans from then Czechoslovakia was a more moderate punishment for their high treason than death penalty.

However, he praised the "10 percent" of Sudeten Germans who stood up against Hitler's policy.

The Sudeten Germans were transferred under the decrees signed by Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes. They provided for the confiscation of the property of collaborators, traitors, ethnic Germans and Hungarians, except for those who themselves suffered under the Nazis. They also formed a basis for the transfer of the two ethnic groups from Czechoslovakia after the war.

Gerhard Zeihsel, Sudeten Germans' top representative in Austria, however, dismissed the opinion that the German minority in Czechoslovakia was guilty of the Nazi occupation of the Czech Lands in 1939 and he came out against Zeman dividing the Sudeten Germans into the good and the bad ones.

Zeman, who arrived for a two-day visit to Austria yesterday, defended in an interview he gave APA before the journey his statement for magazine Profil in 2002, in which he said many Sudeten Germans committed high treason and that their transfer was more moderate than death penalty.

"If someone were a citizen of a country and they collaborated with a state that occupied their country, then the transfer is more moderate than, for instance, death penalty," APA quoted Zeman as saying.

He said before the war "90 percent of Sudeten Germans voted for Konrad Henlein, leader of the Nazi party in Czechoslovakia."

"I mentioned the 90 percent who voted for Hitler because I esteem very much the remaining 10 percent - Social Democrats, Communists and others - who were against Hitler," Zeman said.

He said the Benes decrees do not contain the principle of collective guilt.

APA wrote yesterday that Zeihsel said "attributing the guilt for the occupation of the rump Czech Lands is inadmissible."

He said also opponents of Hitler's regime from among Sudeten Germans were "collectively transferred" after the war.

Under the Munich agreement Hitler signed with Britain, France and Italy in September 1938, the border areas of the Czech Lands went to Germany. A Nazi-sponsored Slovak state was established in Slovakia, the eastern part of Czechoslovakia, on March 14, 1939. The dismembered Czech Lands were occupied one day later.

Reacting to the mention of Henlein, the pre-war leader of Sudeten Germans, Zeihsel said "if Benes had fulfilled Konrad Henlein's demand for autonomy within Czechoslovakia that he was pushing for for a long time, Hitler would have had no reason to intervene."

In the interview, Zeman also again denounced as inhuman the "wild transfer" in which thousands of people died shortly after the war's end.

He pointed out, however, that the transfer of the three-million German minority from Czechoslovakia was based on the Potsdam agreement that the victorious powers signed in the summer of 1945.

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