CZECH-GERMAN CRISIS STEMS FROM STORMY PAST.Byline: Alan Cowell Alan S. Cowell (born March 16, 1947) is a British journalist who was the London bureau chief of The New York Times until July 13, 2007.
Cowell began his journalism career as a reporter for Reuters. The New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Times
In his book-lined study here, Ivan Klima, one of the foremost Czech authors, recalls the days a half-century ago when surviving Jewish families like his finally fled the concentration camps to find their land awash in killing and chaos. He was then 14, and, even in the final days of the Second World War, he said, so many Czechs were shot by their Nazi occupiers "for nothing" that humanity seemed lost.
Karl-Heinz Wunderlich, a psychologist from the one-time ethnic German minority in Czechoslovakia, remembers that period, too.
In his mind's eye mind's eye
1. The inherent mental ability to imagine or remember scenes.
2. The imagination.
in one's mind's eye in one's imagination
, he still sees the Czech soldiers who, when he was 8, came to his family's door in what was then the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, which Hitler had annexed in 1938. Now living in Mainz, Germany, Wunderlich recalls how Czechs toting submachine guns This is a list of submachine guns with articles available on Wikipedia. Because the exact definition of a submachine gun can vary much from source to source it includes assault rifles chambered for submachine gun or pistol cartridges, some machine pistols, and personal defense loaded people onto freight trains - the lucky ones, that is, who endured what he called ethnic cleansing ethnic cleansing
The creation of an ethnically homogenous geographic area through the elimination of unwanted ethnic groups by deportation, forcible displacement, or genocide. rather than massacre as the Czechs purged their land of 3 million ethnic Germans.
Between them, the two men represent the emotional poles of a crisis between Germany and the Czech Republic Czech Republic, Czech Česká Republika (2005 est. pop. 10,241,000), republic, 29,677 sq mi (78,864 sq km), central Europe. It is bordered by Slovakia on the east, Austria on the south, Germany on the west, and Poland on the north. that has burst forth virulently in recent weeks, representing one of the most corrosive disputes in Central Europe Central Europe is the region lying between the variously and vaguely defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe. In addition, Northern, Southern and Southeastern Europe may variously delimit or overlap into Central Europe. since the fall of the Iron Curtain.
It is a conflict over a dark and tangled past that could hinder Czech ambitions to be included in the European Union European Union (EU), name given since the ratification (Nov., 1993) of the Treaty of European Union, or Maastricht Treaty, to the
European Community and the North Atlantic Alliance, and evokes the same mutually-canceling visions of history and collective guilt in Central Europe as bedevil the Balkans.
"The past still will not release us," the German foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, told the Bonn Parliament this month. "We Germans have done the Czechs an evil injustice, opened wounds that are not yet healed and still cause pain. But, also, injustice was done to the Sudeten Germans through expulsion and confiscation confiscation
In law, the act of seizing property without compensation and submitting it to the public treasury. Illegal items such as narcotics or firearms, or profits from the sale of illegal items, may be confiscated by the police. Additionally, government action (e.g. of their property."
The dispute, moreover, has left the Czech Republic as the only nation in Europe with which Germany has still to settle formally outstanding issues, such as compensation for Nazi persecution arising from the Second World War. In the eyes of his critics at home, this challenges Chancellor Helmut Kohl to put statesmanship before domestic politics to seize what Antje Vollmer, a member of the opposition Green Party, called "an opportunity to ensure that Germany has no problems with any of its neighbors.
"Even Bismarck could not achieve that," she said.
At issue is a relatively simple equation: Germany will not pay wartime compensation to the hundreds of thousands of victims of Nazism This is a list of victims of Nazism who were noted for their achievements.
This list includes people from public life who, owing to their origins, their political or religious convictions, or their sexual orientation, lost their lives as a result of Nazism. here until the Czech authorities apologize for the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans.
In December 1989, shortly before he became president of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel said that Czechs had a duty to apologize for the wrongs committed against ethnic Germans, but in the face of widespread criticism has since qualified his statement.
The Czechs, said Jiri Pahe, a political analyst here, "feel that they didn't do anything wrong, that the expulsion was an appropriate response to what German citizens had done to the Czech people."
Neither do the Czechs wish to be exposed to German claims for restitution or compensation for confiscated con·fis·cate
tr.v. con·fis·cat·ed, con·fis·cat·ing, con·fis·cates
1. To seize (private property) for the public treasury.
2. To seize by or as if by authority. See Synonyms at appropriate.
adj. property - the central point for the politically powerful descendants of Sudeten Germans.
"For us on the Czech side, the matter is very clear," Jiri Grusa, Prague's ambassador in Bonn, said in an interview. "We have said that the events after the Second World War were not the best chapter in our history. But we cannot offer a general acknowledgment as long as the Germans have not relinquished their claims."
The historical facts - though disputed in their shadings - are well-known.
tr.v. em·bold·ened, em·bold·en·ing, em·bold·ens
To foster boldness or courage in; encourage. See Synonyms at encourage.
Adj. 1. by Britain and France and their policy of appeasement appeasement
Foreign policy of pacifying an aggrieved nation through negotiation in order to prevent war. The prime example is Britain's policy toward Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in the 1930s. toward Nazi expansionism ex·pan·sion·ism
A nation's practice or policy of territorial or economic expansion.
ex·pansion·ist adj. & n. , Hitler annexed the Sudetenland - parts of the present-day provinces of Bohemia and Moravia - in 1938 with the broad support of the German minority, at the time the second biggest ethnic group in what was then Czechoslovakia.
Then, in March 1939, German troops marched into Prague, occupying the land with predictably grim results: During the Second World War, said Klima, the author, Czechoslovakia's Jewish population fell from 120,000 to 1,000.
At war's end, the Czech authorities perceived the Sudeten Germans collectively as a fifth column for the Nazis, though by no means all of them had been active collaborators with the occupiers.
Nonetheless, in a series of decrees, the first postwar president, Edvard Benes, sanctioned their expulsion, and granted amnesty to Czechs for the killing of between 15,000 and 240,000 ethnic Germans, depending on who is doing the counting. The 1945 Potsdam agreement among the war's victors further endorsed the notion of a transfer of the German population from Czechoslovakia.
Throughout the Cold War, the issue was suppressed by the communist authorities in Prague, and German officials preferred to ignore it.
But, since then, Havel, former President Richard Weizsaecker of Germany, and, more recently, Germany's current president, Roman Herzog, have sought to keep alive the idea that it must at some time be resolved, particularly since the Czech Republic sees Germany as its most important potential ally in securing membership of the European Union and NATO NATO: see North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
in full North Atlantic Treaty Organization
International military alliance created to defend western Europe against a possible Soviet invasion. .
And so, last year, the two countries began negotiations on a joint parliamentary declaration intended to present a mutually acceptable view of the past.
To the consternation of politicians in Bonn and Prague who had wanted to keep the discussions a secret, the negotiations stumbled publicly into deadlock last month, tripped by competing notions of injustice, and the foreign ministers of both countries acknowledged profound differences in their peoples' perceptions.