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Magda Hassan
09-16-2010, 12:30 AM
BERLIN
(Own report) - Once again the German government's "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation" has caused a scandal. Because of recent historical revisionist allegations of two of the foundation's officials, the Central Council of Jews in Germany has announced that it is suspending its membership on the foundation's board of directors and may possibly resign. The allegations in question relativize Germany's sole responsibility for starting the Second World War. In spite of the public discussion provoked by these allegations, the foundation, which in fact is under German government control, has "made no significant move". This is why the Central Council of Jews in Germany finds it impossible to continue its participation, according to its General Secretary Stephan Kramer. Allegations falsifying history have also been made by other foundation functionaries. Referring to the author of an extremist right-wing magazine, the internet portal of the regional German League of Expellees (BdV) of the state of Hesse, whose chairperson is also on the foundation's board is repeating the allegation, that former Czech President "Benesch had called for the mass murder of Germans in 1945". Obvious incompetence and revisionist efforts have already led several prominent historians to resign from their functions in the foundation. In spite of this renewed scandal, the German government is maintaining its support for its foundation.

Escalation
With their public statements, two auxiliary board members of the "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation" have caused the current scandal. They had been nominated last July by the German League of Expellees (BdV) and elected to their functions by the German Bundestag. One of them, Arnold Tölg, BdV Regional Chairman in Baden Wurttemberg, had told a right-wing weekly that "while the victors were rightfully putting the German war criminals on trial in Nuremberg, those same countries [Poland, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, gfp] had committed crimes similar to those committed by Hitler Germany, in regards to slave labor."[1] The other, Hartmut Saenger, vice chairman of the BdV Regional organization in Hesse and a lecturer in adult education at the BdV, suggested in a news article that Poland could share the blame for launching World War II. In addition he claimed that it was Great Britain, who "turned it into a world wide conflict with its war for Danzig, which then became a global conflict when the USA entered" because of its interests in the Pacific.[2]

No Consequences
When the two BdV representatives' revisionist allegations became known this summer, they caused a miner wave of media indignation. But further-reaching consequences impinging on their work at the "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation" were not forthcoming. Formally the foundation is under the auspices of the German Bundestag, but de facto under German government control. Among other things, the foundation is supposed to erect a "Site of Living Memory" at a prominent location in the German capital,[3] with which Berlin seeks to permanently keep the memory of the resettlement of Germans alive. The Central Council of Jews in Germany has reacted because the work of the foundation is evidently being influenced by people, who are unabashedly casting doubt on Germany's sole responsibility for the war. In his letter to the German Federal Chancellery's Cultural State's Minister, Bernd Neumann, Stephan Kramer, General Secretary wrote that, for the time being, the Central Council of Jews was suspending its membership on the foundation's board and was explicitly leaving open the option of a permanent resignation. The BdV functionaries' "revanchist positions" [4] were not the only reason. Kramer also criticized the fact that in the aftermath of the mild media debate of the revisionist allegations of those two functionaries, no "significant substantial move or even noticeable revision" has been made of decisions concerning their membership on the foundation's board.[5]

A Dilemma
The Central Council of Jews' criticism has exposed a dilemma, the German government can resolve only with great difficulty. To be able to make a permanent theme of the resettlement of Germans and subsequent claims, Berlin had decided, among other things, to erect, with the help of the "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation," a central memorial. This memorial is to keep the resettlement of Germans alive in national memory, long after most of those members of the resettled associations, who had experienced resettlement, have - in a foreseeable future - passed from the scene. Since, in establishing the planned memorial, the resettled associations, along with their right-wing sections, cannot be ignored, there are people at different levels of the foundation, whose political views are controversial. This applies not only to the cases of Arnold Tölg and Hartmut Saenger.

Mass Murderer
The internet site of the regional BdV Association of Hesse carries statements pointing also to revisionist tendencies. On the site, the Regional Chairman, Alfred Herold is quoted as having said; it fills "us expellees with a great deal of discord" when "May 8 is celebrated only as a day of liberation."[6] Alfred Herold is a full member of the board of the "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation". The internet site of the BdV Hesse - for which Alfred Herald is also responsible - has elsewhere published allegations concerning the resettlement of Germans and therefore the main theme of the "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation". One reads that in Eastern Europe there were "efforts, already in 1918, to drive the Germans out" even though the Sudeten German "Fuhrer" at the time, Konrad Henlein "had had no intention of destroying Czechoslovakia".[7] The BdV Hesse additionally claims: "Benesch called for the mass murder of Germans in 1945." The source provided for this allegation was a "retired senior teacher," who was an author of a right-wing extremist magazine.[8]

Visiting an Occupied Country
Controversial declarations were not only made by Tölg (BdV Baden-Wuerttemberg), Saenger and Herold (BdV Hesse), but also by Stephan Grigat (Eastern Prussia Homeland Association), member of the foundation's board, with his extraordinary claim - calling his trip to North Eastern Poland, a "visit to an occupied country". Manfred Kittel, the foundation's director, has also been heavily criticized in the past. In the 1990s, Kittel's book entitled "The Legend of the 'Second Guilt', "was described as "a new product of young conservative historical revision".[9] This book is not mentioned in the official list of the foundation director's works.[10] The line of thinking behind a "feasibility study" on the influence in the BdV of former Nazi activists, drafted "under the coordination of Manfred Kittel" [11] was commented in the press: "on this basis, one could even put Heinrich Himmler’s basic National Socialist convictions into question."[12] Three members of the foundation's Scientific Advisory Panel have resigned out of protest, since the beginning of 2010 alone, among them Polish historian, Tomasz Szarota [13] and Czech historian Kristina Kaiserová [14]. Szarota complained that "not a single researcher is represented" among the German members of the advisory panel, "who takes a critical approach to the grotesque image of history, the exaggerated number of victims and the Nazi pasts of many of the BdV functionaries".[15]

Imperative Will
Since the withdrawal of the Central Council of Jews, total chaos seems to have broken out in the government's foundation. Foundation board member, Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke, from Hamburg, was quoted as having said "especially at the reconciliation, the Jews must be present, just like the Poles and the Czechs."[16] Poles and Czechs are not represented in the foundation. The fact that Berlin is still sticking to its state supported foundation in spite of this scandal, shows, above all, its imperative will to keep the memory of the resettlement alive and to hold onto subsequent claims on various countries in Eastern and Southeastern Europe.

[1] "Da klafft eine Gerechtigkeitslücke"; Junge Freiheit 07.01.2000
[2] Historischer Kontext; Preußische Allgemeine Zeitung 05.09.2009
[3] Konzeption; www.dhm.de/sfvv (http://www.dhm.de/sfvv)
[4] Zentralrat der Juden verlässt Vertriebenen-Stiftung; newsticker.sueddeutsche.de 06.09.2010
[5] Zentralrat stoppt Mitarbeit in Vertriebenen-Stiftung; www.welt.de (http://www.welt.de) 06.09.2010
[6] Besiegt oder befreit? www.bund-der-vertriebenen-hessen.de (http://www.bund-der-vertriebenen-hessen.de)
[7] Die Ursache der Vertreibung darf nicht auf den Zweiten Weltkrieg reduziert werden; www.bund-der-vertriebenen-hessen.de (http://www.bund-der-vertriebenen-hessen.de)
[8] Es handelt sich um die letztes Jahr eingestellte Zeitschrift "Nation und Europa".
[9] Willi Jasper: Endlich wieder normal? Ein neues Produkt jungkonservativer Geschichtsrevision: Manfred Kittel über die angeblich geglückte "Vergangenheitsbewältigung" nach 1945; Die Zeit 40/1993
[10] Direktor; www.dhm.de/sfvv (http://www.dhm.de/sfvv)
[11] Institut für Zeitgeschichte: Jahresbericht 2008
[12] Bis zur Harmlosigkeit verstrickt; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 20.02.2010. See also Expelled From Among the Living (http://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/fulltext/56324?PHPSESSID=83m2q45k45ks707sjhrg70l8f4)
[13] see also A Propaganda Ploy (http://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/fulltext/56311?PHPSESSID=83m2q45k45ks707sjhrg70l8f4)
[14] see also Weichen für die Zukunft (http://www.german-foreign-policy.com/de/fulltext/57761?PHPSESSID=83m2q45k45ks707sjhrg70l8f4)
[15] "Steinbach soll eigenes Museum bauen"; Stuttgarter Nachrichten 15.01.2010
[16] "Gerade bei der Versöhnung müssen Juden dabei sein"; www.domradio.de (http://www.domradio.de) 07.09.2010

Peter Lemkin
09-16-2010, 07:08 AM
The "Benes decrees" - a historian's point of view

18-08-2003 | Pavla Horáková

During the past few years, the two words "Benes decrees" have been ubiquitous in the Czech media. Most recently the term has been used in connection with the case of Franz Ulrich Kinsky, a member of an aristocratic family with long roots in Bohemia, who has filed a total of 157 lawsuits asking the Czech courts to confirm that he is the rightful owner of large amounts of property which were confiscated from him as a child after the war. The so-called "Benes decrees" that politicians, journalists, lawyers and property claimants frequently refer to, are in simple terms usually described as "post-war legislation that sanctioned the expulsion of ethnic Germans and Hungarians from Czechoslovakia and the confiscation of their property". But of course, matters are much more complex. Historian Jan Kuklik, who is assistant professor at the law faculty in Prague, specialises in the history of law. I spoke to him about the origins of the so-called "Benes decrees".
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Signing of the so-called 'Benes decrees'
"The so-called "Benes decrees" are in fact laws which were issued during the Second World War and immediately after the war by at first by our exile government in London and then by the first post-war government in Czechoslovakia. So these acts were issued during the period of the Second World War when there was no Czechoslovak Parliament, when the country was occupied by Nazi Germany, when it was divided into the so-called "Protectorate" occupied by Germany and the independent puppet Slovak State. The Czechoslovak exile government represented the continuity of the Czechoslovak state during the war. It was almost the same government as other states established in wartime London, like the Polish exile government, Yugoslav or Belgian government. Also the so-called "Benes decrees" were in fact similar acts that were produced by these exile representations and also by first post-war governments all over Europe. So in my view, the so-called "Benes decrees" were in fact emergency legislation for the duration of the war and the period immediately after the end of the war."

The official title of the legislation is the Decrees of the President of the Republic. The popular term "Benes decrees" seems to suggest that Czechoslovak President Edvard Benes was the only person responsible for the acts, but as Dr Jan Kuklik says, this is not the case.

"Of course, President Benes was the head of the first exile government and then of the whole representation of the Czechoslovak Republic in exile, that's why these acts are named after this president. But of course, the preparation of the legislation was in the hands of the government. And also the ministers were responsible for the legislation so I think it is not correct to use the name "Benes decrees". But they were called "Benes decrees" by the opponents of President Benes and that's why I think it is now very common to use this name "Benes decrees" especially in Czech-German relations."

In recent years, the validity of the presidential decrees has often been questioned, particularly by the Czech Republic's neighbours. So what is the status of the decrees within Czech law, are they still part of it?

"A part of this legislation is still valid because these acts were never approved after the war by the first Czechoslovak parliament in 1946 and then became just constitutional and ordinary laws of Czechoslovakia. Of course, there are some decrees, now laws, still valid but, I think that the problem of the validity of the so-called "Benes decrees" is in fact connected with the Czechoslovak restitutional laws after 1989 which opened some questions of our history. The people who were deprived of property not only according to the "Benes decrees" but also during the communist time, then claimed their property back. And of course, they used the legislation which was valid during the time they lost their property. So for me this problem is really the connection between these so-called restitutional laws and post-war legislation. There is a second problem to it and it is that the so-called "Benes decrees" are a kind of symbol or the wartime and post-war development in the Czechoslovak-German relations. Because especially for the Germans who were expelled from Czechoslovakia, these so-called "Benes decrees" are symbols of the expulsion and then transfer from Czechoslovakia. But in fact, it is a combination of international decisions and our post-war legislation, so again, it is not very accurate to say that it is only a case of the so-called "Benes decrees"."

Some groups in neighbouring Austria and Germany wanted to see the decrees abolished as a precondition for the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union. Last November, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament approved a resolution, stating that the so-called "Benes decrees" did not present an obstacle to the Czech Republic's accession to the EU. The verdict was based on the outcome of a legal expertise commissioned by the European Parliament which concluded that the decrees are not in violation of EU law. So how does international law in general look on the decrees? Historian Jan Kuklik.

"According to international law, the "Benes decrees" are, of course, a part of Czech, or Czechoslovak legislation, because in 1991, a special constitutional bill was adopted which said that also those parts of the "Benes decrees" are not in force that are in contrary to human rights principles. So I think that this so-called "problem of the Benes decrees" according to international law is solved because there is really no contradiction between Czech legislation and international law, especially from the point of view of human rights in the Czech Republic. And I think the process of accession of the Czech Republic to the EU proved that our position towards this problem is right and that of course, from our point of view the "Benes decrees" are not an obstacle for the Czech Republic to become a part of the EU."

The economic and human rights situation of the deported and their families in Austria and Germany was very likely incomparable to the life they would have led had they stayed in communist Czechoslovakia. Still, for the survivors and their descendants, the post-war transfer apparently remains a very emotional issue.

"I think I can understand the feelings of the people who after hundreds of years of their settlement in the Czech Lands were expelled or transferred to Germany or Austria after the end of the war. Personally, I can really understand their feelings. From the point of view of individuals it was very difficult to accommodate with this new situation but, of course, it was a situation which was not created by Czechoslovakia itself. It was really a situation which was an outcome of the Munich decision, the Protectorate, six years of German occupation and the Second World War and the situation after the end of the Second World War. And I think it is really necessary to understand it also from this Czech point of view. That it was a kind of very tragic end of the coexistence of the two nations in the Czech Lands. But of course, it is a problem which, in my view, is very difficult to solve now, after fifty years or so."

The European Parliament has stated the "Benes decrees" are not in breech of EU law, but does Jan Kuklik think the debate will continue even after the Czech Republic joins the European Union in May next year?

"Well, I think that of course, there will still be discussions among historians, politicians and also among the public. I think there will also be some legal disputes. But I think that the importance of these discussions and claims will decrease - and I hope it will decrease in the future. But I think it remains to be seen."

Jan Klimkowski
09-16-2010, 04:51 PM
For a personal perspective on this German nonsense, see here:

http://www.deeppoliticsforum.com/forums/showpost.php?p=12337&postcount=5