Czechs and Germans lack agreement over war graves

The German army and its supporters in Žatec. Photo: German Archive/Wikipedia
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Definition a stumbling block due to Beneš Decrees

Prague, May 31 (ČTK) The Czech Republic is the sole EU state not to have signed an agreement with Germany on the protection of wartime graves, Lidové noviny (LN) writes and says this is so because Czechs would also have to care for the graves of the victims of the "wild part" of Germans's post-war transfer.

Under the Beneš Decrees, issued by the then president Edvard Beneš after World War II, ethnic Germans, except for those who suffered under Nazism, were stripped of property and Czechoslovak citizenship, which enabled their transfer from the country. In the first, wild stage of the transfer before the decrees took effect, some German civilians were killed by Czechs.

LN writes that German legislation, unlike the Czech, considers the places where civilians were killed during the war or after it wartime graves.

If the Czech Republic signed an agreement with Germany, it would have to take care of these graves as well.

Jana Zechmeisterová, from the Czech Culture Ministry's press department, told LN that in 2005 already the Germany interrupted talks on the agreement over disagreement on the definition of a wartime grave.

The issue was resumed during former German president Christian Wulff's visit to the Czech Republic in November 2010, but to no avail.

Zechemeisterová said, however, the two sides were not concerned that much about the signature of the agreement as about the graves being taken proper care of and that cooperation is smooth in this respect.

LN writes that Germany has signed agreements on care for wartime graves with 42 states, which is practically with all on which German troops were present during the war.

The only exceptions in Europe are the Czech Republic, Belarus and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Germany has also signed the agreement with Russia, which was among the countries the most heavily hit by the Nazi German terror.

LN writes that an estimated 25,000 German civilians were killed or succumbed to injuries and hardships immediately after the war ended.

It writes, however, that this does not mean that their unmarked graves would be entirely unattended to, and mentions the cemetery in Cheb, west Bohemia, as an example.

The remains of almost 6,000 Germans have been placed in the cemetery after they were exhumed by the German People's Association caring for wartime graves in 145 places across the Czech Republic, LN writes.

Out of the total, about 500 were civilians, the rest soldiers, LN writes.  

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