Beneš decrees

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Beneš decrees
Benes.PNG
Edvard Beneš, 1935–1938 & 1940–1948 President of Czechoslovakia
Decrees of the President of the Republic
Enacted by National Assembly of the Czechoslovak Republic
Introduced by Czechoslovak government-in-exile

Decrees of the President of the Republic (Czech: Dekrety presidenta republiky), more commonly known as the Beneš decrees, were a series of laws drafted by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile in the absence of the Czechoslovak parliament during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War II. They were issued by President Edvard Beneš between 21 July 1940 and 27 October 1945 and retroactively ratified by the Interim National Assembly of Czechoslovakia on 6 March 1946.

In journalistic literature and politics, the term "Beneš decrees" is incorrectly defined as the decrees of the president and ordinances of the Slovak National Council that dealt with the status of ethnic Germans, Hungarians and traitors in postwar Czechoslovakia. These decrees facilitated Article 12 of the Potsdam Agreement by laying a national legal framework for the loss of citizenship and expropriation of property of approximately three million Germans and Hungarians. For some of those affected the land had been settled by their ancestors dating back to their invitation from the Czech king Otokar II in the 13th century or the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin at the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries.

The Beneš decrees had different validity in post-war Czechoslovakia due to the specific legal position of the Slovak National Council (SNR). Some decrees were valid only in the Czech lands while SNR issued separate ordinances for Slovakia. In some cases, they contained different solutions for the problems of the German and Hungarian minority.

Overview[edit]

Jan Šrámek, 1940–1945 Prime Minister of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile

Edvard Beneš was elected the president of Czechoslovakia in 1935 and was forced to resign under German pressure following the Munich Agreement in 1938. After the Occupation of Czechoslovakia, Beneš and other loyal Czech dignitaries emigrated to France, where, in 1939, they established the Czechoslovak National Committee which proclaimed the goal of restoration of Czechoslovakia. Its main task was the establishment of the Czechoslovak foreign army in France. After the fall of France, the Committee moved to London, where it was transformed into the Interim Czechoslovak Government. This Government was officially acknowledged by the British government on 21 July 1940 and in 1941 by the USA and USSR.[1]

Beneš immediately resumed his post as president, taking the line that his 1938 resignation had been under duress and was therefore invalid. He was assisted by the Government-in-exile and the State Council. In 1942, the Government adopted a resolution whereby Beneš would remain as president until new elections could be held.[1]

Beneš alone issued only the Decree No. 1/1940, on the Establishment of the Government, while all later decrees were proposed by the Government-in-exile (within its powers under the 1920 Czechoslovak constitution) and cosigned by the Prime Minister or a delegated Minister. The validity of the decrees was subject to later ratihabition of the National Assembly.[1]

Since September 1, 1944 (after the Slovak National Uprising) the Slovak National Council (SNR) held legislative and executive power in Slovakia. The SNR later defined difference between state-wide acts and other regulations. The presidential decrees were valid in Slovakia only if they explicitly referenced agreement of the SNR.

On 4 March 1945, a new Government was created in Košice, Slovakia, (recently liberated by the Red Army) consisting of parties united in the National Front, with a strong influence of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. The President's power to enact decrees, as proposed by the Government, remained until 27 October 1945, when the Interim National Assembly first convened.[1]

The decrees may be divided as follows:

  • By legal force[1]
    • Constitutional decrees
    • Decrees
  • By issuance[1]
    • Decrees issued by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile prior to 4 March 1945
    • Decrees issued by the Government in the liberated Czechoslovakia after 4 March 1945
  • By territoriality[1]
    • Decrees concerning the Interim Government
    • Decrees valid for the whole Czechoslovakia
    • Decrees valid for the territory of Bohemia and Moravia-Silesia (i.e. excl. Slovakia)
  • By field
    • Decrees concerning administration (political, economical, military, social, cultural, etc.)
    • Decrees concerning retribution (incl. expropriation, etc.)
    • Decrees concerning redress of war and occupation (Czechoslovak foreign army, post-war reconstruction, punishment of criminals, etc.)
    • Decrees concerning nationalization (notwithstanding ethnicity)

Issuing of decrees did not have any basis in the 1920 Czechoslovak constitution, however it was necessitated by the wartime and post-war state of the Czechoslovak authorities. By the ratihabition of the Interim National Assembly, the decrees became binding laws with retroactive validity. From the legal point of view, their significance is seen in the continuity of the Czechoslovak legal order during the occupation.[1]

Most of the decrees were abolished by later legislation in the field which they concerned (see the list below) or became obsolete by serving their function while remaining in force (e.g., no property may be confiscated from Germans today, however the confiscations that took place may not be invalidated at court of law).[1]

List of decrees[edit]

Loss of citizenship and confiscation of property of Germans, Hungarians and traitors[edit]

Lack of legal basis for expulsion in the decrees[edit]

Germans being deported from the borderland in the aftermath of World War II

The Beneš decrees are most often associated with the deportation in 1945-47 of about 3 million ethnic Germans and Hungarians from Czechoslovakia. The deportation itself was based, legally, on Article 12 of the Potsdam Agreement, and, technically, on outcome of negotiations between the Allied Control Council and the Czechoslovak Government.[1] In modern terms, such an expulsion is considered ethnic cleansing — a term that gained widespread acceptance from the early 1990s[3][4]—by many historians and legal scholars.[4][5][6][7][8]

The respective decrees themselves, however, do not refer to the deportation and completely lack any ground for it.[9]

Among the four Allies, the Soviet Union urged their British and US allies to agree to the expulsions of ethnic German citizens and of allegedly German-speaking Poles, Czechoslovaks, Hungarians, Yugoslavs and Romanians into their zones of occupation. France was not a party to the Potsdam Agreement and never accepted exiles arriving after July 1945 into its Zone of Occupation.

From the Czechoslovak point of view, a majority of Czechoslovak citizens of German ethnicity had supported the Nazis, through the Sudeten German Party – a political party led by Konrad Henlein – and the Third Reich's annexation of the majority German-populated Czech borderland in 1938.[10] A majority of Germans also failed to follow the mobilization order when Czechoslovakia was threatened with open war by Hitler in 1938, which had a crippling effect on the army's defensive capabilities.

Subject matter of the decrees[edit]

German Nazi party was among the entities particularly targeted by the Decree No. 108 concerning the confiscation of enemy's property

In general, the respective decrees were dealing with loss of citizenship and nationalization of property of:

  • Germany/Hungary, or companies incorporated in Germany/Hungary or selected entities (e.g. NSDAP)
  • physical persons who applied for German/Hungarian citizenship during the occupation and elected German/Hungarian ethnicity in the 1929 census.
  • traitors (i.e. physical and legal persons that had committed acts against the sovereignty, independence, integrity, democratic and republic statehood, safety and defense of the Czechoslovak Republic, those who were inciting such acts, who were intentionally in any way supporting German or Hungarian occupants (note the omission of the Polish occupants) or who at the time after 21 May 1938 endorsed Germanization or Hungarization of the Czechoslovak territory or who acted in a hostile way to the Czechoslovak Republic or to the Czech or Slovak nation, as well as physical and legal persons who tolerated such a behavior of persons who were managing their possessions or enterprise).

Generally, the decrees included exceptions which may be characterized by putting burden of proof of loyalty to the Republic on the shoulders of Germans and Hungarians and on the shoulders of the state authorities in case of alleged breach of loyalty of Czechs, Slovaks, Germans/Hungarians serving in the Czechoslovak army abroad and Germans/Hungarians who elected Czechoslovak ethnicity during the time of occupation. In particular, for example Germans and Hungarians who proved that they remained loyal to the Czechoslovak Republic and that they had not committed offense against the Czech or Slovak nation and that they had either taken part in the liberation of Czechoslovakia or were subject to Nazi or fascist terror were exempt from Decrees No. 33 (loss of citizenship), No. 100 (nationalization of large enterprises without renumeration), No. 108 (expropriation).

Some 250,000 Germans, some anti-fascists and others considered as crucial for industries, remained in Czechoslovakia. Many of the anti-fascists of German native language emigrated under a special agreement stipulated by Alois Ullmann.[citation needed] Finally Social Democrats of German native language, 9,165 of them had suffered in Nazi concentration camps and jails,[citation needed] 13,536 experienced other persecutions by Nazis,[citation needed] and their relatives were spared the harshest atrocities, by interning them in separate special camps.[citation needed] 73,125 were deported under preferential circumstances,[citation needed] of course expropriated,[citation needed] a mere 45,779 of them was allowed to take at least their chattel.[citation needed]

Regaining Czechoslovak citizenship[edit]

Loss of the Czechoslovak citizenship was addressed in the Decree No. 33 (for details, see its description in the list above). Under Art. 3 of the Decree, persons who lost the citizenship could request its restoration within 6 months of promulgation of the Decree. The request was to be assessed by the Ministry of Interior "on the basis of its free consideration".

On April 13, 1948, the Czechoslovak government issued Regulation No. 76/1948 Coll., under which the period for lodging the request for reinstatement of Czechoslovak citizenship under Decree No. 33 was prolonged for 3 years. Under the new Regulation, the Ministry of Interior was bound to restore applicant's citizenship unless it could determine that the applicant had breached their "duties of Czechoslovak citizen".

On 25 October 1948, Act No. 245/1948 Coll. was adopted, under which persons of Hungarian ethnicity who had been Czechoslovak citizens on 1 November 1938 and lived at the time of the Act's promulgation in Czechoslovakia could regain the Czechoslovak citizenship if they pledged allegiance to the Republic within 90 days of the promulgation.

On 13 July 1949, Act No. 194/1949 Coll. was adopted. Under its Article 3, the Ministry of Interior could award citizenship to applicants who had not committed an offense against Czechoslovakia or the people's democracy, lived in the country at least for five years, and who would lose their other citizenship by gaining the Czechoslovak one.

Finally, on 24 April 1953, the Act No. 34/1953 Coll. was adopted. Under this act, persons of German nationality who lost the Czechoslovak citizenship under Decree No. 33 and were living in Czechoslovakia on the day of promulgation of the Act had automatically regained their citizenship (if that had not happened under the previous Acts). This pertained also to their spouses and children, if they were living in Czechoslovakia and did not have any other citizenship.

Today, any person may be granted Czech citizenship if they:[11]

  • had been granted long term residence and had been living for at least 5 years in the country and
  • have not been found guilty of committing a criminal offense in the past 5 years and
  • prove knowledge of the Czech language and
  • fulfill other legal requirements (i.e. paying taxes, obligatory health insurance, etc.).

Restitution of property to loyal citizens[edit]

Following the Velvet Revolution, Act No. 243/1992 Coll. was adopted which arranged restitution of real estate taken by the decrees or lost during the occupation. This act pertained to

  • citizens of the Czech Republic (or descendants of) who
    • lost their property after the communist coup of 25 February 1948 (i.e. the loss of title to the property was entered into the land registry after this date) on the basis of decrees No. 12 (confiscation of agricultural property), No. 108 (general confiscation), and
    • regained Czechoslovak citizenship either under Decree No. 33 or Acts No. 245/1948, 194/1949, 34/1953 Coll. and had not lost the citizenship by 1 January 1990 and
    • had not committed offense against Czechoslovakia.
    • claim could be brought until 31 December 1992 by those living in the Czech Republic and until 15 July 1996 by those living abroad
  • citizens of the Czech Republic (or descendants of) who lost their property during occupation and had been entitled to its restitution under decrees No. 5 and No. 128 and have not yet been compensated (e.g. Jews, claim could be brought until 30 June 2001).

Status today[edit]

UN[edit]

Admissibility under the Covenant[edit]

In 2010, the UN Human Rights Committee under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights reviewed a communication submitted by Josef Bergauer et al. The Committee held that Covenant entered in force in 1975 and its Protocol in 1991. Since the Covenant may not be applied retroactively, the Committee held that the communication was inadmissible.[12]

Use of restitution legislation[edit]

Following the Velvet Revolution, Czechoslovakia adopted Act No. 87/1991 Coll. which provides restitution or compensation to victims of illegal confiscation carried out for political reasons during the Communist regime (25 February 1948 – 1 January 1990). The law also matter provisions for restitution or compensation to victims of racial persecution during the Second World War, who have an entitlement by virtue of Decree No. 5/1945.

In 2002, the UN Human Rights Committee has issued its views in case Brokova v. The Czech Republic, where the applicant was refused restitution of property with the reasoning that it was nationalized based on Beneš Decree No. 100 (nationalization of large enterprises notwithstanding owners' ethnicity). Thus, Brokova was excluded from the benefit of the restitution law although the Czech nationalization in 1946/47 could only be carried out because the author's property was confiscated by the Nazi authorities during the time of German occupation. In the Committee's view this discloses a discriminatory treatment of the author, compared to those individuals whose property was confiscated by Nazi authorities without being subjected, immediately after the war, to Czech nationalization and who, therefore, could benefit from the laws of 1991 and 1994. The Committee found that Brokova was denied her right to equal protection of the law in violation of article 26 of the Covenant.[13]

European Court for Human Rights[edit]

In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights refused the application of Josef Bergauer and 89 Others against the Czech Republic. The applicants complained that, "after the Second World War, they were expelled from their homeland in genocidal circumstances", and that their property was confiscated by the former Czechoslovak authorities, that the Czech Republic had failed to suspend the Beneš Decrees and had not compensated them. The Court held that the expropriation took place long before entry into force of the European Convention on Human Rights with respect to the Czech Republic. Since the Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 does not guarantee the right to acquire property, then even though the Beneš Decrees remained part of the Czech national law system, the applicants had no claim under the Convention against the Czech Republic to restore the confiscated property. The Court further held that "it should be further noted that the case-law of the Czech courts made the restitution of property available even to persons expropriated contrary to the Presidential Decrees, thus providing for the reparation of acts which contravened the law then in force. The Czech judiciary thus provides protection extending beyond the standards of the Convention." [14]

Czech Republic[edit]

Review by the Czech Constitutional Court[edit]

Validity of decrees in the contemporary Czech Republic[edit]

Validity of Beneš decrees was first reviewed by the plenary session of the Czech Constitutional Court in its decisions of 8 March 1995 published as Decision No. 5/1995 Coll. and 14/1995 Coll. The Court has addressed the following issues of the Decrees' validity:

Conformity of the process of issuing Decrees with the Czechoslovak legal order and 1920 Constitution:
The Constitutional Court is of the opinion that the Interim Czechoslovak Government, as established in the United Kingdom, must be viewed as internationally accepted legitimate constitutional body of the Czechoslovak country, whose territory was occupied by the German army. The enemy compromised possibility of performance of the sovereign Czechoslovak powers, as they enshrine in the Czechoslovak constitution and the Czechoslovak legal order. Therefore all the normative acts of the Interim Czechoslovak Government, including the Decree No. 108/1945 Coll. - also as a consequence of their ratihabition by the Interim National Assembly - are the manifestation of the legal Czechoslovak (Czech) legislature and constitute the culmination of efforts of the Czechoslovak nations to restore the Constitutional and legal order of the Republic.

Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.[15]

Beneš' power to issue the Decrees despite existence of a formal Protectorate Government and German occupation power:
The Czechoslovak legal order was based on the Act No. 11/1918 Coll. of 28 November 1918, on the Establishment of the Independent Czechoslovak State. This basis of the Czechoslovak law could not be in any way challenged by the German occupation, not only because the Articles 42 through 56 of the Convention respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land clearly demarcated the borders within which the occupant could have exercised the state powers within the territory of the occupied state, but especially because the German Empire, being a totalitarian state lead by the Rosenberg's principle: Recht ist, was dem Volke nützt (Whatever serves the German nation is the law), was performing the state power and enacting legal order essentially notwithstanding its material value. (...) In the contradiction to this, the Constitutional requirement of the democratic character of the Czechoslovak state as defined in the 1920 Constitution may be a concept of political science (and only hardly defined in legal terms), however, that does not mean that it is metajuridical and that it is not legally binding. To the contrary, being the basic characteristic of the constitutional order, it has the effect that the constitutional principle of democratic legitimacy of the state order took precedence over the requirement of formal legal legitimacy in the 1920 Constitution.

Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.[16]

Decrees being appropriate to the time of their issuance and conforming to international consensus:
The general belief, as it was formed during the second world war and shortly afterwards, included the conviction regarding the necessity of recourse of the Nazi regime and restoration, or at least redress, of damages perpetrated by this regime and by the war. Taking this into consideration, the Decree No. 108/1945 Coll. does not contradict the "legal principles of civilized societies in Europe held valid in this century", but it is a legal act appropriate to its time, supported by the international consensus.

Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.[17]

Decrees not using principle of guilt but rather of responsibility:
It must be stressed, that even as regards persons of German nationality, there was no presumption of "guilt", but a presumption of "responsibility". The category of "responsibility" aims clearly beyond the boundaries of "guilt" and therefore it has much larger, value-wise, social, historical as well as legal extent. (...) Here the question must be raised, whether only the figureheads of the Nazi regime or also those who had profited, fulfilled their orders and did not resist them, are responsible for the gas chambers, concentration camps, mass exterminations, humiliation and de-humanization of millions. (...) Together with the other European states and their governments, unable and unwilling to counter Nazi expansion from the very start, also the German nation is in the first line responsible for the inception and development of Nazism, although there were many Germans who had actively and bravely apposed it.

Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.[18]

Decrees targeting primarily persons hostile to the Republic, not the ethnicity in general:
The defining character in definition of the entities whose property was to be confiscated was their hostility to the Czechoslovak Republic and to the Czech and Slovak nations. The hostility presumption is irrebuttable in case of entities in the Art.1(1), i.e. Germany, Hungary, German Nazi Party (...), while it is rebuttable under Art.1(2) in case of physical persons of German or Hungarian ethnicity, i.e. that their property is not subject to confiscation where they prove that they remained loyal to the Czechoslovak Republic, they never committed an offense against the Czech and Slovak nation, and that they had either actively participated in its liberation or were subjected to Nazist or fascist terror. At the same time, according to Art.1(3) the property of physical and legal persons who acted against the sovereignty, independence, democratic and republican legal order, safety and defense of the Czechoslovak Republic (...), notwithstanding ethnicity, was also subject to confiscation.

Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.[19]

Decrees matching the proportionality test:
After the Nazi occupation ended, the rights of the former citizens of Czechoslovakia had to be curtailed not because they had different opinions, but because these opinions were in the general context alien to the very essence of democracy and its order of values and because their consequence was a support to a war of aggression. In the case at hand, this curtailment was valid for all cases fulfilling the given premise, i.e. hostile stance to the Czechoslovak Republic and to its democratic state order, notwithstanding ethnicity.

Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.[20]

In the Decision No. 14/1995 Coll. the Court held that the Decree at issue had been in its time not only legal, but also legitimate. The court found that since the Decree has already fullfiled its purpose and has not been constituting any legal effects for more than four decades, it may not be reviewed by the Court as regards the Decrees' adherence to the 1992 Czech constitution. In the view of the Court, such review would not only lack any legal purpose, but it would also cast doubt on the principle of legal certainty, one of the essential components of modern democratic countries adhering to the rule of law.[21]

Adherence to the formalities of confiscation[edit]

While under some Decrees (i.e. No. 12, No. 108) the confiscation took place automatically on the basis of Decrees themselves,[22] Decree No. 100, which pertained to nationalization of large enterprises (for details, see list above), required a formal decision of the Minister of Industry. The Constitutional Court held that where the decision on nationalization under Decree no. 100 was undertaken by a person other than the Minister, the nationalization did not validly take place and its ownership may thus be challenged at the courts of law today.[23]

Abuse of decrees[edit]

The Constitutional Court held, while hearing complaints against court decisions dealing with confiscations on the basis of Decree No. 12, that courts of law must review whether a decision on confiscation was motivated by persecution and a Decree was used only as a pretext (i.e. material conditions for confiscation under the Decree were not fulfilled). This conclusions were reached in cases dealing either with persons who remained in the borderland after the Munich Agreement and had gained German citizenship, while they remained loyal to Czechoslovakia,[22] or to persons who were first convicted as traitors, but the convictions were later annulled, however confiscations of their property took place in the meantime.[24]

Slovak Republic[edit]

Legal status[edit]

Slovakia as a legal successor of Czechoslovakia adopted her legal order by the Article No. 152 of the Slovak constitution. This includes both Beneš decrees and Czechoslovak Constitutional Act No. 23/1991 (The Charter of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms). The constitutional act formally made all acts or regulations not compliant with the charter inoperable. It means that Beneš decrees are valid historical part of the Slovak legal order, but they cannot create any new legal relationships and in the worst case, they are ineffective since December 31, 1991.

On September 20, 2007, the Slovak parliament adopted a resolution about untouchability of post-war documents related to arrangement of conditions in Slovakia after World War II. The resolution was originally initiated by ultra-nationalist[25][26][27] Slovak National Party and reasoned by activities of Hungarian members of parliament and some organizations in Hungary[28] (among other activities, Hungarian extremist groups like Magyar Garda or Nemzeti Őrsereg activated in August 2007 and topic of Beneš decrees was an important point of their agenda). However, the approved text differed from the proposal in several important points. The resolution reminded victims of World War II, unambiguously refused principle of collective guilt, expressed desire to stop re-opening of topics related to World War II in the context of European integration and declared wish to build good relationship with neighbors. Further, it rejected all attempts for revision and questioning of laws, decrees, agreements or other post-war decisions of Slovak and Czechoslovak bodies, which can lead to change in post-war order. The resolution also clearly declared that nowadays such post-war decisions are not subject of discriminatory practices and they cannot establish law relationships.[29] The resolution was adopted by absolute parliamentary majority and approved both by government coalition and opposition parties with exception of Party of the Hungarian Coalition.[30] This prompted a strong negative reaction in Hungary, and Hungarian President László Sólyom stated that it would put a strain on Hungarian-Slovak relations.[31]

Differences between Czech and Slovak republic[edit]

Politicians and press frequently ignore different conditions between Slovakia and the Czech lands in post-war era.[32] In Slovakia, some of measures incorrectly referenced as "Beneš decrees" were actually not presidential decrees but ordinances of the Slovak National Council (SNR). For example, confiscation of agricultural property of Germans, Hungarians, traitors and enemies of the Slovak nation was not realized by Beneš decrees, but by ordinance of the SNR No. 104/1945. Punishment of fascist criminals, occupants, traitors and collaborators was based on ordinance of the SNR No. 33/1945 and the same applies also for some other measures. The ordinances of the SNR and Beneš decrees sometimes contained different solutions.

The list of decrees which have never been valid in Slovakia contains several important decrees with significant impact on German and Hungarian minority in the Czech lands:[33]

No. of the Act
in the
Collection of Laws
Name
5/1945 Decree of the President concerning the invalidity of some transactions involving property rights from the time of lack of freedom and concerning the National Administration of property assets of Germans, Hungarians, traitors and collaborators and of certain organizations and associations
12/1945 Decree of the President concerning the confiscation and expedited allotment of agricultural property of Germans, Hungarians, as well as traitors and enemies of the Czech and Slovak nation
16/1945 Decree of the President concerning the punishment of Nazi criminals, traitors and their helpers and concerning extraordinary peoples' courts
28/1945 Decree of the President concerning the settlement of Czech, Slovak or other Slavic farmers on the agricultural land of Germans, Hungarians and other enemies of the state
71/1945 Decree of the President concerning the work duty of persons that had lost the Czechoslovak citizenship

Apologizes for post-war persecutions[edit]

On February 12, 1991, The Slovak National Council formally apologized for post-war persecutions of innocent Germans and refused the principle of collective guilt.[34]

In 1990, speakers of the Slovak and Hungarian parliaments František Mikloško and György Szabad agreed on reassessment of common relationships by the commission of Slovak and Hungarian historians. The initiative should lead to common memorandum about limitation of mutual injustices, but did not bring expected results.[35] In 2003, Pavol Hrušovský, speaker of the Slovak parliament, declared that Slovak republic is ready to apologize for post-war injustices if Hungary does the same for injustices against Slovaks. Katalin Szili appreciated his initiative, but further steps were not realized.[36]

In 2005, František Mikloško apologized for injustices from his own initiative[37] and similar unofficial apologizes were realized by personalities from both sides.

Impact on today's political relations[edit]

Bernd Posselt, leader of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, has been for years advocating invalidation of the Beneš decrees

Since the decrees which dealt with the status and property of Germans, Hungarians and traitors, have not been repealed, they still affect the political relations between the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic and their neighbors Austria, Germany and Hungary.[38]

Expellees organized within the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft (part of the Federation of Expellees) and associated political groups call for the abolition of the respective Beneš decrees which are based on the principle of collective guilt.

On 28 December 1989, Václav Havel, at that time a candidate for President of Czechoslovakia (he was elected one day later), suggested that former inhabitants of the Sudetenland might apply for Czech nationality to reclaim their lost properties. The governments of Germany and the Czech Republic signed a declaration of mutual apology for wartime misdeeds in 1997.

In the early 2000s, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and the Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber demanded that the Beneš decrees be repealed, as a precondition for the entry of both countries into the European Union. Hungarian Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy eventually decided not to push the issue further.[39]

In 2003, Liechtenstein blocked agreement about extension of the European Economic Area, because of Beneš decrees and property disputes with Czech and partially Slovak Republic. Liechtenstein was supported also by Norway and Iceland. However, due to expected membership in European Union it had not higher importance. Property disputes were marginal for Slovakia, but she supported Czech Republic as a successor state of Czechoslovakia. Liechtenstein did not recognise Slovakia until 9 December 2009.

Current Czech President Miloš Zeman insists that the Czechs would not consider repealing the decrees because of an underlying fear that doing so would open the door to demands for restitution. According to Time Magazine, former Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan argued, "Why should we single out the Beneš Decrees?... They belong to the past and should stay in the past. Many current members of the E.U. had similar laws."[40]


In 2009, the right-wing and eurosceptic Czech President Václav Klaus demanded an opt-out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, as he feared the Charter would render the Beneš decrees illegal.[41]

In January 2013, the centre-right presidential candidate Karel Schwarzenberg stated that "what we committed in 1945 would today be considered a grave violation of human rights and the Czechoslovak government, along with President Beneš, would have found themselves in The Hague."[42]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Zimek, Josef (1996), Ústavní vývoj českého státu (1 ed.), Brno: Masarykova Univerzita, pp. 62–105 
  2. ^ Those who elected German or Hungarian ethnicity and those who became members of German or Hungarian national associations or political parties were considered Germans and Hungarians.
  3. ^ Preece, Jennifer Jackson (1998). "Ethnic Cleansing as an Instrument of Nation-State Creation: Changing State Practices and Evolving Legal Norms". Human Rights Quarterly 20: 817–842. doi:10.1353/hrq.1998.0039. 
  4. ^ a b Thum, Gregor (2006–2007). "Ethnic Cleansing in Eastern Europe after 1945". Contemporary European History 19 (1): 75–81. doi:10.1017/S0960777309990257. 
  5. ^ Ther, Philipp; Siljak, Ana (2001). Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944-1948. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 201ff. ISBN 0742510948. 
  6. ^ Glassheim, Eagle (2000). "National Mythologies and Ethnic Cleansing: The Expulsion of Czechoslovak Germans in 1945". Central European History 33 (4): 463–486. doi:10.1163/156916100746428. 
  7. ^ de Zayas, Alfred-Maurice (1994). A Terrible Revenge: The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994, ISBN 1-4039-7308-3; second revised edition, Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2006.
  8. ^ Waters, Timothy William (2006–2007). "Remembering Sudetenland: On the Legal Construction of Ethnic Cleansing". Virginia Journal of International Law 47 (1): 63–148. 
  9. ^ Phillips, Ann L. (2000), Power and Influence After the Cold War:Germany in the East-Central Europe, Rowman & Littlefield, p. 84 
  10. ^ Jakoub, Kyloušek (2005), "Sudetoněmecká strana ve volbách 1935 – pochopení menšinového postavení Sudetských Němců v rámci stranického spektra meziválečného Československa [Sudeten German party in 1935 election - understanding of minority position of Sudeten Germans within the party spectrum of the interwar Czechoslovakia]", Rexter (01) 
  11. ^ "Udělení státního občanství České republiky - Ministerstvo vnitra České republiky". Mvcr.cz. 2011-04-26. Retrieved 2013-11-19. 
  12. ^ "University of Minnesota Human Rights Library". .umn.edu. Retrieved 2013-11-19. 
  13. ^ Dagmar Brokova v. The Czech Republic, Communication No. 774/1997 University of Minnesota Human Rights Library
  14. ^ "HUDOC Search Page". Hudoc.echr.coe.int. Retrieved 2013-11-19. 
  15. ^ Všechny tyto úvahy a skutečnosti vedly proto Ústavní soud k závěru, že na Prozatímní státní zřízení Československé republiky, ustavené ve Velké Británii, je nutno nahlížet jako na mezinárodně uznávaný legitimní ústavní orgán československého státu, na jehož území okupovaném říšskou brannou mocí byl nepřítelem znemožněn výkon svrchované státní moci československé, pramenící z ústavní listiny ČSR, uvozené ústavním zákonem č. 121/1920 Sb., jakož i z celého právního řádu československého. V důsledku toho všechny normativní akty prozatímního státního zřízení ČSR, tedy i dekret prezidenta republiky č. 108/1945 Sb. - také v důsledku jejich ratihabice Prozatímním Národním shromážděním (ústavní zákon ze dne 28. 3. 1946 č. 57/1946 Sb.) - jsou výrazem legální československé (české) zákonodárné moci a bylo jimi dovršeno úsilí národů Československa za obnovu ústavního a právního řádu republiky. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
  16. ^ Prvou ze základních otázek v projednávané věci je otázka, zda napadený dekret, totiž dekret prezidenta republiky ze dne 25. 10. 1945 č. 108/1945 Sb. byl vydán v mezích legitimně stanovených kompetencí či naopak, jak tvrdí navrhovatel, stalo se tak v rozporu se základními zásadami právního státu, neboť k jeho vydání došlo orgánem moci výkonné v rozporu s tehdy platným ústavním právem. V této souvislosti je třeba konstatovat, že základem, na němž spočíval právní řád Československé republiky, byl zákon ze dne 28. 10. 1918 č. 11/1918 Sb. z. a n., o zřízení samostatného státu československého. Tento základ československého práva nemohl být v žádném směru zpochybněn německou okupací, nejen z toho důvodu, že předpisy článků 42 až 56 Řádu zákonů a obyčejů pozemní války představující přílohu IV. Haagské úmluvy ze dne 18. 10. 1907 vymezily přesné hranice, v nichž okupant mohl uplatňovat státní moc na území obsazeného státu, ale především proto, že Německá říše jako totalitní stát, řídící se principem vyjádřeným Rosenbergovou větou - Právem je to, co slouží německé cti - vykonávala státní moc a vytvářela právní řád v zásadě již stranou jejich materiálně hodnotové báze. Tuto skutečnost snad nejlépe vystihují dva říšské zákony z roku 1935, totiž zákon o ochraně německé krve a cti a zákon o říšském občanství, v nichž se klade eminentní důraz na čistotu německé krve, jako předpokladu další existence německého lidu, a v nichž se jako říšský občan definuje pouze státní příslušník z německé nebo příbuzné krve, který dokazuje svým chováním, že je ochoten a schopen věrně sloužit německému národu a říši. Naproti tomu ústavní požadavek demokratické povahy československého státu v ústavní listině z roku 1920 formuluje sice pojem politicko-vědní povahy (jenž je juristicky obtížně definovatelný), což však neznamená, že je metajuristický a že nemá právní závaznost. Naopak, jako základní charakteristický rys ústavního zřízení znamená ve svých důsledcích, že nad a před požadavek formálně-právní legitimity byl v ústavní listině Československé republiky z roku 1920 postaven ústavní princip demokratické legitimity státního zřízení. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
  17. ^ V hodnotovém nazírání, jak se vytvářelo během druhé světové války a krátce po ní, bylo naopak obsaženo přesvědčení o nezbytnosti postihu nacistického režimu a náhrady, či alespoň zmírnění škod způsobených tímto režimem a válečnými událostmi. Ani v tomto směru tedy dekret prezidenta republiky č. 108/1945 Sb. neodporuje "právním zásadám civilizovaných společností Evropy platným v tomto století", ale je právním aktem své doby opírajícím se i o mezinárodní konsens. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
  18. ^ Právě na tomto místě je třeba si položit otázku: v jaké míře a v jakém smyslu odpovídají za plynové komory, koncentrační tábory, masové vyhlazování, ponižování, ubíjení a odlidštění milionů jen představitelé nacistického hnutí, nebo jsou za tyto jevy spoluodpovědni i všichni ti, kteří z těchto hnutí mlčky profitovali, plnili jeho příkazy a nekladli jim odpor. Černobílé schéma výlučné odpovědnosti představitelů nacismu a nedostatku odpovědnosti všech ostatních sotva existuje. Tak jako na vzniku a vývoji nacismu se podílely i další evropské státy a jejich vlády, neschopné a neochotné čelit již od počátku nacistické expanzi, odpovídá za něj v prvé řadě sám německý národ, byť i v jeho řadách se našlo nemálo těch, kteří aktivně a statečně proti němu vystoupili. Mezi odpovědností "zbytku světa" a odpovědností německého národa, mezi mlčením a pasivitou jedněch a mlčením a spíše aktivitou druhých zdá se však přece jen existovat podstatný rozdíl, jenž hraje významnou roli i v otázce důkazního břemene. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
  19. ^ určujícím hlediskem při vymezení subjektů konfiskovaného majetku je jejich nepřátelství k Československé republice nebo českému a slovenskému národu, fakt, jenž v případě subjektů uvedených v ustanovení § 1 odst. 1 č. 1 dekretu - tj. Německé říše, Království maďarského, osob veřejného práva podle německého nebo maďarského práva, německé strany nacistické, politických stran maďarských a jiných útvarů, organizací, podniků, zařízení, osobních sdružení, fondů a účelových jmění těchto režimů nebo s nimi souvisejících, jakož i jiných německých nebo maďarských osob právnických - má nevyvratitelnou povahu, zatímco u subjektů uvedených v ustanovení § 1 odst. 1 č. 2 dekretu, tj. osob fyzických národností německé nebo maďarské, povahu vyvratitelnou, a sice v tom směru, že majetek těchto osob se nekonfiskuje, jestliže prokáží, že zůstaly věrny Československé republice, nikdy se neprovinily proti národům českému a slovenskému a buď se činně zúčastnily boje za její osvobození, nebo trpěly pod nacistickým nebo fašistickým terorem. Přitom vzhledem k ustanovení § 1 odst. 1 č. 3 dekretu se konfiskuje majetek, bez ohledu na národnost, i těch fyzických a právnických osob, které vyvíjely činnost proti státní svrchovanosti, samostatnosti, celistvosti, demokraticko-republikánské státní formě, bezpečnosti a obraně Československé republiky, které k takové činnosti podněcovaly nebo jiné osoby svésti hleděly, záměrně podporovaly jakýmkoliv způsobem německé nebo maďarské okupanty nebo které v době zvýšeného ohrožení republiky (§ 18 dekretu prezidenta republiky ze dne 19. června 1945 č. 16/1945 Sb., o potrestání nacistických zločinců, zrádců a jejich pomahačů a o mimořádných lidových soudech) nadržovaly germanizaci nebo maďarizaci na území Československé republiky nebo se chovaly nepřátelsky k Československé republice nebo k českému nebo slovenskému národu, jakož i fyzických nebo právnických osob, které strpěly takovou činnost u osob spravujících jejich majetek (§ 1 odst. 1 č. 3 dekretu prezidenta republiky č. 108/1945 Sb., ve znění zákona č. 84/1949 Sb.). Vztah nepřátelství není tedy v dekretu prezidenta republiky č. 108/1945 Sb. koncipován na národnostní bázi, neboť za nepřítele zde na prvém místě platí nacistický či fašistický systém, a to, jak již uvedeno, nevyvratitelně, a také objektem ochrany je zde především demokraticko-republikánská státní forma. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
  20. ^ Práva někdejších občanů Československa bylo nutno po ukončení nacistické okupace omezit ne proto, že zastávali odlišné postoje, ale z toho důvodu, že tyto jejich postoje byly v celkovém kontextu nepřátelské vůči samé podstatě demokracie a jejímu hodnotovému řádu a ve svých důsledcích představovaly podporu útočné válce. Tato omezení platí v daném případě stejně pro všechny případy splňující stanovenou podmínku, totiž vztah nepřátelství k Československé republice a její demokratické státní formě, bez ohledu na národnostní příslušnost. Case No. II. ÚS 45/94, published as No. 5/1995 Coll.
  21. ^ 8 March 1995, File No. Pl. ÚS 14/1994, published as Decision No. 14/1995 Coll
  22. ^ a b Ústavní soud, I. ÚS 129/99, [87/2000 USn.]
  23. ^ Ústavní soud, IV. ÚS 259/95, [27/1996 USn.] 4. dubna 1996
  24. ^ Ústavní soud, I. ÚS 15/98, [7/1999 USn.]
  25. ^ Zoltan D. Barany (2002). The East European gypsies: regime change, marginality, and ethnopolitics. Cambridge University Press. p. 408. ISBN 978-0-521-00910-2. Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  26. ^ New Slovak Government Embraces Ultra-Nationalists, Excludes Hungarian Coalition Party HRF Alert: "Hungarians are the cancer of the Slovak nation, without delay we need to remove them from the body of the nation." (Új Szó, April 15, 2005)
  27. ^ "The Steven Roth Institute: Country reports. Antisemitism and racism in Slovakia". Tau.ac.il. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  28. ^ Stenographic record from 13th meeting of the National Council of the Slovak Republic in Slovak
  29. ^ Uznesenie Národnej rady Slovenskej republiky o nedotknuteľnosti povojnových dokumentov k usporiadaniu pomerov po II. svetovej vojne na Slovensku (20. 9. 2007) in Slovak
  30. ^ Beneš Decrees confirmed in Slovakia in Hungarian
  31. ^ Sólyom: Slovak decision unacceptable in Hungarian
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  34. ^ Vyhlásenie Slovenskej národnej rady k odsunu slovenských Nemcov in Slovak
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  37. ^ Pástor, Zoltán (2011). Slováci a Maďari (in Slovak). Martin: Matica slovenská. p. 192. ISBN 978-80-8128-004-7. 
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