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Germans being deported from the Sudetenland in the aftermath of World War II
|Decrees of the President of the 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 that were drafted by the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile in the absence of the Czechoslovak parliament during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War II and issued by President Edvard Beneš.
The historical significance of the decrees, currently the subject of debate, is best known for the parts that dealt with the status of ethnic Germans and Hungarians in postwar Czechoslovakia. The decrees laid the ground for the forced deportation of approximately three million Germans and Hungarians from lands held by their ancestors for centuries. In modern terms, this is considered a case of ethnic cleansing—a term that gained widespread acceptance from the early 1990s—by many historians and legal scholars.
- These decrees were issued during the government's London exile. They were mainly related to the creation of a Czechoslovak exile government (including its army) and its organization.
- Issued in exile. The main theme was the transition of control of the liberated area of Czechoslovakia from Allied armies and the organization of a post-war Czechoslovak government.
- 1945 (ending October 26)
- A new post-war government was created in Košice, Slovakia, consisting of parties united in the National Front, with a strong influence of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. As a new parliament had not been organized, the will of the government was implemented by decrees of president. Beneš signed decrees created by the executive government. The decrees included controversial laws connected with the nationalisation without compensation of businesses with more than 500 employees, and confiscation of property of ethnic Germans and Hungarians.
All of the decrees were retroactively ratified by the Provisional National Assembly on March 5, 1946 by constitutional act No. 57/1946 Sb.
- Decree of the President of the Republic of May 19, 1945 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
- Decree of the President of the Republic on June 21, 1945 concerning the confiscation and expedited allotment of agricultural property of Germans, Hungarians, as well as traitors and enemies of the Czech and Slovak nation
- Decree of the President of the Republic of July 17, 1945 concerning unified management of domestic settlement
- Decree of the President of the Republic of July 20, 1945 concerning the settlement of Czech, Slovak or other Slavic farmers on the agricultural land of Germans, Hungarians and other enemies of the state
- Constitutional decree of the President of the Republic on August 2, 1945 concerning modification of Czechoslovak citizenship of persons of German and Hungarian ethnicity
- Decree of the President of the Republic on October 25, 1945 concerning confiscation of enemy property and concerning Funds of national recovery
Deportation of Germans and Hungarians after 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. Although the decrees do not directly refer to the planned deportation, they laid the ground for it.
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 no party to the Potsdam Agreement and never accepted exiles arriving after July 1945 into its Zone of Occupation.
In the Potsdam Agreement, the other three Allies agreed that they would accept the exiled persons, expelled from a number of eastern Central European countries, in their zones of occupation in Germany.
Some Germans had supported the Nazis, through the Sudeten German Party – a political party led by Konrad Henlein – and the Third Reich's annexation of the German-populated Czech borderland in 1938. Almost every decree explicitly stated that the sanctions did not apply to anti-fascists, though the term anti-fascist was not explicitly defined. Some 250,000 Germans, some anti-fascists and others judged people crucial for industries, remained in Czechoslovakia. Many of the anti-fascists of German native language emigrated under a special agreement stipulated by Alois Ullmann.
Revocation of Decree No. 33/1945 
On April 13, 1948, the Czechoslovak government issued decree No. 76/1948 allowing those Germans and Hungarians still living in Czechoslovakia, to reinstate Czechoslovak citizenship that had been revoked by decree No. 33/1945. The Slovakian Commissioner of the Interior also revoked the latter decree by issuing decree No. 287/1948.
Status today 
With two exceptions, 89 of the Beneš decrees, edicts, laws and statutes, along with extensive pages of instruction for their enforcement, are kept valid by their continued existence in the statutes of the Czech Republic (1993) and the Slovak Republic (1993). These two successor states of the restored Czechoslovakia remain unwilling to revoke the edicts and laws so as not to contradict the results of World War II.
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 100/1945. The committee has considered the difference in treatment between individuals whose property was confiscated to be discriminatory.
Impact on today's political relations 
Those expellees organised within the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft (part of the Federation of Expellees) and associated political groups call for the abolition of the Beneš decrees as based on the principle of collective guilt. European and international courts have refused to rule on cases concerning the decrees, as most international treaties on human rights took effect after 1945/46.
On 28 December 1989, Václav Havel, at that time a candidate for President of Czechoslovakia (he was elected one day later), suggested that Czechoslovakia should apologize for the expulsion of ethnic Germans and Hungarians after World War II. In March 1990, President Havel stated that the expulsions were "the mistakes and sins of our fathers" and apologized for massacres of Germans during the expulsion on behalf of his people. He also suggested that former inhabitants of the Sudetenland might apply for Czech nationality to reclaim their lost properties. However, neither the German nor the Czech government ever followed through on Havel's suggestion. 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 have 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.
In current terms, the expulsions are also described as "ethnic cleansing" (a term that entered usage in the early 1990s, referring to forced deportation/"population transfers"), as well as a crime against humanity and a genocide by some scholars; for instance Felix Ermacora concluded in an expert report commissioned by the Bavarian government in 1991 that the expulsion constituted a genocide and crime against humanity.
In 1993, Theo Waigel (chairman of the CSU and Federal Minister), suggested that the Czechs were hypocrites for condemning ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia while not condemning the Beneš decrees.
Former Czech Prime Minister 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."
On 20 September 2007, the Slovak parliament adopted a resolution proposed by Ján Slota, the chairman of the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party, that confirmed the decrees. All ethnically Slovak members voted for the decision; only Hungarian minority leaders voted against it. This prompted a strong negative reaction in Hungary, and Hungarian President László Sólyom stated that it would put a strain on Hungarian-Slovak relations. Due to the decrees and postwar confiscation of property from the Prince of Liechtenstein, Liechtenstein did not recognise Slovakia until 9 December 2009.
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.
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."
- 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.
- Thum, Gregor (2006–2007). "Ethnic Cleansing in Eastern Europe after 1945". Contemporary European History 19 (1): 75–81. doi:10.1017/S0960777309990257.
- Ther, Philipp; Siljak, Ana (2001). Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944-1948. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 201ff. ISBN 0742510948.
- 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.
- 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.
- Waters, Timothy William (2006–2007). "Remembering Sudetenland: On the Legal Construction of Ethnic Cleansing". Virginia Journal of International Law 47 (1): 63–148.
- 10:40 UTC (2002-02-27). "Visegrad Four dispute over Beneš decrees". Radio.cz. Retrieved 2010-05-30.
- Finally Social Democrats of German native language, 9,165 of them had suffered in Nazi concentration camps and jails, 13,536 experienced other persecutions by Nazis, and their relatives were spared the harshest atrocities, by interning them in separate special camps. 73,125 were deported under preferential circumstances, of course expropriated, a mere 45,779 of them was allowed to take at least their chattel.
- Dagmar Brokova v. The Czech Republic, Communication No. 774/1997 University of Minnesota Human Rights Library
- Meinungsseiten: Benes-Dekrete und tschechischer Irak-Einsatz by Daniel Satra, 04. 06. 2004, Radio Prague,
- "East European Constitutional Review". .law.nyu.edu. 2002-03-04. Retrieved 2010-05-30.
- Huggler, Justin (February 21, 2002). "Germans incensed by Czech PM's support for 'ethnic cleansing'". The Independent (London). Retrieved April 26, 2010.
- Aus dem Rechtsgutachtens über die sudetendeutschen Fragen 1991 Prof. Dr. Felix Ermacora
- Lost homes and legal battles: Beneš Decrees European Voice, 5 November 2009
- "Putting The Past To Rest". Time. March 11, 2002. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
- 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)
- 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..
- "The Steven Roth Institute: Country reports. Antisemitism and racism in Slovakia". Tau.ac.il. Retrieved 2010-05-30.
- Beneš Decrees confirmed in Slovakia in Hungarian
- Sólyom: Slovak decision unacceptable in Hungarian
- "The American Society of International Law". Asil.org. Retrieved 2010-05-30.
|Czech Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Second World War and its Impact at the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic
- Facing history - The evolution of Czech-German relations in the Czech provinces, 1848-1948: a historical publication sponsored by Czech government, dealing a. o. with the transfer and decrees. A series of PDF files
- The effect of the Benes Decrees on the Accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union: an assessment by the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law; a series of PDF files
- The Sudeten German Question after EU Enlargement by Jakob Cornides
- Ethnic cleansing in post World War II Czechoslovakia: the presidential decrees of Edward Benes, 1945-1948 - a sharply critical view at a Hungarian-American website; 111 kB DOC file
- No comparison - op-ed from the Prague Post criticising "pseudo-scholars" who allegedly regard the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans as morally equivalent to the Holocaust.
- Czech-German Declaration signed in 1997: "Both sides agree that injustice inflicted in the past belongs in the past, and will therefore orient their relations towards the future."