Sudeten Germans give up ‘right to homeland’

The Sudeten German Homeland Association has given up its claim to the group's former home in parts of the Czech Republic, quieting one of the final echoes of the Second World War.

Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'
Sudeten Germans practising traditional dance at a gathering in 2014. Photo: DPA

The group's national assembly said on Sunday that they had decided to remove language about the “claim to the homeland, winning it back, and the related right of self-determination of the national group” from their constitution, as well as claims for financial compensation.

They also recognized their share of responsibility in the "persecution and murder of Sudeten Germans and Czechs who were hated by the Nazi regime, as well as for the the Holocaust of the Jews in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia".

Spokesman Bernd Posselt told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that he was glad the delegates had agreed to the suggestion he had been making for years.

Now the Association would be "future-proof" and enjoy a stronger "role as a connector in German-Czech dialogue," he said.

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek welcomed the decision, telling CT television that “this is no surprise – it's one of the conditions for an improvement in relations.”

Sudeten Germans, who formerly lived in northern and western border areas of Czechoslovakia, were exploited by Hitler as a pretext for annexing first part and then all of the country in 1938.

But following the Second World War they, like many other ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe, fled or were driven out of their former homes into the borders of the new Germany.

Around three million Germans left the Sudetenland after the war was over.

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Covid-19: Border between Germany and Czech Republic to remain open

Unlike during the first coronavirus lockdown in spring, leaders from both Germany and the Czech Republic are pushing for their border to remain open.

Covid-19: Border between Germany and Czech Republic to remain open
Cars driving from the Czech Republic into Bavaria in June. Photo: DPA

Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder, from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian sister party CSU, and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš want to keep the border open even if the number of coronavirus infections in both countries continus to rise.

“Closing the borders would not be of great benefit in fighting the pandemic, but rather would carry significant negative consequences”, said Söder on Wednesday in Munich after a video conference with Babiš.

READ ALSO: Should Germany impose border controls as Covid-19 rates rise across Europe?

He said that protective measures as face masks and minimum distances now applied on both sides of the border, and that mutually sealing off access would mainly impede the flow of trade and service workers.

Medical care would also be affected, said Söder, pointing out that many Czech commuters work in the care sector in Bavaria.

In order to help Germany's neighbouring country, which is particularly hard hit by the second wave of the pandemic, Söder also offered to make 100 intensive care hospital beds available Czech coronavirus patients.

Better economic support

Söder also pushed for aid from the German government to start in November.

“Culture, gastronomy and self-employed people urgently need support. In addition, the Federal Infection Protection Act had to be extended quickly in order to create clarity and legal certainty,” he added.

Babiš also emphasised the importance of the local coronavirus aid: “If the German economy goes bust, our economy will go bust too,” he said. 

The two politicians therefore also talked about cross-border infrastructure projects such as a 5G mobile phone corridor between Prague and Munich and the expansion of railway lines.

Bavaria is currently the German state most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, having reported 2,845 cases within the last 24 hours as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Czech Republic, which borders both Bavaria and the eastern state of Saxony, is one of the hardest hit countries in Europe, having reported 12,089 coronavirus cases within the past 24 hours.

Amid the first lockdown in spring, the German-Czech border was sealed off in mid-March. However, the Czech Republic was one of the first countries in June to reopen its borders to neighbouring countries, including Austria and Hungary.

READ ALSO: Czech Republic reopens border with Germany