As Spiegel Online reported today, an annual meeting of post-World War II expellees was tainted this weekend by a war of words with Prague, with Czech president Vaclav Klaus outraged after a Sudeten German leader demanded an apology for their expulsion.

During the 62nd annual meeting in the southern German city of Augsburg, Franz Pany, the leader of the Sudeten German organization, effectively demanded that Prague apologize for expelling the ethnic German populace. His comments were not well-received.

During a speech on Saturday Pany referenced Queen Elizabeth II’s historic visit to Ireland last month, where she expressed remorse over the violent past shared between Britain and its close neighbor. “What prevents a republican head of state such as the President of the Czech Republic from expressing something similar to the expelled and disenfranchised Sudeten Germans?” he asked.

But in a statement Czech President Vaclav Klaus refused to make such a concession, instead accusing Pany of “extraordinary insensitivity” and thoughtlessness, particularly because his remarks fell on the anniversary of the Nazi massacre in the Czech village of Lidice, where some 340 people were brutally murdered in 1942.

With the row threatening the fragile and lengthy process of reconciliation between the two sides, the Czech president is coming under increased pressure to offer an apology to the descendants of the three million Sudeten Germans who were pushed out by the then Czechoslovakia in punishment for what was believed to be their part in the brutal occupation. But, is a formal apology the right way forward for a notoriously proud man? Perhaps the two sides only chance of moving forward is to focus on the future instead of the past.

Andrew Fenwick

Andrew Fenwick is multimedia editor at Transitions Online. Email: andrew.fenwick@tol.org

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