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Austrian political campaign dominated by post-Nazi emotions

A few months ago, Czech President Václav Klaus decided to surrender and add his signature to the Treaty of Lisbon. But he managed to negotiate an opt-out for the Czech Republic from the Charter of Rights - the same opt-out that Poland and United Kingdom have previously negotiated.

There are lots of possible implications of this bad document but one of the specific ones for the Czech Republic was that the Beneš decrees - crucial post-WWII laws that have macroscopically compensated the evil that most of the German Nazis did to our country and that keep on preserving the stability of the ownership rights in the Sudetenland that used to have a German-speaking majority - could have been dismantled using this charter.

Needless to say, this was not the only problem that President Klaus saw in the charter. But it was the most comprehensible problem for the Czech public. Such cards are sometimes being used. President Klaus managed to gain the support of the public in his approach to the Treaty of Lisbon. It was perhaps not 100% clean but the Beneš decrees are just the currently valid laws and Klaus's goal was just to peacefully preserve the status quo.

The advocates of a federal Europe would tell him (and us) that there was no threat for the Beneš decrees. Klaus was only trying to ignite the fear that had no rational justification, they argued. Everyone who matters in the EU has accepted the decrees, we would hear. But unless such arrangements are guaranteed by some texts that can be efficiently enforced, they're always endangered. To see how sensible Klaus's attitude was, it was enough to wait for a few months.

In Austria, there will be presidential elections on April 25th, 2010. Mr Heinz Fischer, the current president, has to compete with Ms Barbara Rosenkranz of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (where Jörg Haider belonged until 2005).

So this particulate contest may require some special behavior from Heinz Fischer, right? Unfortunately, the Austrians still nurture lots of post-Nazi nostalgia. They like to think how powerful they could have been. After all, Adolf Hitler was born in Austria, too. Although their race is clearly less Nordic than that of the German nation (or even the Czech nation, for that matter), they were perhaps even more enthusistic about the ideology than the Germans. And they're more nationalistic than the Germans today.

So unfortunately, the political campaign before the elections seems to be becoming a contest between a full-fledged modern Nazi candidate and a moderate national socialist candidate. In his letter to the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, Heinz Fischer called the Beneš decrees a "severe injustice". He has also said that he will pay no attention to the opt-out from the Charter of Rights that the EU has promised to Klaus and the Czech Republic.

Needless to say, this is a deeply polarizing question. Almost all Austrians are happy about Fischer's revived national self-confidence. Almost all Czechs - and Czech politicians - disagree with it: a TV NOVA poll gives Klaus a 96:4 victory over Fischer. It includes Heinz Fischer's self-described friend, social democratic ex-PM Mr Miloš Zeman. Everyone stresses that the decrees were a logical conclusion of the war that macroscopically ordered the most blatant injustices of the war period. It can't be separated from the history.

After all, the Czechoslovak authorities could have executed all the Germans and Austrians, too. But they were not animals so they carefully decided what was the most balanced, measured, sensitive, yet doable punishment of all the crimes that the German Nazis on our territory did against their former country and the Czechoslovak nation. And the Beneš decrees were a part of this carefully engineered solution. They were no mistake: they were the least bad solution that could have been chosen in those hard times.

Czech president Klaus is just visiting the U.S. - giving some talks about the climate change - but he reacted as follows:

Statement of the president of the republic, Václav Klaus, about the claims by Austrian president Heinz Fischer

President Václav Klaus who is just on his business trip to the U.S. has learned about some of the statements reported by the media that Austrian president Heinz Fischer expressed in his message to the Sudetendeutschenlandsmannschaft Ethnic Association in Austria which referred to the Beneš decrees.

Václav Klaus has expressed regrets that these painful historical topics are being abused in the Austrian political campaign once again. At the same moment, he reminded everyone how far-sighted it was for him to negotiate an opt-out from the EU Charter of Rights for the Czech Republic before he ratified the Treaty of Lisbon on behalf of his country. The incident shows that it is necessary for this opt-out to be legally codified as soon as possible.

Mr Radim Ochvat, March 4th, 2010
Well, I guess that Heinz Fischer's statements will remain just a P.R. game in the internal Austrian political struggles. But the point is that such a "localization" of a problem - and of political sentiments - can never be guaranteed.

It is always possible that such games and pledges will force the president to actually attack the existing laws on the international scene. And it is always conceivable that such a game will find some supporters who may actually help him to achieve this promised goal.

Such important things simply have to be written on the paper and one must be careful not to lose this paper when various laws (and countries) are being rearranged. One must be careful about these matters not despite the fact that the law is considered controversial by some people - but because it is considered controversial. Exactly because some people may have vastly different interpretations what is "right" and what is "wrong" when it comes to the ownership rights in the Sudetenland, it's important for the right answers to be written at a visible place.

And that's the memo.

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reader AntoinedelaTremoille said...

Your knowledge of history is full of preconceptions and falseness very Nazi or Communist style, what we can expect from a follower of the populist and demagogue grandson of a Bavarian peasant. The stubbornness from many Czechs sounds typical of a Stalinist or a Nazi the only truth is your truth, but never real facts of life had history, than even children can find in a history book for “Gymnasium” or secondary schools. The Benes decrees reached very few true Nazis, most like my own family left Vienna for exile following the path started by our Empress and Queen Zita and her family, including HIRH Archduke Otto, who still lives and has 97 years old. Our properties were confiscated by the Nazis in 1939 in Austria and Bohemia and Moravia as well, when my grandfather returned from exile, he was almost kicked of from Czechoslovakia by the secret police, and Benes confiscated our properties alongside with the Starhemberg, Auersperg, Kinský’s and the sons and daughter of the assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife the very Czech countess Sophia Chotek von Chotkowa und Wognin. There is a very emotive story about one of their sons sent with members of my own family to Dachau. When Prince Ernst von Hohenberg sang “Wien, Wien city of my dreams” in Dachau with a Jewish tenor; both were beaten by the guards of the Concentration Camp. WE ARE PROUD TO BE Schwartz und Gelb Österreich (Black and Yellow—Austrian), never German, as Prince Ernst von Starhemberg and the Imperial Family responded when they were deprived in 1938 of the “German citizenship”, they were exiled and just pointed out, we are and we were Austrians for centuries, why they will take us away something that we aren’t? So if we have to go all the legal proceedings against those who illegally and immorally confiscated our properties, in spite of being anti Nazis and having lost many of our families thanks to both totalitarian regimes, reds and browns, we shall fight until everything that belongs to us is back. The law must win through all the unfairness and injustice committed by a Mason and Jacobin like Benes who was so anti Catholic that he tried to undermine the Church in the lands of Saint Wenceslas.

reader Lumo said...

Dear Antoine,

your mental health has clearly been compromised by these emotive stories - so please help yourself with your insults linking others to the two totalitarian systems if there's a chance it will help your health.

Yes, Benes was essentially an anti-Catholic. So are most Czechs today (we're the most atheist nation in the world, after all), and I am on the edge. Get used to it. The idea that the Czechs were obliged to be Catholics - an idea imported from powerful German and Austrian figures above us - has always been a part of the illegitimate German and Austrian dictatorial attitude towards the Czechs. That was one of the reasons why our nation preferred an independent country.

But this German and Austrian influence ended in 1918 when Czechoslovakia was established as a secular republic following the examples of the U.S. and/or France. Since 1918, no one is obliged to be a Catholic, or pay lip service to the Catholic Church, in the lands of Czechoslovakia: we have a genuine religious freedom here. Get used to it. So saying that Benes was anti-Catholic may hurt his image in your eyes but your eyes are no longer relevant in the land of St Wenceslaus. Got it?

The Catholic Church has survived and remains the largest church by the number of registered people - but most of them are only registered formally. The church simply doesn't have the same power as it used to have 600 years ago or so - and it will probably never regain it again.

The proposition that the "Benes decrees reached a very few true Nazis" is completely preposterous. About 2.4 million Germans were deported (2/3 of them in the Western zones, 1/3 of them in the Eastern zones), and 244,000 Germans were allowed to stay (proved anti-fascist attitudes; persons crucial for industries; spouses of Czechs). That hints at a 90% rate of expulsion.

That's the very same percentage as the fraction of them who voted for Henlein's party in the last democratic elections - and this party was the most obedient servant to Hitler. You know, SdP was officially incorporated into NSDAP after the Munich Betrayal: I am not talking about some remote relationships. Also, it's not just the people who voted for SdP: SdP actually had 1 million members in April 1938: pretty much every family had SdP members which became NSDAP members just a few months later. Give me break with ideas that most of them were innocent.

Konrad Henlein wisely committed suicide here in Pilsen on May 10th, 1945, because he realized he would be treated as a criminal. So we didn't even have to execute him.

So as far as these numbers themselves are concerned, it is completely conceivable that every Nazi was deported and every non-Nazi was exempted. I am sure that it surely hasn't worked that perfectly - but frankly speaking, I have some doubts whether I should believe that the people you mentioned are exceptions.


reader AntoinedelaTremoille said...

Your disgraceful and painful statement that most of the Czech population is Godless or not Catholics is untruth, according with Vatican sources, like Cardinal Mejia, 45% of the citizens, many from small towns are churchgoers, perhaps amongst some former Communists and apparatchiks is not the case, maybe your background comes from this kind of people. The Czech authorities must change their politics regarding compensations to all the victims of the Stalinist ethnic cleansing started by Benes in 1945. I believe that in Prague there are many clever and decent people like Vaclav Havel, a true hero of the resistance against Communism, and my hope is that they will prevail sooner or later. Your assertions about the lack of religiosity in the USA is not true at all, I lived in Boston for seven years, and most of the Americans are extremely religious people, even each president sworn over the Bible to respect the Constitution of the USA and always are mentions to God in every speech from the White House no matter if is a Republican or a Democrat. In France there is a rebirth of the Catholic faith, on September 12 to 15 of 2008 HH Pope Benedict XVI visited Paris, in Notre Dame and in the banks of the Seine river (Quai in French) some 600,000 French gathered during the vespers, the next day more than half million went to the mass celebrated by the Pope in the esplanade “des Invalides”. As a French writer said at the very end the Christian sprit of the French nation is back after two centuries of anticlerical campaign orchestrated by the socialist. This man was Jean d’Ormesson a former director and editor of L’Express of Paris. The new president of France like most of the politicians of these days are openly Catholics, and they are dismantling step by step all the revolution’s legacy in “ la fille ainée de l’Eglise”, the eternal France.

There is something else that I would like to emphasize, Benes didn’t do anything to help the Jewish population in his country, even those who were Catholics or Protestants like my uncle Baron K… who was sent to Teresienstadt with my aunt, both were Catholics, but he had a Jewish grandmother and worst both supported the Habsburg dynasty, who were massively condemned to death by Hitler (the two Hohenberg brothers were sent to Dachau, where almost perished, they stayed in C.C. from 1938 to 1945). I will tell you, in 1938 Otto von Habsburg and his brothers and sisters helped to escaped to Switzerland and Hungary thousands of Austrians of Jewish ancestry, and that song was particularly hated by the Nazis, excepting those who were born in Austria. My own family went to exile the Nazis remembered quite well that we have some Jewish ancestry as well, no matter that we are Catholics. By the way, Lotte Landau a friend of my mother whose father was "Hofreisedirektor" and was a Jew, her whole family were denounced in Prague by some "pure Czechs" who happened to be their neighbours, and perished in Teresienstadt. Meanwhile Otto von Habsburg appointed Joseph Roth and Franz Werfel two Austrian monarchist of Jewish blood, as his advisors in Washington DC and worked strongly against Benes who was blocking our Thronfolger of entering to the White House, who finally did it in 1941.

reader Lumo said...

Dear Antoine, you surely don't have to be as hysterical as a religious fundamentalist, do you?

At any rate, your numbers are completely preposterous. If they're taken from the Vatican datasets, then it means that they probably have some obsolete data - from the 15th century or so.

Today, the number of "churchgoers" in Czechia is not 45% but about 11.5% (see page 90 i.e. 6/14 of this paper), and when you only look at weekly churchgoers, their percentage is lower than 7%. By the way, Vaclav Havel whom you praised probably doesn't belong to this minority of churchgoers, either.

I wasn't disputing that these numbers are higher - and much higher - elsewhere. We were just talking about Czechia and I told you what the reality was. I am also telling you that it is a basic human right to be an "infidel" in the Czech Republic and we won't allow anyone to question this right.

Beneš also didn't do anything to harm the Habsburg faimly more than it deserved. But you surely don't expect Beneš to be a top defender of the Habsburg family, do you? Beneš was one of the 3 top founders of Czechoslovakia whose first step was to remove the Habsburg family from the influence on the public affairs. Am I the first one to reveal this fact to you? Masaryk, Štefánik, Beneš, and their allies have abolished monarchy and started the republic.

They had no anti-Semitic sentiments. But if you observe that they didn't have obedient pro-Habsburg attitudes, then you're right. They didn't. This attitude was not only legal but commonplace since 1918, too. Get used to it. This is a part of the independence. The Austria-Hungary was just indefensible and it was superseded by more efficient arrangements of the political systems, at least on our territory.