There are similarities between the efforts of bringing into existence a new Czechoslovak state in Central Europe during World War I and World War II. In the first case, political agents were working in France, in exile from Austria-Hungary. In the second case, political agents from the collapsed first Czechoslovak Republic, with the support of the British government, succeeded in the restoration of the Czechoslovak Republic, a mosaic state of seven national groups of different cultural backgrounds and against their will.
The first Czechoslovak Republic disintegrated after twenty years of existence, during the presidency of Edward Benes (1935-1938) because it was not completely democratic. Benes’ second term of office (1945-1948) was cut short after the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, in a putsch orchestrated by the Soviet Union, ousted him.
The second Czechoslovak Republic was artificially built in foreign chancelleries and its survival was dependent on foreign assistance. Benes failed to realize the power of the inner strength of the Czech people and disregarded the historic role of Bohemia. He rather cultivated megalomania and xenophobia, which ultimately set him back in 1938 and destroyed him in 1948 and with it, demolished Czech independence.
Benes proceeded to erode, and then destroy, the previous harmonious coexistence of the Czech, German, Slovak and Hungarian people. The anti-German and anti-Hungarian Benes decrees, the laws of the Czechoslovak Parliament and the decrees of the Slovak National Council, published in the official Gazette, remain in force even today, at the beginning of the 21st century. To this day, neither the Czechs nor the Slovaks want to consider their revocation. At the same time, both the Czechs and the Slovaks are demanding restitution from Germany, in the form of monetary compensation, for its citizens who were taken to Germany for the purpose of forced labour. However, during the same era, Czech industry was complicit in assisting the German war machine and Slovakia was a puppet state of fascist Germany.
The restoration of Czechoslovakia after World War II was a political mistake of colossal proportion. In 1918 and 1945, the Slovaks were opportunistic beneficiaries as a result of their political alliance with the Czechs. However, in 1939, they jumped at the opportunity provided by the expansionist policy of the national socialist German government for the establishment of the first Slovak Republic in history, with German assistance.
This wartime alliance was forgiven by peacemakers at the conclusion of World War II, as demanded by the fiction of a Czechoslovak Republic. In 1945, to avoid punishment for their wartime alliance with Hitler’s Germany, the Slovaks hid behind the political cloak of “Czechoslovakism.”
Given the historical record, the wartime policy of the first Slovak Republic must be scrutinized and, also, the southern border of the current second Slovak Republic must be questioned. The long-term record of looting, theft, political oppression, denial of basic human rights, mishandling of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, since 1918, must be subjected to international inquiry. The indispensable condition for the Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia to achieve equality before the law and for the restoration of civil and property rights of Hungarians either living in Slovakia or expelled from post-World War II Czechoslovakia will only occur by the fulfillment of the following demands:
1) acknowledgement of the continued existence of the 1945 Kosice government program,
2) immediate revocation of anti-German and anti-Hungarian Benes decrees and laws of 1945-1948,
3) declaring the post-1945 persecution of Hungarians in Czechoslovakia as unethical and inhuman,
4) establishment of a trust fund by the Slovak Republic to compensate affected Hungarians,
5) repatriation of deported Hungarians, and their descendants, from the Czech Republic to the Slovak Republic,
6) granting equal rights for the Hungarian population of Slovakia in the constitution of the Slovak Republic,
7) granting the right of self-determination for Hungarians in Slovakia, under international supervision.
The incessant harassment of Hungarians in Slovakia must stop, once and for all. Time has come for the peaceful revision of the Slovak-Hungarian border along centuries-old ethnic lines, in accordance with international law and the right to national self-determination. The 1975 Helsinki Final Act recognizes peaceful border changes. It remains an absurdity and an assault against human decency that a territorially enlarged second Slovak Republic (1993- ) has been allowed to emerge as an incidental winner of World War II by replacing the Nazi satellite first Slovak Republic and to continue the ethnic cleansing of Hungarians with impunity.
The revocation of the Benes decrees of 1945-1948 has been demanded for years by the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft of Germany and Austria, the German federal government of Helmut Kohl and by several German and Austrian state governments, as a precondition for admission of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic to the European Union.
According to a May 6, 1996 report of the Czech News Agency, the Slovak Foreign Minister, Juraj Schenk, clearly indicated that Slovakia couldn’t meet demands being made in Budapest to abolish the Benes decrees, which affected the Hungarian minority after World War II. Further, the Czech Constitutional Court has expressed an unwillingness to rescind these decrees and laws, even though it is known that they can never be harmonized with the laws of the European Union.
The Parliament of the European Union called upon the Czech government in April 1999 to abolish the Benes decrees. However, on April 23, 1999, the Slovak Foreign Minister, Eduard Kukan, stated that the Slovak government does not wish to deal with the post- World War II discriminatory edicts over the course of the next three and a half years. It is viewed as a very sensitive issue to be discussed only at the request of the European Union.
The Slovak government has formally apologized for the persecution and deportation of Jews and Carpatho-Germans during the first Slovak Republic and yet avoids the restitution and compensation issues of the persecuted and evicted Hungarians or the guarantee of minority rights to the citizens of Slovakia.
In today’s European Union, the legitimate authority and political will for securing equal rights for the Hungarian population of Slovakia and guaranteeing their right to self-determination resides with the Council of Europe. A necessary condition to meet these goals is the revocation of the Czechoslovak and Slovak discriminatory edicts and laws of 1945-1948, made legally binding by their publication in the official Gazette.
Sourced from: Canadian Human Rights Commission For Minorities in Central Europe,
Vancouver Society, Canada, January 1, 2001