středa 17. září


Česká zahraniční politika a historie:

  • Češi a česko-německá deklarace: selhání nového přístupu k historii (Andrew Stroehlein, český překlad nejdůležitějších pasáží z níže uvedené diplomové práce)
  • Czechs and the Czech-German Declaration: The Failure of a New Approach to History, Andrew Stroehlein (Thesis submitted in partial requirement for the degree of Master of Philosophy, University of Glasgow) - WATCH OUT, 200 kb!!
  • Endnotes for Andrew Stroehlein's thesis Česká média:
  • TV Nova - jak se dostat do mínusu (Milan Šmíd) Velká Británie:
  • Smrt princezny Diany a měnící se povědomí ve Velké Británii (Jan Čulík)
  • Královská chyba Williama Hagua (Daily Telegraph, 16. září 1997)

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  • Czechs and the Czech-German Declaration:

    Thesis submitted in partial requirement for the degree of Master of Philosophy at the Institute of Russian and East European Studies, University of Glasgow

    Andrew Stroehlein

    September 1997

    I. Overview

      Among neighbours, it is certainly better to support each other than to be shooting at each other - especially when they outnumber you eight to one. (1)

    The Czech-German Declaration was a central issue in Czech-German relations during the past two years. It was originally intended to resolve outstanding difficulties stemming from the poor relations between the two nations especially in the past century. It was hoped that it would "draw a thick line in history" and clear the way for more positive relations in the future.

    The Czech-German conflict has been a constant and unfortunate feature of Central European history, but ill-conceived and poorly handled from beginning to end, the Czech-German Declaration will do little to change that. The last two years have only shown that traditional fears continue to exist in Czech society. This document did not foster reconciliation between the two nations but only aggravated animosities.

    The Declaration was not popular among the Czech people. Czechs rejected it and the new interpretation of history behind it. The Declaration caused great political and social stress in the Czech Republic and threatened fundamental elements of democracy in the country.

    The debates around the Czech-German Declaration demonstrated the serious rift that still exists between Czech intellectual élites and the general public.

    II. Historical Contexts: Czech-German Relations

    Bias and History

    Almost any description of the Czech-German relationship from a historical perspective will be biased. On one hand, this is due to the fact that the Czech-German interface in Central Europe has existed for more than a millennium, and any description, however extensive, will always be finite and thus necessarily include certain facts and omit others. More importantly, the difficulty in describing the Czech-German interface stems from the historical work of the past two hundred years, which has been consistently tied to national ambitions and political objectives during every era and under every régime. Reviewing the literature both past and present, one finds that historical objectivity is in short supply (2).

    In the context of Czech-German relations, history is clearly not a stale science. History is a living entity which, far from remaining behind the ivied walls of academia, pervades all aspects of Central European culture and politics. This does not discount the importance of historical research of many historians in the region, but merely points out the fact that the choice of research topics and the emphasis of conclusions do not escape the context of the age in which they are written. Each era, each group, each historian is moved to present history in a certain way. At times, a climate of fear moved historians to present their findings in a régime-approved manner. Earlier, Czech patriotism was the overriding influence. Today, a political atmosphere strongly favouring reintegration with the West has supported a new approach to history for many historians.

    As Ladislav Holý has noted:

      Historical facts are not objective in themselves but construed as such through the interpretation of the past, part of which is the selection of the events which are to be mentioned or disregarded.

    In the Czech context, where history and politics overlap considerably, actual facts are remembered or forgotten depending on the cultural and political atmosphere of the day. Furthermore, what happened in the past is not as important for today as what people believe has happened.

      A historical memory is not something a nation has because it has a history; it is something created through a nation's reminding itself that it has a history. (3)

    The question then becomes "Who does the reminding?" Quite clearly that role is filled by intellectuals and the ruling élites. Creating and maintaining a certain historical myth - which Holý rightly describes as a "presumed national tradition" (4) - is a clear political goal of each ruling group in every era.

    With this in mind, it is not history itself, but the political use of history which is of prime concern in this paper examining the most recent political reassessment of Czech-German relations as embodied in the Czech-German Declaration. Because this paper examines Czech attitudes towards history and politics in relation to the Czech-German interface, it will now concentrate on the work of Czech historians and the use of history by Czech politicians. It would come as no surprise to anyone that Sudeten German historians present history in a rather different light, although the most recent trend in Czech historical studies approaches this somewhat (5).

    The following is therefore a brief review of the history of the Czech-German interface with a deliberate bias towards the Czech point of view - or points of view as they have changed over time. Almost every one of the following items and its importance in Czech history has been vigorously supported, questioned, doubted and rejected in various eras by various historians. Again, the point is not to detail an exhaustive history, but to highlight areas of history which Czechs themselves highlighted in the past or emphasize today. To examine Czech attitudes towards the Czech-German relationship through history, one must be aware of certain repeatedly emphasized events and revered figures in the Czech historical pantheon. Only in this way can one hope to follow the intricate arguments of commentators, historians and politicians in today's Czech press and fully understand the issues which surround the Czech-German Declaration.

    A Brief History of the Czech-German Interface

    Of course, neither Germanic tribes nor Slavic tribes were the earliest residents of what one would now call Central Europe. The fact that Celtic tribes (among others) were there earlier, however, has not cooled the debate among Czech and German scholars as to which of their ancestors settled there first after the Great Migration of Nations. The absurd argument based on sparse evidence was a favourite of more nationalist Czech historians like Polišenský, who, for example, stressed that early proto-German settlements were only temporary (6). Lack of evidence on all sides does not prevent bitter debate. It seems safe to say that proto-Germans and proto-Czechs were in contact with each other for centuries before the arrival of Christianity.

    Czech history also stresses the Slavic character of the short-lived Great Moravian empire of the ninth century which saw the advent of Christianity in the region and the role of the earliest Czech princes especially the legendary and canonised Václav (Wenceslas, ?-935). Modern books describe how the choral tribute to Saint Václav in the Middle Ages was "equivalent to a modern national anthem" (7). Saint Václav later became a key symbol for the Czech national revival of the 19th century emphasizing the Slavic over the Germanic. During the events of the late 1980s, the nationalist character of the Revolution was emphasized when the square which bears Václav's name and impressive statue - unquestionably "the heart of the country" (8) - became the focus of mass gatherings.

    As in other regions in Central and Eastern Europe in the 13th century, the Czech lands saw extensive colonisation at the request of nobility seeking extra labourers. Many of the new colonists were German speaking, but the question of how many 20th century Sudeten Germans could claim to be descended from this wave of colonisation is fiercely debated in academia and even in today's press. Czech historians tend to support the view that most Germans living in Czechoslovakia at the time of its founding in 1918 were descendants of 16th and especially 17th immigrants. The implication, of course, is that because their ancestors have only been living there for three or four centuries, the German speaking population had less of a national "right" to live in the Czech lands (9).

    The Hussite Wars (1419-1434) are portrayed by some Czech historians as anti-German in character. The historian and Czech national revivalist František Palacký (1798-1876), who saw Central European history as a constant clash of Slavic and Germanic elements, was one of many who attached nationalist significance to this era of religious reformation and crusade (10). Some assert that the Hussite Wars led to a reduction in the number of German speakers in the Czech lands (11).

    No two hours of Czech history are more critical to the Czech conception of the Czech-German dynamic than the brief Battle of White Mountain just outside Prague on 6th November, 1620. The Battle of White Mountain became synonymous with the executions of 27 Czech nobles which occurred as a result several months later, the forced conversions under the strong hand of the Counter-Reformation and the exile of thousands of Czechs who refused to convert in the 1620s. Newly arrived German speaking nobility began to take over large tracts of land as spoils of the Thirty-Years War, and German speaking artisans followed. Often described as "the end of Czech nobility," the three centuries which followed have been typically portrayed as a period of "darkness" when the Czech language and culture were pushed into the provinces under the stress of Germanisation (12). Some of the latest Czech history books try to balance the "darkness" with the cultural advances of the Baroque era (13), but much of the Czech view of Czech history is tied up with the "what if" question of what their "natural" historical progress would have been had the German Catholics not interrupted Czech development (14). As we shall see, exacting revenge for White Mountain would later become a popular Czech nationalist slogan and justification for radical land confiscations after both world wars.

    The Czech national revival of the 19th century was easily as much a reaction against German nationalism as it was an emphasis on Czech identity. Holý notes succinctly that:

      During the national revival, Czechs defined themselves as a nation in conscious opposition to the Germans, who were culturally, politically and economically the dominant element in Bohemia. (15)

    In fact, Czech national identity is largely based on the rejection of all things German though it was always wedded to a fundamental respect for and a constant comparison to the strengths of the German nation. Thus the fact that the Czech-German Declaration not only forced Czechs to re-examine their relationship to their neighbours but also asked them to re-evaluate their own national feelings is hardly a surprise.

    From this era at least, the Czechs have felt a strong sense of nationhood and the equally strong sense that their nation is in competition with the German nation - competition for cultural achievement, for economic success and gradually for political dominance in the Czech lands of Bohemia, Moravia and the rump Silesia. As mentioned earlier, this Czech sense of competition between Slav and German (also considered as a conflict between democracy and feudalism (16)) was the entire basis for the leading revivalist Palacký's historical work on the history of the region and had enormous influence on Czech historians and politicians.

    Many Czech historians today stress that nationalism was not around before this period (though one can hardly ignore the ethnic character of the Kutná Hora Decree of 1409 (17)). One is led to the conclusion that the strengthening of education in the Habsburg empire especially during the reign of Maria Teresa (1740-1780), and the consequent advantages conferred to the rising class of literate civil servants made the knowledge of German more important and led to national sentiments. Before Maria Teresa's Enlightenment reforms, one's lot in life was completely determined by the class one was born into, and even learning a new language could not alter that. In the 18th century, the expanding Habsburg bureaucracy demanded more widely spread literacy, but those who did not speak German natively were at a distinct disadvantage. The new feeling during the 18th century that some could advance themselves based on language and the fact that the preferred language was German naturally led to a feeling of "otherness" that formed the kernel of Czech nationalism in the 19th century.

    As the 19th century passed, Czechs and Germans became more and more distinct and their mutual animosity escalated. In the Habsburg empire, both Czechs and Germans felt like a disadvantaged minority. The Czechs felt like victims of the Austrian lands in which they were a minority, and the Germans felt themselves to be under pressure in Bohemia and Moravia where they were a minority (18). In Bohemia and Moravia, Germans and Czechs competed to build more schools and monuments than the other nation. Towards the end of the last century as Czech political power grew and often became an important factor for a hopeful coalition in Vienna, Czech demands increased. These demands were most often associated with achieving equality for the Czech language, and the Germans in the region resisted them. The competition and conflict resulted in spilt blood on a number of occasions, most notably in 1897 in the events surrounding the rise and fall of Prime Minister Badeni. The riots and the "spirit of December" in which they occurred formed a rallying point for the more militant Czech (anti-German) nationalists (19).

    The traditional Czech view of the Czechoslovak First Republic is a sense of national joy for the nation as the three centuries of "darkness" finally come to an end. There is no doubt that the new state was formed as a pan-Slavic state created by Czechs and Slovaks for the mythical Czechoslovaks (20). The very first words of the first constitution of 29th February, 1920 - "We, the Czechoslovak nation" - make the national character of the new state undeniably clear (21). Masaryk saw to it that Palacký's view of history being an epic conflict between Slavs and Germans was dominant during the First Republic. The traditional Czech view of that era also emphasizes that Czechoslovakia remained progressive and democratic in the interwar period unlike rest of Central Europe (22).

    Today, many Czech historians are stressing that not everyone was happy with First Republic. They point out that three million German speaking citizens of the new state (about 23% of the population (23)) never asked to be a part of the new state and in fact the new state had to occupy renegade German regions of the country militarily in order to cement the national revolution (24). The land redistribution which followed the establishment of Czechoslovakia heavily favoured the Slavic populations at the expense of the Germans and was widely seen as aiming to "redress the wrongs of White Mountain" (25). The German speaking population during the First Republic at first opposed the state. Later in the 1920s, an activist policy was favoured, and a few Germans were even found in the government. This fact in particular is highlighted by Czech historians who wish to demonstrate the decency of the First Republic, the "enlightened" character of Czechoslovak policy and the inherent democratic nature of their nation (26).

    The deteriorating relationship between Czechs and Germans in the 1930s as a result of the economic slump and the rise of Hitler is well known. Czechs wishing to indicate their nation's innocence emphasize Sudeten German agitation in this period, the links between Henlein and Hitler and the shameful electoral results of 1935 when 63% of the German vote in Bohemia and 56% in Moravia went to Henlein's Sudetendeutsche Partei. The Sudeten Germans are widely viewed as aiding and abetting Hitler to break apart the democratic state of Czechoslovakia and are even indirectly credited with the creation of Nazism itself (27). Today's promoters of Czech-German reconciliation prefer to highlight the fact that the Czechoslovak state provided asylum for several of Germany's leading cultural figures in the 1930s (28).

    For more traditionally minded Czech historians like Luža, the occupation during World War II was "the divisive period" in Czech-German relations (29). Stating that "The Czechs and Slovaks suffered nothing like the horrors imposed upon the Poles" (30) is meaningless to the estimated 250,000 killed (about 80,000 of which were Jews) and to the hundreds of thousands imprisoned or sent to work in Germany (31). The general terror of the protectorate régime and specifically the horrors of Lidice and Ležáky during the rampage which followed the assassination of Heydrich have never been forgotten. It is also recalled that those particular terrors were organised by a Sudeten German: K.H. Frank (32).

    Aside from fostering a growing public sympathy for the Soviet Union after the painful rejection by the West at Munich, the years of the protectorate in Bohemia and Moravia encouraged a desire for revenge against the Germans - especially against the Sudeten Germans who had caused the break-up of the Czechoslovak state. The feeling developed that Czechs and Germans could no longer share the same state. Cooler heads agreed with the formulation of radical solutions to the "Czech-German problem" but for reasons other than revenge: separating the two nations would prevent another Munich. Both sentiments found strong support among those living in the shadow of the protectorate and among members of the government in exile, who gradually received Allied backing for their plans (33).

    The most studied and most controversial aspect of Czech history today is certainly the post-war transfers of the German speaking populations from the renewed Czechoslovakia. There is even a debate over the appropriate label for what happened with some calling it a "transfer," some insisting it was an "expulsion" or a "forced resettlement" and others preferring the term "ethnic cleansing" (see below). Here is a perfect example of the point made earlier that it is impossible to write about Czech history without expressing a bias: the simple choice of one word immediately betrays the author's sentiments.

    If the historians cannot agree on a label for the post-war events, it is, of course, unlikely that they will agree on the facts themselves. Most do agree, however, that events of that period fall into three rough phases: 1, Germans fleeing from the Red Army at the end of the war; 2, a disorderly period of local outbursts of revenge - called the "wild transfer" in much of the Czech literature; and 3, the organised and systematic mass transfer of the majority. Much historical research today is focused on the latter two phases and the vengeful horrors which took place during the "wild transfer."

    Some German sources claim that up to half a million Germans did not survive the transfers, but Czech authors have traditionally refuted this (34). Recent Czech surveys have increased the traditional figure of a few thousand to perhaps as many as 50,000 dead as a direct result of the transfers and perhaps a quarter of a million dying indirectly due to the transfers (35). By the end of 1946, over 2.2 million German speaking residents of Czechoslovakia had been formally transferred to the American and Soviet occupation zones of Germany. Perhaps 230,000 to 310,000 Germans remained in Czechoslovakia when the transfers were complete (36).

    Although many Czechs at the time saw the expulsions as a "payback for White Mountain" (37), the organised transfer seems to be motivated more by geopolitical security concerns than by vengeance and collective guilt. It was certainly planned by Beneš and the Allies before 1945 (38). There is much debate around the extent to which the Allies assisted in the expulsions and the role of the Potsdam agreement and earlier agreements (39). In the end, one can say with little argument that about 2.5 million German speakers were relieved of their property and forcibly expelled from Czechoslovakia in 1945-46 and that during that time, tens of thousands lost their lives.

    Today, there is a growing awareness in the Czech Republic that the lawlessness surrounding the expulsions and the spoils created by the confiscated property of the expellees helped to win support for the Communists and aided their rise to power (40). Though this idea is by no means new for foreign historians, former Czech exiles and former Czech dissidents (41), it is only now that wider Czech society is being exposed to the connection between the German expulsions and the rise of Communism.

    The Communist era brought waves of not only Communist but also Sudeten German propaganda. In the heat of the Cold War, the Communist leadership portrayed West Germany as a fascist régime aiding revanchist Sudeten German groups. The régime thus adopted and strengthened the traditional attitude of an eternal Czech-German struggle supported by Palacký and Masaryk (42).

    The régime poured scorn upon Czechoslovak dissidents who published in West Germany and Czech exiles who lived there. Of course, many in West Germany did offer assistance to dissidents and exiles as part of their concern for human rights in the Eastern bloc, and Catholic Czechoslovak exiles were often aided by a Catholic Sudeten German group in West Germany (43). The régime claimed that such people were in league with the revanchist Sudeten Germans (44). Hatred of Sudeten Germans and fear of their return were important tools for the régime and the Communists fostered them accordingly (45). The Communist régime thus maintained the anti-German feeling among Czechs throughout four decades.

    III. After 1989: A New Approach

    The November Revolution of 1989 brought with it new Czech views of Germany and the post-war German expulsions from Czechoslovakia. Dissidents and exiles, already somewhat familiar with the varied opinions among foreign historians and less influenced by the old régime's propaganda, began to force the difficult issue of Czech-German relations onto the Czech public agenda. In official spheres, the uncontested leader of this movement was Václav Havel.

    The first sign that official attitudes were changing was Václav Havel's decision to make his first trip abroad to both East and West Germany just three days after becoming president. The new face towards Germany was closely associated with a new approach to history, and Havel was one of the key driving forces behind the new outlook.

    In March 1990, Havel made a speech during the visit of German President Richard von Weizsacker which was of key importance. After remarkably criticising the widely respected First Republic, Havel spoke of the need for Czechs to face the darker sides of their national history, especially the post-war transfer of the Germans from Czechoslovakia. He specifically criticised the principle of collective guilt which he felt was the underlying impulse for the transfers, he openly spoke of the connection between the lawlessness of the transfers and the rise of Communism and he clearly labelled the events as "the mistakes and sins of our fathers" (46). In the same year and in the same spirit of remembrance, a plaque was placed on the bridge in ňst' nad Labem where in the summer of 1945, over a thousand Germans were brutally murdered by Czechs seeking revenge (47).

    These acknowledgements of and apologies for past wrongs were heavily criticised by many Czechs at the time they were made and even years later (48), but this new approach in official circles was not entirely new to all Czechs. It had its roots in dissident and émigré networks, that is, among intellectual élites. Recent years have seen this new approach to the Czech-German issue blossom openly both in academic theory and in political practice, and there is little doubt that this is part of a wider movement in Czech thought that is decidedly pro-Western.


    Background to the New Balance: Reinventing Central Europe

    In the late 1970s, there was a broadening of Czech criticism of the transfers both in émigré literature and also from the home country. An article by the historian Jan Mlynárik in Svědectví (run by Pavel Tigrid in Paris) in 1979 is widely believed to have started the modern re-examination process (49).

    A notable samizdat work called Bohemus which followed soon after was the work of seven Prague authors and examined the Czech-German relationship in the Czech lands throughout history but especially examined the transfers and their effects. It criticised the transfers as undemocratic and clearly made the connection between the lawlessness during the transfers and the rise of Communism. According to the authors the transfers hurt the economic position of the state, weakened the cultural richness of the Czech lands and "damaged the moral standing of the Czech nation." Bohemus concludes, among other things, that:

    It is simply a tragedy that these nations, which until that time had lived side by side for centuries and which had been able to accomplish much together - even in competition and sometimes in conflict - had to separate. The diversity of the human world, the diversity of tolerant cultures, traditions and races - that hope... suffered in our land in favour of a desire to create closed mutually divisive enclaves.... The war caused a general dehumanisation of people... and Czechs did not escape this... (50).

    This is clearly a radically different approach in comparison with the traditional nationalist view of the transfers as the just answer to White Mountain. Another interesting point about Bohemus is that several of the authors would later become important figures in the 1990s' effort to spread the new view of Germany and the Germans to a wider Czech audience (including Jiří Doležal and Petr Pithart). At the time Bohemus was written, of course, the limited readership of samizdat severely reduced the power of these ideas.

    As the 1980s progressed other samizdat works began to re-examine the history of the Czech-German relationship. One that deserves mention was Václav Kural's work which explored the Czech-German interface during the First Republic. Originally intended for publication abroad in 1988, Kural's Konflikt místo společenství? aimed to continue the work of Jan Křen's Konfliktní společenství about the Czech-German problem in the years 1780-1918. Křen's work went to 68 Publishers in Toronto in 1989. These works explored the reasons behind the collapse of the Czech-German "community of conflict." Both works, along with a further Kural work dealing with the protectorate era and a work by Tomáš Stanék dealing with the transfers themselves, appeared in Czech bookstores after the Revolution and finally brought the new approach to history to a wider audience (51).

    More than isolated historical works, these early re-examinations of the Czech-German relationship were part of a wider intellectual movement which was gaining much favour in dissident and émigré circles during the Communist period. The new approach to Germany and the Germans was an integral part of the intellectual renewal of the "Central European" concept. Central Europe was seen as a unique entity not belonging to "Eastern Europe" in the historical and cultural senses. The stress for a great body of writing was on the Czech connection to the West, and de-emphasized Czech ties to the East, namely Russia.

    In many ways, the "Mitteleuropa" movement can be traced back to the earliest years of Communist rule. Václav Černý's Vývoj a zločiny panslavismu was an early work which expressed the feeling that the Communist régime in Czechoslovakia was rooted in an Eastward-looking pan-Slavism especially the pan-Slavism of Beneš. Beneš' sentiment, though clearly understandable considering his bitterness at the treachery of Munich and equally clearly shared by millions of his fellow Czechs in the 1940s, was seen by Černý as a fundamental mistake. Czech culture and history had made Czechs essentially different from Slavs to the East. Romantic notions of Slavic brotherhood were, in Černý's view, inappropriate for the Czechs and had led to the brutality of Stalinism in Czechoslovakia (52).

    Of course, Černý's work was not formally published until 1993, but Černý and his philosophy had an enormous impact on the dissident community in Czechoslovakia some of whom would become the first set of leaders after the Revolution. Additionally, the man and his work helped to provide some continuity between the opponents of the régime in the 1950s and the dissidents around the Charter 77 movement of the later age (53).

    In the 1980s, the Mitteleuropa concept was championed by many intellectuals in the Czech dissident and exile communities, most notably perhaps by Milan Kundera in his essay "The Tragedy of Central Europe" in which he talks of the Czechs' "struggle to preserve their identity - or, to put it another way, to preserve their Westernness" in the face of Russia, which is "a singular civilisation, an 'other' civilisation" (54). The Mitteleuropa concept also helped to bring together the dissident communities in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia (55), and it had a strong impact on those who would rewrite the history books about the Czech-German relationship (56).

    The oft repeated philosophy of this strain of thinking is that Czech culture under the Communists was unnaturally separated from its spiritual home: the West (57). The "unnatural separation" thesis was often supported by Western intellectuals as well (58). Perhaps this support can be seen as an expression of Western solidarity with the human rights struggle within Communist Czechoslovakia.

    A primary intellectual foundation of the Velvet Revolution for the dissidents involved thus became "the return of Czechoslovakia to Europe" and as Holý rightly points out about the Revolution:

    The national traditions were invoked to foster the confidence that the Czechs, as a democratic, cultured, and well-educated nation, rightfully belonged to the West. (59)

    The "return to Europe" myth became the background for an enormous wave of writing. Most dissidents and Western academics seemed to overlook the fact that the experience of absolutism and totalitarianism is integral to European history, and so, in reality, Czechoslovakia had never "left" Europe. Furthermore, the fact that the overwhelming majority of Czechs never openly rejected the system which was supposedly so "unnatural" to them also barely raised an eyelid amongst the intellectuals.

    After 1989, the Catholic church joined those supporting a pro-Western emphasis and the belief that the Czechs belong to Western culture (60). This is certainly related to the traditional competition between Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

    It is critical to realise, however, that the strong influence of the Mitteleuropa concept upon dissidents, exiles and Western academics does not necessarily imply wide acceptance of the concept among ordinary Czech citizens.

    Thus the new intellectual approach to Czech-German relations is not just an isolated longing for better relations with a neighbouring state. It is an idea with a strong intellectual pedigree. Czech-German reconciliation is necessary as a part of the whole about face which sees Czech thought turning away from the East and towards the West. The gradual reorientation of the intellectual community even formed a philosophical justification for the Revolution. In the simplest sense, the Russian/Soviet system represents the East and capitalist Germany represents the West (61). It is the classical Czech question - between East and West, between Russia and Germany - and the dichotomy was as old as Czech political thought itself. The pendulum was simply swinging back.

    By the logic of this pro-Western attitude, accommodation with Germany is necessary if the Czechs are to "return to Europe." Given Germany's standing in the EU, this is doubly so. This was the philosophy of many exiles and dissidents before 1989 and the philosophy which slowly permeated to other Czech intellectuals after 1989. Reorienting Czechoslovakia towards the West became a goal of the overwhelming majority of politicians and political commentators after the Revolution, and the road "back to Europe" ran through Germany.

    Summary Of the New Balance

    Discussion progressed after the Revolution to such an extent that by 1995, Václav Havel could speak of the arrival of a "new age" in the re-examination of Czech-German history: "an age of new reflection, including a historical reflection, and an age of a new balance" (62). This new approach, or "New Balance" to use Havel's words, to Czech-German history and relations is rooted in the intellectual movement stressing Westernness and is identifiable today by four main attributes:

    1: The years of co-operation and peaceful coexistence of Czechs and Germans are highlighted and stressed. Apart from discussions of the transfers, the divisive eras are played down. It is generally assumed that the peace between the two groups was only recently and regrettably shattered by the rise of nationalism in the 19th century (63). In essence, this romantic image is tied to the old concept of bohemism of Bernard Bolzano, who, in the early 19th century tried to halt the rising tide of Czech-German animosity with a concept of a political Bohemian nation of two equal parts: the Czechs and the Germans (64).

    The Declaration adopts such sentiments in its preamble where it recognises "the long history of fruitful and peaceful coexistence of Czechs and Germans" (See Appendix I).

    Occasionally this romanticisation of the Central European past takes on absurd forms in musings about the joys of Kaffeekultur in Habsburg Vienna or in mythical creations of an idyllic rural harmony of peoples (65).

    2: Traditional icons of Czech patriots are criticised. The criticism extends to such national heroes as Palacký (66) and even T.G. Masaryk (67) who is the historical figure of which ordinary Czechs are most proud (68).

    3: Understanding and compassion are expressed for the Sudeten Germans especially those who suffered during the transfers (69). An effort is made to divide contemporary Sudeten Germans into the majority who are peace-loving and those few who are radical and seek to disrupt Czech politics with their demands for a "right to a homeland" (70). At the most conciliatory end of the spectrum, there is talk of the Sudeten Germans as "former fellow citizens" (71).

    4: The association between the post-war lawlessness of the transfers and the rise of the Communist régime is stressed (72).

    One will note from these primary attributes, that this New Balance is strongly related to the Czech tradition of comparing themselves with the Germans (73). In an effort to be modern, there is a perceptible feeling expressed in the writings of the intellectual élites that the Czechs should examine their dark history as the Germans have done. During the visit of the German president in March of 1990, Václav Havel was more direct:

    On behalf of his nation, our guest has already spoken the difficult truth about the suffering which many Germans - or more specifically the ancestors of today's Germans - have brought upon the world in general and upon us in particular. For our part, are we able to say everything that we should say? I am not so sure. (74)

    Havel's famous "apology" for the transfers then follows. It is quite obvious that the Czech re-examination of the Czech-German relationship will thus necessarily include a national Czech self re-examination, as well.

    Divisions in the Pro-reconciliation New Balance Movement

    Of course, the New Balance approach to Czech-German history and relations is not accepted by all Czech intellectuals. Some historians and political commentators are steadfast in their opposition to the "Czech protagonists of reconciliation" and to the Czech-German Declaration itself (75). They shall be discussed below.

    Even those intellectuals who support the New Balance are by no means united. The protagonists of the movement are spilt somewhat, and the rifts have become more obvious in the last few years. Advocates of the New Balance fall into two rough groupings:

    The Ultras:

    The first group has been more firmly pro-reconciliation and unhesitatingly friendly towards Sudeten Germans. Many intellectual élites have made Czech-German reconciliation their cause. They express stronger regrets over the loss of the Central European amalgam of three cultures living together (Czech, German and Jewish). The declaration "Smíření 95" has been one of the focal points of this end of the pro-reconciliation spectrum. Along with many signatures from the German side, the declaration had 67 signatures from the Czech side with people such as the former leading advisor to Václav Klaus Bohumil Doleěal, Catholic Priest and activist Václav Malý and most notably Former Prime Minister of the Czech government within Czechoslovakia and today's Chairman of the Senate Petr Pithart. The prime request of those signing is that "The government of the Czech Republic and representatives of the Sudeten Germans begin direct talks on all matters which either side feels are unsettled" (76). Bohumil Doležal described the direction of this movement early in 1996 with the following words:

      The problem of the events of the years 1945 to 1947 is a problem between Czechs and Sudeten Germans. It is not a problem between Czechs and Germans, and in my opinion, all problems should be solved where they originate and by the people who are directly concerned. (77)

    There have been similar statements by Pithart and other politician/intellectuals, many of whom were active in politics in the more idealistic 1990-1992 period of Czech public life, which call for direct negotiations and use more radically pro-reconciliation language. Former Foreign Minister Jiř' Dienstbier, for example, bluntly likened the transfers to an "ethnic cleansing" (78). In terms of deeds not words, Ludvík Vaculík has been campaigning for investigations of post-war transfer crimes (79).

    It is important to remember, however, that even one of the most "Sudeten friendly" Czechs Petr Pithart has harsh words for Franz Neubauer, the more extreme leader of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft, and refuses to meet with him (80). One must also bear in mind that the opinions of this more openly pro-reconciliation faction of the New Balance movement underwent a series of changes during the course of the declaration debate. Specifically, some of the more ardent supporters of direct talks backed off considerably (81).

    The magazine Střední Evropa represents one aspect of this more extreme New Balance faction. It is not shy about pointing out the Czech role in the destruction of the hallowed Mitteleuropa. It is criticised by the more moderate pro-reconciliation group for being too Catholic, too aristocratic and too supportive of the old monarchy (82).

    The Moderates:

    The second group of Czech intellectuals advocating the New Balance in Czech-German relations and history is best described as the moderates. They also strongly support Czech-German reconciliation and regret the loss of multicultural Mitteleuropa, but they are not quite so adamant as the ultras. This group includes Havel and the historians close to him such as Jan Křen, who was named the chairman of the Czechoslovak delegation to the Joint Commission of Czech and German Historians and who was chosen to accompany Havel on his historic trip to Germany to speak before the Bundestag (83). While clearly acknowledging the need for the "new balance" and the "changeable flow of historical research" (84), supporters of the more moderate stance behave somewhat more pragmatically.

    Perhaps they feel that given the radical demands of some of the more extreme Sudeten German leaders and the radical anti-German sentiments expressed by some within the Czech Republic, one cannot expect miracles but must strive for what is possible in relations. It is certainly no coincidence that many in the more aggressively pro-reconciliation group of ultras are not now active in politics while many in the more moderate group are. The strong public condemnations of Havel's March 1990 speech may have made these people more wary of being too bold in the cause of reconciliation. Many are thus wary to fully apologise for the post-war transfers as it is seen as opening the door to a return of Sudeten Germans, which, as will be seen, is a primary fear in Czech society.

    The fundamental difference between these two groups of pro-reconciliation New Balance intellectuals is that the ultras call for open talks between the Czech government and Sudeten German representatives, and the moderates tend toward a basic awareness that this is an unpopular idea among the Czech public. As will be seen, however, both groups of intellectuals, even the moderates who have some understanding of public sentiments, are separated from the opinions of ordinary Czechs. The moderates may temper their speech somewhat, but for the bulk of Czech society, both ultras and moderates are speaking another language. The subtle difference between these two groups within the New Balance movement does not seem to interest the wider public who is suspicious of the movement in its entirety. These issues shall be taken up below.

    In summary then, the New Balance is the intellectual trend that started as a "discussion of the German question in dissident and émigré circles" and "takes a critical view towards nationalist interpretations" in the analysis of Czech-German history and relations (85). It forms the philosophical background for the Czech-German Declaration. The movement has both an ultra and a moderate wing. One will see that it is specifically from the moderates within the pro-reconciliation New Balance movement that the idea for the Declaration emerges.


    Relations with Germany After 1989

    Formal relations between Bonn and Prague dramatically improved after 1989. As mentioned earlier, Havel made his first foreign visits to the both German states within three days of becoming president. Cross-border contacts, especially economic ones, proceeded apace. Capital, according to then Finance Minister Václav Klaus, was not German nor French, but simply capital, which Czechoslovakia needed (86).

    Post -November Foreign Minister Jiří Dienstbier did not manage to get Czechoslovak concerns onto the table at the "2+4" talks on German reunification as the Poles had done (87), but his Westward looking approach did in 1991 result in the successful negotiation of the Czechoslovak-German Agreement on Good Neighbourliness and Friendly Co-operation, which was initialled by both foreign ministers in October 1991 and signed by Kohl and Havel in February of 1992. Containing the controversial word "expulsions" in reference to the post-war transfers, the agreement was criticised in some quarters, but, as Havel then claimed: is a good agreement. The results at this time could not be better - neither for Germans nor for Czechs. Some problems are not solvable, and there is no need to solve them... (88)

    The threat of a return of Sudeten Germans through post-communist property restitution was handled simply by fixing an appropriate date before which restitution of confiscated property would not be allowed. The cut-off date thus became 25th February, 1948. Those who had property confiscated after this date (and their descendants) could claim the property back. Ethnically, they were overwhelmingly Czech. Those who had property confiscated before this date, notably millions of Sudeten Germans, were simply ignored. It was a simple solution to compensate the victims of some excesses of the late 1940s but not others. The dividing line was clearly ethnic, but it turned out not to be so simple as it left open the question of restitution to Jewish Holocaust survivors in Czechoslovakia. This was later addressed with the creation of a limitted legal loop-hole (89). Since 1989, Sudeten Germans have consistently failed to win their claims in the Czech courts (90).

    Thus, the attitude of those early politicians was firmly Western oriented and one might even say accommodating towards Germany as shown by their willingness to use words like "expulsion." They eagerly sought economic relationships and formal expressions of friendship with the newly reunified Germany. They were unwilling, however, to allow a return of Sudeten Germans through property restitution. Such a political programme would have been untenable in view of public opinion.

    1992 and Beyond

    The next generation of politicians which emerged victorious from the 1992 elections and the divorce of Czechoslovakia also wanted to direct the country Westward, but they were even more aware of public fears and hatreds concerning the Czech-German issue than the former government, which was more strongly influenced by idealistic émigrés and dissidents. The group of pragmatic, even economically populist, politicians behind Klaus was obviously closer to peoples' hearts than the more idealistic Civic Movement of Dienstbier and Pithart.

    The Czech economy continued to be more and more connected to Germany every day. Germany became the largest source of foreign direct investment in the Czech Republic with almost twice the investment of the second largest source (91). For several years now the Federal Republic of Germany has also been the Czech Republic's most important trading partner (92).

    Of course, the Czech government has consistently refused to meet directly with representatives of Sudeten German groups or to reconsider the cut-off date for restitution. It is clear that almost all politicians across the spectrum consider giving ground in these areas the quickest method of political suicide (93). Still, by the mid-1990s, Czech-German relations were described as "the best in modern history" by Czech Foreign Minister Zieleniec (94), and the outgoing German ambassador in Prague spoke of the "new quality" to relations especially in the fields of economic, cultural and even military co-operation (95).

    Reflecting the business community, a general German-friendly attitude had developed in government circles because it was seen as a matter of necessity. A strong German presence in Central Europe and in the Czech Republic in particular was described as simply "our fate" by the Czech Privatisation Minister Tomáš Ježek (96). The comment of a Czech embassy official in London sums up the modern official attitude rather well: "Given the geography, we have no choice but to develop a good relationship with Bonn" (97).

    Additionally, a new generation of Czechs and Germans had come of age, and they felt that the old fears were groundless. Perhaps there was still a Czech-Sudeten German problem for the older generation, but youth thought differently (98).

    Why a Declaration?

    With this rosy picture of blossoming relations and good will, one may well ask whether there was ever really a Czech-German problem in the 1990s after all and whether a formal declaration was ever really necessary. True the Czech Republic (along with Slovakia) was the only country not to have its Nazi victims receive direct compensation from Bonn, and this was (and is) due to nagging claims of the Sudeten Germans. But five years had elapsed since the Revolution. There was a friendship treaty between the two states, and relations were strong economically and culturally.

    The one real political blot on the rosy picture was the poor personal relations between Kohl and Klaus. The ill feeling between them seems to have been caused by Klaus' undiplomatic comments to Kohl in Budapest in 1993 regarding Bonn's support of Sudeten Germans and by some of Klaus' more Eurosceptic statements which upset the ultimate Europhile Kohl (99). It is hard to see how this personal difference justifies the pain and trouble all sides suffered to forge the Declaration.

    Had the originators of the document any idea of the controversy and national embarrassment the Declaration would cause, they certainly would have prevented the flawed idea from ever reaching the drawing board. It is thus quite clear that those who first created the idea for the Declaration did not foresee the resistance it would receive among the Czech public. It is obvious that they did not understand the depth of anti-German sentiment among ordinary Czechs.

    The fact is that the impetus for the Czech-German Declaration did not stem from the need to resolve practical problems in Czech-German relations nor, by any means, from an expression of popular will. The need for a declaration was not envisioned by the pragmatic politicians of the post-1992 coalition. The idea of a declaration arose from a philosophical longing to make peace with the past and to anchor the intellectual New Balance in official words. It was a concept that sprung from the ideals of intellectual élites - from the former dissidents and exiles. In fact, the spark for the Declaration came from Václav Havel himself.

    IV. The Declaration

    The Road to the Declaration

    Rough Beginnings

    Václav Havel's speech at Charles University on 17th February, 1995 set the Declaration process in motion. In calling for a new dialogue, Havel saw a need to finalise discussions about the past in order to begin looking towards the future. "The time of confrontation must end, and the time of co-operation must begin." He hoped for "the creation of a new Czech-German relationship." Havel believed that the two nations needed to formally draw "a thick line" between the past and the future in the "thousand year coexistence of Czechs and Germans in our land, which in the past two centuries have become more complicated..." (100).

    After some initial conflicts on the Czech side as to whether the talks should be conducted by representatives of governments or parliaments, by June 1995, both the Czech and German governments had selected their chief negotiators for the Declaration discussions. The Czech Alexandr Vondra and the German Peter Hartmann began to meet regularly (101). The primary characteristic of the negotiations, which would continue for the next year and a half, was their secrecy. Rumours naturally filled the gaps in public information. Very few knew what was really being discussed, and this brought some to fear the worst (102). Even parliament was kept in the dark throughout (103).

    In January and February 1996, a crisis developed in the negotiations over the meaning of the Potsdam Agreement. While the Czechs felt that the document basically expressed Allied support of the post-war transfers, German Foreign Minister Kinkel insisted that Potsdam was "only a political declaration" to which Germany did not feel bound. Kinkel's questioning of the permanence of the post-war situation sent a shock wave not only across the Czech Republic but also across Western capitals. The Czech papers spoke of the worsening climate of Czech-German relations, and the German papers were saying that relations would be better without a formal declaration about the past (104). The bitter dispute was described by the British Daily Telegraph as "the gravest crisis in Germany's relations with an east European country since the collapse of communism" (105). The deteriorating state of Czech-German relations caused by the Declaration negotiations brought Klaus to proclaim: "It's not a fiasco!" - leading most to believe that it was (106). The Declaration seemed a dead letter, and relations were definitely at the lowest point since the Revolution.

    Negotiations did continue, however, but with the approach of the 1996 elections in the Czech Republic, it was agreed to postpone any major announcements until after the political situation was settled. It was hoped that the Czech-German issue would not enter into the campaign (107). Some in Bonn were obviously hoping for the electoral victory of a more co-operative set of Czech politicians (108).

    Of course, the emotional Czech-German issue, made topical by the Declaration negotiations did play a part in the 1996 parliamentary elections. Once the poll was released that 86% of Czechs would never cast their vote for a party that supported an apology to the Sudeten Germans, it was hard to believe that the issue would not be a factor in the election campaign (109). In efforts to discredit each other, both the coalition parties and the opposition Social Democrats exchanged accusations of German campaign support (110). A few days before the election, rumours that the Declaration was ready were spread by the German press and the more irresponsible elements of the Czech media (111).

    The Sudeten Germans could not resist adding their traditional destabilising influence on Czech politics. At the annual meeting of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft held a week before the Czech elections, their leaders and their defender Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber repeated their major demands on the Czech government including direct talks with the Czech government and the cryptic "right to a homeland." Stoiber also stated that the fulfilment of these demands should be a precondition for the acceptance of the Czech Republic into the EU (112). The more extreme Sudeten Germans and their protectors in the Bavarian government have always provided a regular barrage of threats and comments which cause upset in the Czech Republic and sour Czech-German relations (113), but such threats just before the election could only help the radical Czech right gain a seat or two.

    Surrounding Contexts

    One should not get the impression that the Declaration and Czech and Sudeten German reactions to it were the only points of concern in Czech-German relations in the last few years. Other matters also had a influence on relations. For example, two German tourists were shot dead by police in September 1994 and March 1995. In the second incident, the victim was shot in the back of the head after being force to lie on the ground for a minor traffic offence (114). Republican leader Miroslav Sládek infamously commented that there were too many Germans anyway. This is, of course, only one instance of the regular anti-German speech for which the Republicans are well known and which added their own negative influence to Czech-German relations in the past few years (115). The Republicans are treated below.

    Another issue that soured Czech-German relations concerned the Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Gerd Albrecht, a German. His problems with his employers started after he refused to appear with the philharmonic at the Vatican at a celebration of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel. Havel said that Albrecht had damaged the reputation of the Czech Republic. Albrecht later hinted that Havel had called him an anti-Semite, and Havel denied this. Albrecht later apologised, but his days in Prague were numbered due to other conflicts which always had a resonance of Czechs versus Germans about them (116).

    After the Elections

    The election results certainly did not clarify the political situation in the Czech Republic; it made it more complex. Perhaps realising that no better deal could be hoped for in the near future, Kohl declared in September that the Declaration would be ready "by year's end" (117). The rumours, often spun by the Landsmannschaft and greedily accepted by the Czech press, continued (118).

    In November, conflicting rumours produced a word game between Klaus, the Republicans and Bonn. A Republican MP asked Klaus whether the Declaration would contain the word odsun (transfer) or vyhnání (expulsion). Klaus mysteriously replied that the prepared document contained neither word. This confused everyone, unleashed a new flood of rumours, released fresh accusations from Neubauer and brought a sharp denial from Bonn, which claimed that the Declaration contained the word Vertreibung (expulsion) (119).

    It eventually emerged that the Czech word to be used in the Declaration to identify the transfers/expulsions would be vyhánžn' (120). The difference between vyhnání and vyhánění is rather slight: they differ only in verbal aspect, a quality that neither German nor English has. The difference is essentially that the first emphasizes the completion of the act while the second emphasizes the ongoing action. In the declaration, the word vyhnání was avoided probably because it is rather forceful and loaded, while vyhánžní, being a rather rare word, has not got the same strong overtones. Perhaps also the Declaration's emphasis upon the ongoing action is meant to emphasise that the Czech side condemns certain excesses of the expulsions but not the expulsions themselves. The German version did contain the clear word Vertreibung, but the question remains whether the two versions of the Declaration have the same meaning. In any case, the Czech news reading public was treated to long articles on grammar and linguistics the likes of which had not been seen since the "Great Hyphen Debate" between Czechs and Slovaks in the spring of 1990 (121).

    Some insisted that the linguistic acrobatics had legal ramifications (122), but the absurdity of the grammatical debate only revealed the rumour promoting secrecy which surrounded the whole preparation of the Declaration. It was a rather hopeless time for journalists who, rather than deal with the substantive issues of Czech-German relations and the complexities of history, had to settle for arguments as to whether this or that word would be in the final Declaration or not. This "embargo on information" was recognised by many at home and abroad (123).

    The Public Finally See the Declaration - By Accident

    On 7th December some of the actual text leaked into the press, and two days later the full text was mistakenly made public. It seems that the Prague office of German ARD television first released a few passages of the text which it had received from the Chancellor's office in Bonn. Foreign Minister Zieleniec, believing that ARD had released the full text, then gave the full text to the Czech Press Agency (ČTK) from which all media received it. This does not seem to have been planned at all but rather seems to be mere bumbling (124). The accusations flew back and forth between Prague and Bonn each blaming the other for the unfortunate leak. Klaus charged ARD with incompetence. The fact that just a few days before, Kohl had shown the finished Declaration to the leaders of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft (even before the Parliaments got to see it) led some to believe that the Sudeten Germans had been responsible for the leak (125). The accusations certainly did not help Czech-German relations. The unwanted leak after a year and a half of carefully guarded secrecy made the situation "a bit more complicated" (126).

    The next fumbling step for the Declaration was its initialling by the foreign ministers on 20th December. The ceremony was marred not only by the unexpected publication just over a week earlier but also by the rather undiplomatic comments of Germany's top diplomat that Germany regarded the compensation of Czech victims of the Nazis as a matter for the Czech government and that the Declaration was not the "full stop" in the course of history that many Czechs had wanted (127).

    On 21st January, 1997, Helmut Kohl made the long-awaited visit to Prague to formally sign the Czech-German Declaration with his counterpart Václav Klaus. The visit was made under unusually strict security measures and blackened by the unseemly protests of Republicans (128). Unfortunately, despite the many months of difficult negotiations, it was clear that Prague and Bonn still did not agree on what they were signing. Kohl felt obliged to mention that the declaration left Sudeten restitution issues still open (129). Klaus diplomatically kept silent at the time, but Kohl's words caused an uproar in the Czech press. Wasn't the Declaration supposed to put that final "full stop" in the course of history that Zieleniec and Klaus spoke about back in 1995? (130)


    The German parliament ratified the Declaration with an overwhelming majority on 30th January to the accompaniment of further claims by Kohl that Sudeten restitution issues remained unresolved and that the Declaration offered a clear guarantee to Sudeten Germans for the privileged treatment in attaining permanent right to remain in the Czech Republic. Again, the words brought further expressions of shock and horror in the Czech press (131). Kohl did not smooth the path for the difficult next act in the Declaration play.

    The ratification of the Czech-German Declaration in the Representative Assembly (lower house) of the Czech Parliament can only be described as just short of a complete disaster. The young Czech democracy was put through a gruelling test and emerged severely bruised as a result. As will be seen below, parliamentary rules were bent and procedures were altered to get around the monotonous filibustering, accusations of high treason and acrid racial slurs from Republican MPs (132). There were calls to ban certain political parties, and only a few cooler heads prevented such harshly undemocratic actions (133).

    The week of ratification of the Declaration was a time of legislative firsts. The debate over the Declaration was the longest and most stormy debate to ever come through the Czech parliament. It was the first time that body ever worked through the night and the first time it ever worked on a Saturday (134).

    After days of conflict, a back room compromise between the leader of the minority government and the leading opposition figure at the head of a hopelessly split party broke the deadlock which had brought shame upon the whole Republic. The compromise involved an accompanying resolution which essentially was meant to be an answer to Kohl's recent statements and to stress that the Declaration would put an end to the arguments relating to the past.

    There was audible relief in Germany and in the Czech Republic that "Thank God, it's over" (135).

    The ratification in the Czech Senate on 5th March, by comparison, was almost without incident, and many felt that the smooth procedure in the new upper house went some way to mending the damage to democracy wrought in the lower house (136). Oddly, however, some senators were unaware that they were voting on the Declaration when they raised their hands in the final vote (137).

    The final stage of the Declaration drama was the exchange of presidential speeches in reciprocal parliaments. On 24th April, Havel offered a complex speech attempting to redefine the "nation" in modern Europe (138). Amid fears of Republican protests, Roman Herzog spoke less grandiously to a joint session of the Czech Parliament specially convened at Prague Castle on 29th April (139).

    After more than two years since its inception, the Czech-German Declaration was complete.

    What Is It?

    When the Declaration was finally mistakenly published, it was described by some as "bold" (140). Of all the things the Declaration is, it is certainly not bold. It would be worthwhile examining what the Declaration actually is.

    Starting a Sentence with a Full Stop:

    Originally, of course, the Czech side hoped that the Declaration would draw that "thick line" in history that Havel spoke of in 1995 and that "full stop" that Zieleniec and Klaus wanted. Roughly, this was a hope to end once and for all the threat of Sudeten German restitution claims and the threat that Sudeten German blackmail could prevent or delay Czech entry into the EU. As Vice-Premier of the government and leader of Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) leader Jan Kalvoda said in early 1996:

      The Declaration has one, and only one possible value: that is to legally close the past and claims stemming from the past. If this is not the content of the Declaration, then the Declaration will have no sense whatsoever. (141)

    As Kohl's comments a year later at the signing ceremony and at the ratification in the Bundestag clearly show, the German side still regards these matters to be open (142).

    If the Declaration did not fulfil its original purpose, did it at least bring about a reconciliation of the two sides? After the Declaration was signed, interestingly, the father of the document Václav Havel seemed to believe that it was never meant to close the past nor was it an act of reconciliation:

      One tries to develop reconciliation with one's enemies, and I do not have the feeling at this time that the Czech nation and the German nation are enemies which need to seek reconciliation.

    He continued:

      One can never close the past. The past is within us, it is a part of us. (143)

    This was a complete reversal of the hopes expressed in his March 1995 speech and completely erased the Czech justification for the Declaration. Why were there so many months of difficult negotiations and stressful political battles if this Declaration could not fulfil its primary goal and if reconciliation was never needed anyway? The Czechs scrambled to find meaning in this absurdity.

    Many commentators, both Czech and foreign, struggled to find the right metaphor to describe just what this unusual document was. It was called a "thermometer" of Czech-German relations (144), a "link in a chain" (145), a "car looking for a highway" (146), an "apology exchange" (147), a "delicate house of cards" (148) and a "hard little island in the swamp of history" (149). The Chairman of the Parliamentary Constitutional and Legal Committee called it merely a "gentlemen's agreement" (150). Pavel Tigrid labelled it not a thick line in Czech-German history (as Havel had wanted in 1995) but rather a "starting line" (151).

    There was a search for the proper punctuation metaphor. Remember that both Klaus and Zieleniec had earlier hoped for a "full stop" in the Czech-German sentence of history. For example, Zieleniec stated in 1995: "At the end (of the Declaration process) I see an official full stop in history," though he did mention that "such a full stop does not mean just the end of something but mainly the beginning of something new." In the same year Klaus also confirmed the need for the appropriate mark of punctuation:

      That we wish the Declaration, when it is finished and ratified, to mean a clear full stop in history, is completely obvious. That is clearly its fundamental meaning.

    By late 1996, however, the punctuation metaphor had changed. Zieleniec was now calling it a colon, not a full stop (152).

    By February 1997 when a question mark hung over the issue of ratification, confused commentators saw the Declaration as neither a full stop nor a colon but rather an exclamation point (153). Again, one was reminded of the Great Hyphen Debate of a few years earlier.

    The Contents of the Declaration

    Many were upset at specific words in the final text. The word vyhánění was indeed in the final document and caused some difficulty with Bonn as mentioned earlier, but it was hardly the only word people took issue with. Some Czechs were worried that the Declaration introduced the term "Sudeten German" into official Czech documents for the first time, and aside from legal ramifications the term remained "a trauma for Czechs" in the words of Deputy Minister of Defence and former Chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Relation Committee Jiří Payne (154). Others were bothered that the words "national socialist" were used instead of "Nazi" (155). One relatively well-respected commentator was even dissatisfied with the word prostor (space or area) because he saw behind it a "technocraticoinstrumental conception of Europe" which was part of the classic German plans to dominate the continent (156).

    Returning to the serious, is important to note that the Declaration contains a troubling logical incongruity. On the one hand, the document condemns the concept of collective guilt which was used to sentence all the Sudeten Germans to expulsion (Point 3). On the other hand, other parts of the text have the "Czech side" and the "German side" accepting guilt on behalf of their respective nations. In Point 2, for example: "The German side recognises the responsibility of Germany for its role in the historic development..." which led to World War II and the suffering caused. In Point 3: "The Czech side regrets..." various actions. In places, the Declaration rejects the notion that an entire nation can be guilty of historical tragedies, and in other places, the Declaration supports the view that a whole nation must accept responsibility for its past. This logical inconsistency makes much of the Declaration a complete nonsense.

    The Declaration is, however, probably better defined by the words which are not in the brief text than those few that are. Quite a number of important details are altogether missing from this document.

    First, direct reparations for individual victims of Nazis are omitted, and thus the Czech Republic (along with Slovakia) remains unique of all Germany's neighbours. Second, for a Central European document that is supposed to offer "a clear word about the past" (157), the Declaration oddly does not mention the Holocaust of Jews, as the Czech Jewish community and Elie Wiesel have noted (158).

    The Declaration also makes no mention of the Sudeten German role in the collapse of the First Republic and no mention of Potsdam and Allied support of the transfers. It is indeed "a selective interpretation of history" (159), and the basis of that selectivity is the New Balance movement.

    Oddly, point 7 in the Declaration has the Czechs paying more per capita towards a fund which is supposed to support projects which will "primarily favour the victims of national socialist violence" (160).

    For the Sudeten Germans, none of their primary demands were met. They expressed disappointment that the Declaration was critical of "suffering and injustice caused to innocent people" but failed to condemn the transfers themselves (161). Czech groups with a direct connection to the issue were also disappointed (162). In fact, no group that felt it might have something to gain through an official declaration was at all satisfied in the end. Everyone with a direct stake in the Czech-German issue was disappointed.

    The Declaration as a Reflection of Legal Realities

    The lack of progress represented by the Declaration can partially be explained as a simple reflection of the legal background in each country. On the German side of the negotiating table, the government faced a crippling restraint on its actions which prevented it from formally closing the Sudeten reparation issue. If it were to formally renounce claims on Prague, Bonn itself could face thousands of Sudeten German compensation claims (163).

    The Czech side also faced a legal problem at home. In 1994, frustrated with being the last country to reach a compensation deal with Germany and worried that the victims may never live to see their compensation, the Czech government decided to teach Germany a "moral lesson" and provide a symbolic payment from the Czech treasury to Czech victims of the Nazis (164). It was hoped that this would embarrass the procrastinating German side into action, but Law 217 seems to only have weakened the Czech bargaining position at the negotiating table. German officials could openly claim that the issue of compensation for victims of the Nazis had been settled already by the Czech government and therefore Germany need pay nothing (165). The Declaration only reconfirmed that Prague was left holding the bill.

    In light of the legal constraints, many commentators wrote (after the fact) that people should not have had "unrealistic expectations" in the preceding two years (166), though many of these same commentators, along with the government, were responsible for inflating public expectations during the same period (167). Clearly the original intention of a "full stop" or a "thick line" was not reached, and even the generally pro-government Mladá fronta DNES was forced to recognise this (168).

    This declaration was not "bold." Of legal necessity, "the fundamental positions of both sides remain the same" (169). Despite hundreds of metaphors to try to describe this unique document, Point Four makes the Declaration's meaning quite clear: it is essentially an agreement to disagree.

    More Disaster That Declaration?

    There are many reasons to believe that the Czech-German Declaration actually caused more harm than good. Some of these reasons are outlined below.

    Poor Diplomacy

    First, the Declaration was handled very poorly, one might even say that, from the standpoint of international diplomacy, it was "amateurish" (170). There were earlier general mistakes on the Czech side which have already been mentioned such as the failure to be more active in the "2+4" talks and weakening of their starting position through the ratification of Law 217. The failure to work together with other members of the Visegrád group was also a criticism of some who felt that the small Czech Republic could not confront Germany on her own (171).

    The insistence on secrecy around the negotiations only aided rumour-mongering and intensified fear in society. Those fears fed the hatred of nationalists. As one commentator put it during the crisis surrounding the meaning of Potsdam at the beginning of 1996:

      It is necessary to reveal the contents (of the Declaration). There is no sense in piling up further and further misunderstandings around a text, which no one knows. It would be better if we all knew how far we are willing to go and how far the German side is willing to go. (172)

    Others were more direct and revealed the fears of many:

      The closely guarded secrecy, which has thus far surrounded the text, begs the question - if everything is in order, as the government keep saying, why then couldn't the citizens familiarise themselves with the official Czech position earlier? (173)

    To many it seemed that the secrecy around the negotiations itself had damaged relations and meant that the Declaration was actually hurting relations more than helping:

      The Declaration, instead of providing a way to address problems of the past, has only muddied - in no small part due to the conspiratorial character of the negotiations between the two ministries - the waters of Czech-German relations and opened the door for those who act exclusively on base emotions. (174).

    Even the Parliaments were kept in the dark (175).

    Surprisingly, after so much effort to maintain secrecy for a year and a half, the text of the Declaration was leaked by what appears to be further bungling, and as was seen above, this leak further damaged relations.

    Further diplomatic faux-pas added yet more strain to the relationship. Kinkel's questioning of Potsdam in January 1996 can be mentioned in this regard. Kohl's remarks at the signing and at the ratification in the Bundestag showed bad faith as he was essentially trying to reinterpret the Declaration "before the ink was dry" (176). The Czech Parliament then added its own reinterpretation in the form of an accompanying resolution. The lack of agreement over the meaning of this document could lead to future misunderstandings (177).

    The two year struggle for a declaration only served to damage relations - or "dramatise" them to use Zieleniec's words (178). The Declaration solved none of the problems those involved in the issue hoped it would. Even the personal relationship between Kohl and Klaus remained frosty at the signing ceremony (179). The Declaration and the negotiations surrounding it served no purpose and damaged relations more than it helped them.

    In addition, the Declaration opened up other new problems as calls were heard for similar declarations with Slovakia (180) and Russia (181).

    Endangered Democracy:

    Republican Attack and Government Counter-Attack

    Most seriously, however, the Declaration endangered democracy and the popular image of democracy in the Czech Republic. The threat to democracy came both from the hate-inspired acts of attention-seeking Republicans and from the efforts of mainstream politicians who tried to stop them.

    Though, as will be seen, all political parties utilised nationalism and sometimes played to extremist views, the Republican Party was without question, the most guilty of using hate to threaten and make a mockery of the democratic process. The individual acts of its members will be described in more detail in the section on political parties, but for now one can keep in mind the racist language used by Republican protesters during Kohl's visit, the racist language used on the floor of Parliament and the seemingly endless filibustering not only to delay the ratification but also to delay the cancellation of Parliamentary immunity of certain Republicans suspected of criminal acts (hate speech is a criminal act in the Czech Republic).

    As bad as many of these Republican actions became, however, moves by those in power to thwart them were more worrying. There were, for example, moves made to force the Declaration through the Parliament without allowing the planned preparation time for proper debate (182). Klaus' party made similar moves in the Senate to try to get the Declaration through that house in a special session even before it reached the floor of the Bundestag or the Czech Lower House (183). Later there were unusual moves to immediately start immunity hearings (184). Some of these manoeuvres to manipulate legislative schedules may seem to be just tactical political moves, but they were highly irregular, and in the last instance, the separation of powers critical to a democracy was damaged as legislators were actually exercising judicial power (185).

    At another point in the ratification hearings, all members of the coalition boycotted a question period (in protest at racist Republican statements). They thus willingly transgressed the Rules of Parliament. Put quite simply, the government broke the law (186).

    It is also worrying how, in addition to refusing to meet with leaders of two parties which represent about 20% of the electorate, the President openly accused Republican leader Miroslav Sládek of involvement in the vicious attack on Pavel Dostál MP. While one could clearly say that the attack was likely to be politically motivated and even Republican ordered given Dostál's views of the Republicans, it seems inappropriate in a democracy for a president to determine guilt in individual cases. Many had their suspicions, but no clear evidence had yet been available to make any link directly to Sládek (187).

    On top of these disturbing points, the Czech police acted more forcefully than is necessary in several cases related to the Declaration. First the police forcefully tried to pull the microphone from Sládek as he spoke at a legal gathering in protest of the Declaration and Kohl's visit (189). Then the police raided the offices of the Republican caucus within the Parliament without the prior knowledge of the Parliamentary leadership (188). In another incident, overzealous police forces, in anticipation of the removal of Sládek's parliamentary immunity, took Sládek into custody before they had actually received official word that the immunity was lifted (190).

    Descent Into Farce

    Democracy became almost comic where the Declaration was concerned. On one level there was the immature name-calling, one example of which occurred when Republican MP Jan Vik called Havel mentally incompetent. This led to the same accusation being directed at Vik from Christian Democrat and Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Jan Kasal. At about the same time, an editor of the Republican press organ Republika Jiří Vařil brought a suit against Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Deputy Chairman of the Civic Democratic Alliance Karl Ledvinka for Ledvinka's statement that Republicans and Communists were "rabble and low-life" (191). Of course, there were also the racist slurs of Republican MPs on the floor of the Parliament itself (192).

    The farce continued in the Senate when many Social Democrats did not know they were voting for the Declaration itself when the count was taken (193). It later was revealed that there had been a mistake in the counting (194).

    Perhaps the most damaging to democracy's reputation in the republic, however, was the monotonous and senseless filibustering that continued in the Parliament during the ratification process and even after the Declaration had passed. The endless repetitions of chemical formulae (195) could not have inspired much faith in democracy among those relatively new to the democratic process. Worst of all, the antics and filibustering prevented all reasoned debate on the Declaration issue (196). This is true despite the fact that the Parliament spent more time on this than on any other issue in its history. One of the primary goals of all parliaments - to be a forum for public debate - was thus undermined. The prevention of real debate suggests that democracy is unwell in the Czech Republic as a result of the Declaration.

    A Loss of Faith

    As a result of Republican actions, official efforts to stop them and the apparent farce that democracy had become, many in Czech society suffered a loss of faith in democratic processes. Ignoring democratic principles, some made demands to move swiftly and resolutely against the Republican Party. As Daniel Kumermann lamented: "The voices calling for the elimination of the Republican Party are strengthening day by day" (197). Often those voices came from positions of power. Klaus said he was weighing the possibility of a more determined measure against the Republicans and that asking people not to vote for the extremists was not enough anymore. Kalvoda said that banning the party was a "legitimate consideration," and MP Pavel Dostál openly supported such a move (198). Interior Minister Jan Ruml stated that he could envision the banning of the Republican Party (199). People were losing faith in democracy.

    Of course, the actions and the speech of the Republicans are repugnant to many, but the actions of those in power are even more disturbing precisely because they are the people in power. Those in power, as one commentator pointed out at the time, must ultimately accept responsibility for the deterioration of democracy (200). The only question was that given the parliamentary numbers mandating a minority government, who was really in power?


    After reviewing the history and meaning of the Czech-German Declaration, it is quite clear that it has actually brought more harm than good to the Czech Republic. Essentially, the agreement itself says little and changes nothing in relations with neighbouring Germany. If anything, the poor handling of the negotiations only worsened relations between the two states. Furthermore, the struggle over the Declaration within the Republic endangered democracy and democracy's reputation in Czech society.

    The year and a half it took to complete this two page document show how difficult reaching any agreement was. Somewhere during the negotiations, probably about the time of the Potsdam debate early in 1996, the two sides realised that the Declaration was not really going to amount to much in the end. At that point, it was probably decided that they had to continue with the process and produce a document, even a meaningless one, because both sides had invested so many words and so much energy into it that to let the talks collapse would be a severe embarrassment. Thus they struggled on to produce and ratify the text as it appears today: the agreement to disagree.

    The domestic cost to the Czech Republic, however, was high, primarily because the philosophy behind the Declaration was out of step with the general public.

    V. The Declaration and Czech Society


    The reaction of Czech society towards the Declaration and to the New Balance philosophy behind it was by no means unified. A wide range of opinions was seen from all segments of society. The most notable cleavage in Czech opinion, however, was clearly between the intellectuals who support the New Balance approach to history and the general public who were much more suspicious of alterations to traditionally cherished myths. Throughout the entire two years and despite a massive drive by many intellectuals and many in the press to win their support, the majority of the Czech public never supported the Declaration. The rift between the intelligentsia and ordinary Czechs was deep and wide.

    Historians, Intellectuals and the "New Balance"

    If we take into consideration all the monothematic titles, proceedings of various conferences, memoirs and new collections of documents, we can say that in the five "post-November" years, a great deal has been done to shed light on the history of Czech-German (and Czechoslovak-German) relations - probably more than was done in the whole forty years of the last régime. (201)

    Building on samizdat and exile work of earlier decades, much historical investigation in the 1990s aimed to re-examine the Czech-German relationship and put it into a new focus. As mentioned earlier, the aim was clearly to distance Czech thinking from Russian/Communist myths which were originally linked in the Czech context to older pan-Slavist ideas. The aim was to "rediscover" (re-emphasize) the Western legacy of Czech history. By the time Václav Havel inaugurated the declaration process in early 1995 by formally announcing the need for a period of "historical reflection" in Czech-German relations (202), a ferment of such reflection, was already well underway. The move towards the "New Balance" was evident not only in academic journals and discussion fora but also in newly published and newly republished books found in the local bookshop. The daily press was also full of historical information. The historical events receiving the most attention recently have been the post-war expulsions of Sudeten Germans. It would be impractical to list the plethora of works which have emerged on the subject in the past eight years, but one should note some of the more notable re-examinations of Czech-German history through Czech eyes.

    Academic and Intellectual Journals

    Of course, the revelations of newly published research and the conclusions drawn have caused quite a tumult in the intellectual world and these have been reflected several journals. Two periodicals which deserve special mention here are Soudobé dějiny and Střední Evropa.

    Soudobé dějiny, as a historical journal, has been at the forefront of publishing information on previously censored and unreleased material. In the field of Czech-German historical research, the journal has generally added the weight of facts behind the New Balance movement. As with all material in this movement, articles in this journal attempt to balance the "battles, injustices and violence" of Czech-German history with the "fertile symbiosis" which living together brought, they criticise the "limited national rights of Germans" during the traditionally exalted First Republic and they draw connections between the transfers and the rise of Communism in post-war Czechoslovakia (203).

    Střední Evropa (Central Europe), as the name implies, tends to be rather enchanted with the "Mitteleuropa" concept. Václav Černý's influential Vůvoj a zločiny panslavismu was first published on its pages (204). This periodical is definitely under the influence of the "ultras" in the New Balance movement. These include those such as Emanuel Mandler, a member of the editorial board of Střední Evropa, who is not afraid to use the term "ethnic cleansing" when referring to the post-war transfers (205). He, for example, feels that the whole Czech attitude towards Germany is misdirected:

      Our Czech Republic is small and not very rich, and it has decades of authoritarian régime behind it. Still, at the end of the millennium, we're trying to negotiate with Germany as though we were part of that anti-Hitler coalition which hasn't existed for half a century. (206)

    Mandler and Střední Evropa are strongly criticised by some of the more moderate voices in the New Balance movement for their "conservative, Catholic and aristocratic" viewpoint which supports Habsburg Austria (207). Those opposed to the New Balance simply call it a "pro-German revue" (208).

    Discussion Fora

    There have been myriads of discussion fora held in Central Europe over the past few years, at which Czech-German history and reconciliation have been discussed. The first to open a dialogue between Czechs and representatives of Sudeten German organisations occurred in the spring of 1991 (209). Groups of Czech and German intellectuals have formed several organisations to promote Czech-German friendship, and they have provided their comments on the Declaration as it has progressed (210). The Catholic Church has also sponsored various conferences focusing on the Czech-German issue.

    One important figure in the Catholic side of the debate reviewed a recent Church-sponsored Czech-German conference in such a way as to demonstrate how the Church sees the issue. In its condemnations of the post-war "ethnic cleansings," its horror at Beneš' call to "liquidate the Germans" and its references to the Sudeten Germans as "our former fellow countrymen," the Church clearly shows its support for the New Balance. The same author reveals a clear awareness of the strong connection between the new pro-Western outlook, the New Balance approach to history and the Declaration:

    Let us remember how the anti-German complex made possible the spread of pan-Slavic myths for which we have paid a high political price. It is not by accident that political opponents of the Declaration are in large majority the same people who oppose our becoming members of European and Atlantic structures. (211)

    The Catholic Church has also been indirectly involved in one of the most important discussion fora for Czech and German historians and other interested intellectuals: the annual conference at Jihlava sponsored by the Ackermann-Gemeinde, a Catholic Sudeten German organisation. The conference has seen a variety of opinions expressed over the years and has been a meeting point for ultras and moderates of the New Balance movement as well as a few of those more sceptical of the New Balance altogether (212).

    Of course, these discussion fora are primarily matters for intellectuals, but occasionally politicians from both countries take part and add wider public controversy to the debates. The speech of German Ambassador to Prague Anton Rossbach this year was one such occasion as Rossbach restated the official German position that Sudeten German restitution questions remain open precisely because of the Declaration. Even strong advocates of reconciliation such as Pavel Dostál MP and Jaroslav áabata bitterly attacked the ambassador's words (213).


    Many newly published books on the Czech-German interface have appeared in recent years and have brought the New Balance message to a wider audience than intellectual journals and discussion fora. One of the best examples is the aforementioned series of books by Jan Křen, Václav Kural and Tomáš Staněk which attempts to cover the period of Czech-German history from 1780 to 1947 in four volumes (214). The authors' subdivision of this enormous time period is telling: the period of 1780-1918 is treated in one book, the next two books cover the periods 1918-1938 and 1938-1945 and the final book concerns the post-war events of only three years. This division of research clearly shows a desire to concentrate on the previously "taboo" theme of the transfers (215).

    Aside from new books dealing specifically with the subjects of the Czech-German interface and the transfers in particular, some new general history books have been showing signs of the New Balance philosophy. In one book on twentieth century history published immediately after the Revolution (Křižovatky 20. století), for example, the authors adopt what might be labelled a "proto-New Balance" position. In line with the traditional interpretation, they estimate the death toll at "around 7000", fail to provide any detail of the horrors of the transfers and justify the transfers from the standpoint of Potsdam and national security. On the other hand (and tending toward the New Balance approach), the authors also regret the loss of human resources in the emptied border regions, express some sympathy for those who were separated from their "fatherland" and draw the connection between the transfers and the rise of Communism (216).

    A later general history work went well beyond this early half step. The widely popular two volume series Dějiny zemí koruny české published by Paseka adopts a clear New Balance approach both towards the overall historical outlook:

      The rich and fruitful, though clearly never completely unproblematic, coexistence of Czechs and Germans in our lands persisted from the middle ages, but its character started to change notably in the 19th century...

    and also towards the specific events:

      Revolutionary injustice appeared in full measure (after World War II) in relation to the ethnic minorities.

    The book adopts a very critical stance towards the post-war expulsions, includes a photograph of Sudeten Germans nervously awaiting transfer and clearly makes the connection between lawlessness and the rise of Communism. It speaks of the "tragic fate of the German minority" (217).

    Even history books for younger readers have begun to present the New Balance approach by openly discussing the mistakes and horrors of the post-war transfers. The book Československo 1938-1945 of the successful Dějiny v obrazech series, for example, has photographs showing Germans in various stages of transfer, reprints Beneš' statement about "liquidating" the Sudeten Germans and laments the presidential decrees which allowed those who committed acts of injustice against the Germans to remain unpunished. In words that could almost come from the mouths of some present day Sudeten German leader, the book speaks of "the right to a homeland" which the Germans of Czechoslovakia lost. The text regarding the post-war situation is simple and clear:

      It is sad and inexcusable that a group of Czechs employed the same methods as the Gestapo: beatings, torture, degrading human integrity and maltreatment leading to murder.

    The book continues by discussing briefly the Brno "transfer of death" and the Ústí nad Labem massacre. For a book aimed at those "ten years of age and up," it certainly pulls no punches. It is one hundred percent in line with the New Balance (218).

    In addition to these and other new works, many old books supporting the New Balance approach to history are being republished in new editions and collections. One should at least briefly mention the republication of Edvard Beneš' speeches and writings related to the transfer in a new collection. It shows the evolution of the transfer idea in the mind of the president in exile and after his return when he spoke of the need to "uncompromisingly liquidate the Germans in the Czech lands," a phrase that has received much attention of late (219). Another mention should also be made of the earlier cited Vývoj a zločiny panslavismu (The Evolution and Crimes of Pan-Slavism) by the late Václav Černý which provided much of the fundamental pro-Western, anti-Eastern background to the New Balance movement.

    Many Czech editions of works by Sudeten German historians have also appeared for the first time on the shelves of Czech bookshops in recent years. Two which deserve mention are Němci a Češi by Rudolf Hilf and Německo a Češi by Ferdinand Seibt (220). Both authors are very active in the politics of reconciliation. The second of these two republished works emerged just as the Declaration was being completed, and the popularity of the topic made Německo a Češi one of the most requested books at bookshops across the republic (221).

    One cannot help but notice how involved the historian Jan Křen is in the formation of the New Balance approach to history. The Chairman of the Czech Contingent of the Czech-German Commission of Historians was not only part of that team which created the four part series on Czech-German history, but he has also been involved in the creation of many of the other works mentioned above. Křen edited the Czech version of Seibt's book and provided an introduction to the new collection of Beneš' speeches and writings on the transfers. Before 1989, he helped the authors of Křižovatky 20. stolet' by providing his flat as a meeting place for their discussions of twentieth century history (222).

    All these new works support the New Balance approach to Czech-German history. They all emphasize the periods of co-operation between the two nations, they all offer criticism of traditional Czech icons like Masaryk (primarily for the minorities policy of the First Republic), they all express sympathy for the suffering of Sudeten Germans especially the suffering during the transfers and they all associate the post-war lawlessness and evacuation of the border regions with the rise of Communist power in Czechoslovakia. In short, they break with tradition by noting and sometimes even stressing Czech mistakes rather than blaming events solely on the Sudeten Germans.

    These new works targeting a wider audience are presenting the New Balance message to the general public. The New Balance concept is much more widely known today than it was even just a few years ago. The question thus becomes: are ordinary Czechs convinced by this new version of history? The answer, as we shall see, is that they are not yet convinced. This is the case despite a flood of relevant items in the popular media as well.

    The Popular Media

    As is often the case in Czech society, history does not remain an academic discussion enclosed in the sterile world of historical journals and obscure fora of intellectuals. Nor does it remain on the pages of books. Readers of all major newspapers and magazines were regularly treated to history lessons and new research shedding light on the darker periods of Czech history, notably the events immediately after the war. Fresh historical research was common in the dailies and weeklies (223). There were also floods of opinion pieces on the state of Czech-German relations, and television showed documentaries and debates on the issue. The new history certainly had a wide audience.

    The Czech-German "question" became a popular topic, and as the Declaration began to come into the news, the entire Czech-German issue swamped the printed pages of newspapers like few topics have since the Revolution. Newsprint polemics between intellectuals were often fierce and caustic. These debates occurred both between supporters and detractors of the New Balance (224) and between moderates and ultras within that movement (225). Often, German historians and Sudeten Germans would join the fray (226). The approach of several individual newspapers is described below.

    Because the controversial Czech-German issue is so intimately tied to Czech national identity (227), this wave of articles and opinion pieces did not just include a new view on Germans but also examined the very nature of Czechness (228). The New Balance and the Declaration it gave birth to were primary topics of discussion in Czech society over the past two years, and one could see quite clearly that their ambitious and idealistic intellectual supporters were finding it difficult to convince the sceptical wider audience.

    The Media

    Because the popular media played such a critical role in attempts to bring New Balance views to the wider public during the discussion of the Declaration, it is essential to examine the way these issues were presented in the media if one is to understand the important gap between the more idealistic intellectuals and the sceptical public. Editorials and commentaries of leading intellectuals often supported the New Balance and the Declaration, but elsewhere in the pages of these newspapers, the public's resistance to these new ideas was recognised.

    This section concentrates on the role of four daily newspapers and their presentation of the New Balance approach to Czech-German history in general and the Declaration in particular. Those dailies are: Mladá fronta DNES, Právo, Slovo and LidovŽ noviny (229). In their presentation of the new history and in their treatment of the Declaration issue, these four dailies exhibited both intriguing similarities and note-worthy differences.


    As mentioned earlier, all newspapers were heavily saturated with articles dealing with the New Balance and the Declaration. In the months when the Declaration was most current (December 1996 - March 1997), it was common to see five or six articles and editorial pieces on the subject in each newspaper every day. All four newspapers printed the full text of the mistakenly leaked Declaration in mid-December, and some carried it again in January after the signing and in February after ratification in the Czech parliament.

    Confirmation of Earlier Observations:

    From the hundreds of articles on the Declaration in these Czech newspapers, several oft-noted weaknesses of the Czech press were immediately apparent, and one can say that the observations of Steve Kettle are easily defensible (230). Specifically, Kettle's argument that the "The Czech media are heavily dependent on ČTK (the Czech News Agency) for their news." was obviously true for information surrounding the Declaration. Not only was information drawn from the central (and state subsidised) ČTK source, but often entire sentences and even whole paragraphs were reprinted from ČTK bulletins verbatim, as Kettle noted in his general survey of the Czech media. The story of Kohl's stroll along Wenceslas' Square after the signing which appeared on 22nd January, 1997 was a more light-hearted example of verbatim reprints from ČTK in the pages of Mladá fronta DNES, Lidové noviny and Právo. Other stories, such as the reports on German reactions to Kohl's speech of 21st January, which appeared as verbatim ČTK reprints in Právo and Slovo on 25th January, were more serious examples. One sometimes gets the feeling that one is reading the same newspaper twice or three times rather than reading different newspapers.

    Another of Kettle's observations which is supported by this paper is that there seems to be a bit of confusion among some commentators at all these national dailies as to the purpose of an opposition in politics. There was a frequent association of opposition to government with opposition to state, though different papers did this to different degrees. The subject is discussed below.


    Almost all commentators in every newspaper relied very heavily on the use of the first person plural in their writings. So many opinion pieces were founded on the use of "we," "us" and "our" that it is simply impossible to count them all. It is notable that both sides in the New Balance debate spoke in this manner: those vehemently opposed to the new history (231), and those strongly in favour of the New Balance (232). Commentators of all newspapers wrote in this style, and some even spoke of the Sudeten Germans as "our Germans" (233). For those more familiar with the media in Anglo-American cultures, this style of writing and its ubiquity in the Czech media are really rather remarkable.

    On the one level, commentators seemed to use "we" as a simple psychological tool to draw support to their arguments: "we" are all on the same side after all, aren't "we?" On another level, the constant use of "we" and "us" in writings about the Declaration presented the Czech-German issue as a matter of national and ethnic importance. This is the "trans-historical national identity going by the name of 'we'" which Holý identified in his analysis of the Czechs and their national myths (234).

    The phrase u nás, for example, meaning "among ourselves," often stood in place of the neutral phrase "in the Czech Republic." U nás is clearly a much more loaded term from the national and ethnic standpoint. In addition to reconfirming the point made by Ladislav Holý concerning the greater importance of the nation over the state in Czech society (235), the use of such phrases in the debate surrounding the Declaration intensified the feeling that the Czech-German issue was an ethnic "us versus them" struggle.

    By the frequent use of "we," "us" and "our" all newspapers betrayed a striking insularity of Czech national self-opinion. Some might label this a sign of Czech "provincialism" (a favourite Czech intellectual epithet for those who disagree with their arguments), but oddly, even Czech commentators who often deride their fellow countrymen for their "provincialism," were regularly using this ethnically insular style of writing in their pieces about the Declaration. The respected political analyst Jiří Pehe, for example, was one (236).

    In essence, the cosy "we" style clearly demonstrates that all sides of the debate over the New Balance and the Declaration which represents it were appealing to the nationalism inherent in Czech society. It demonstrates that the Czech belief in their own unique nationhood is strong and almost universally held.

    Declaration for the European Union?

    Just as many politicians did, the dailies made a strong association in pro-Declaration articles and commentary between the Czech-German Declaration and the Czech Republic's acceptance to the EU and to a lesser extent NATO. Despite the fact that Bonn's pro-EU expansion policy has never been in doubt in the past few years (237) and despite the fact that the preamble to the Declaration only re-enforces the German commitment, many in the Czech press felt that to question the Declaration was to question the Czech ambition to integrate into Western structures. Obviously, this would question the very philosophical foundation of the Westward looking New Balance and even the Velvet Revolution itself.

    The Declaration was regularly equated with the EU in the Czech press. For example, under the headline "Prague Aims for Europe Through Bonn" and appealing to "supra-national responsibility," Michal Mocek in Mladá fronta DNES explained that:

      Relations between Czechs and Germans are not just a Czech or a German matter but also a European matter. (238)

    Later, Mocek was joined by Luboš Palata in the same daily:

      The honourable ratification of the Czech-German Declaration would not only be a contribution to overcoming the historic animosity between two neighbouring states in the middle of the continent. It would also be an important shift towards European co-operation. (239)

    Referring to Chirac's stated approval of the Declaration Petr Zavadil commented in a tone of Euro-optimism in Lidové noviny:

      The Czech and the German Parliaments will be voting on the future of Europe (when they discuss the Declaration). And Paris gave a clear yes to the declaration. (240)

    Articles in the Western press and news from Germany which supported the idea that there was a connection between the Declaration and Czech integration into the EU were often reprinted in the Czech press (241).

    Accepting the Declaration would also be a sign of the Czech Republic's ability to work within the EU and NATO according to Adam Černý:

      For NATO and the EU it is true that one of the most fundamental criteria for evaluating candidates is their ability to negotiate and come to agreement. (242)

    Potential opposition to the Declaration was often seen as questioning the Czechs' EU ambitions. Josef Veselý in Právo wrote that: one can foresee what effect the unreasonable reaction of some Social Democratic MPs will have on the clear imperfections of the Declaration nor whether their rejection will hinder greater European matters. (243)

    Petr Uhl in Právo agreed:

      Miloš Zeman often states that the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) is more concerned about our future in an integrated unified Europe than the governing coalition . Therefore , he cannot allow the government to take all the credit for this step (the Declaration) which is necessary and beneficial for both nations and their neighbours... (244)

    Havel's late attempt to deny the connection (245) only revealed how interconnected most saw the issues of European integration and the Czech-German Declaration to be. Aside from this one statement, Havel was always associating the two. In his speech which sparked the drive for a declaration Havel spoke at length about Germany's role in the Eastward expansion of the EU (246). European integration was also one of his self-confessed primary reasons for the topic of his speech (homeland) before the Bundestag on the occasion of the final acceptance of the Declaration (247).

    Quite clearly, all the media under examination, not to mention the key advocate of the Declaration the President himself, openly supported the idea that the acceptance of the Declaration was akin to acceptance of Czech efforts to join the EU and NATO. In this, one instantly sees the pro-Western philosophy behind the New Balance movement.

    To the intellectuals who advocate the New Balance and whose articles were supporting the EU/Declaration connection in the media, the threat seemed great that if the Declaration failed, the whole pro-Western approach of the post-November years would be in doubt. They thus presented the Czech public with a choice of accepting the Declaration as is, or doubting the Czechs' Westernness and longed-for future of "freedom and prosperity" (248) in the European Union.

    From another point of view, one could say that they risked the pro-Western orientation of the post-November Republic on the success of the Declaration. Given the fact that the governing coalition was a minority one and the fact that most people in the Czech Republic never supported the Declaration, this was a rather serious gamble.

    Interest in Foreign Opinion:

    The Czech media all revealed a strong interest in the foreign - especially German - press. Reprints and summaries of foreign articles were common (249), and there was almost an obsession with "what the world will think of us." In many ways, this fact is related to the previous two points in that much of the press indirectly maintained an "us versus them" approach and that the Declaration was generally assumed to have wider European implications.

    There was a general fear for the country's international reputation especially around the time of the ratification crisis. For pro-New Balance intellectuals, refusing to accept the Declaration as it was became equivalent to ruining the Czech Republic's good name abroad. For Mladá fronta DNES, Mocek called on the Parliament to think of "the interests of the whole Republic" and to ratify the Declaration smoothly as the Germans had done (250). Later, Mocek and Palata wrote:

      The more we argue over the acceptance (of the Declaration)... the more that favourable feeling which the Declaration evoked abroad will fade. (251)

    The pressure of the EU's gaze during the ratification procedures was strong for these commentators:

      Europe does not usually notice the Czech Republic. After the signing of the Declaration, we became the centre of attention... That part of the continent to which we want to belong has given its clear signal that it regards the Czech-German path to reconciliation as very important, welcome and just. (252)

    On the fact that, in the battle for the Declaration, party interests might be put ahead of state interests, Tomáš Hájek commented in Lidové noviny: "For the image of the Czech Republic abroad, this cannot bring anything positive" (253). Ivana Štěpánková noted similar opinions in the pages of Slovo:

      More responsible (members of the Social Democratic Party) are aware that the course of the Parliamentary debate over the Declaration will show the present ability of the party to make its mark at the European level and to suppress internal divisions in the interest of the external image of the Czech Republic. (254)

    Once again, the idea that "the world is watching us" was a view supported in the president's office. In early February 1997, Havel said that if the Declaration was not ratified, it would bring great shame upon the country and would be a great blow for its interests (255).

    This strong concern with how the internal political situation will affect the country's image abroad is very similar to the fears of showing "instability" after the 1996 elections to Parliament (256). Just as it was after the election, the fear of damage to the country's image was used to political advantage in the debates over the Declaration, as will be seen below.

    Comparisons to the Germans:

    Because Czechs have traditionally defined themselves "as a nation in conscious opposition to the Germans" (257), it is not surprising that the Czech media through the course of the Declaration debates often made comparisons of their own nation to the German nation. At no time was this more apparent than just before and then during the ratification battle when the smooth ratification of the Declaration by the Bundestag was looked upon with something resembling envy.

    Considering the proper role for the Czech Social Democrats as an opposition party facing an internationally important document, Petr Robejšek for Slovo wrote:

      An exceptionally instructive lesson about the role of an opposition in a democratic system was given to us by the Deputy Speaker of the Bundestag Antje Vollmer. (the behaviour of Vollmer in relation to the German governing coalition) has shown what a substantial difference there is between a political enemy and a political rival. (258)

    Miloš Zeman should follow her example, according to Robejšek. Michal Mocek for Mladá fronta DNES summed up this sentiment:

      By its clear and absolute support for the Declaration, the German Parliament has given an example to Czech MPs who will be discussing this document in the upcoming days. (259)

    Miloš Hájek in Lidové noviny was even more direct:

      It needs to be said: By the clear count (of votes in the Bundestag), the Germans have given us a lesson. (260)

    Obviously, the Czech tradition of comparing themselves to the Germans continues to this day.

    Coverage of Czech and Sudeten German Extremists:

    As most main-stream Czech politicians try to do, the mass-circulation Czech press generally attempts to ignore Czech radicals. This is true despite the fact that nearly twenty percent of the country voted for the relatively unreconstructed Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia and Miroslav Sládek's Association for the Republic - Czechoslovak Republican Party in the 1996 Parliamentary elections and the fact that their support has remained more or less at the same level ever since. Of course, in the run up to the debate over the Declaration, Právo, as part of its wider overall coverage, ran a few opinion pieces by prominent Communists (261), and during the ratification process no newspaper could ignore the antics of the Republicans. These are exceptions to the general rule, however, that, just as President Havel refuses to meet with the elected leaders of these Parliamentary parties, the main-stream dailies usually put their heads in the sand in relation to the activities of these more extreme groups.

    The lack of coverage of Czech extremists in the Czech media is more than made up for by the extensive coverage of Sudeten German extremists. It may seem odd that radicals on the one side are ignored while those on the other side constantly receive the media spotlight, but with the entire Declaration debate almost universally painted with an ethnic "us versus them" brush, it is perhaps not so surprising that the press is more willing to point out "their" unreasonable personalities and statements than "ours."

    The Czech media was captivated by the uncompromising and often revanchist voices in Germany. Seemingly every statement by Franz Neubauer of the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft was reprinted, analysed and discussed in all the dailies. Statements of support for the radical Sudeten Germans from leading CSU politicians and government officials in Bavaria also received top billing. This attention is given to their statements even when the content of them reveals nothing new and is simply a repetition of what they have been saying for years. By far the best example of this was the leading headline of Mladá fronta DNES just days before the Czech Parliamentary elections: "Sudeten Germans Repeat Their Demands Towards Prague" (262).

    Despite scarce resources, all the major dailies send their own correspondents to Sudeten German gatherings, and questionable rumours from Sudeten German sources are eagerly reported as fact in the Czech press. In November 1996 shortly before the Czech Senate elections, major dailies reprinted a story from ČTK in which the Sudetendeutsche Landsmannschaft made a statement suggesting that the soon to be released Declaration would leave restitution questions open and contain their demand for a "right to a homeland." This was also associated with the threat that the Czech Republic should be kept out of the EU until this demand was met (263). The threat to hinder Czech entry into the EU was repeated by Neubauer just before the ratification period in the Czech Parliament, and again this rather hollow threat (given the preamble to the Declaration) was dutifully reprinted in all the major Czech dailies (264). At the same critical moment for the Declaration, Neubauer claimed that he had a letter from German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel which suggested the German government was demanding changes to the Czech legal system in favour of the Sudeten Germans (265).

    The radical Franz Neubauer, in particular, receives an excessive amount of attention. For example, during the tumultuous week of the ratification of the Czech-German Declaration in the Czech Parliament (11th to 18th February, 1997), the four dailies under examination carried 36 articles with references to Chancellor Kohl, the political leader of the 80 million strong country with which the Czech Republic was creating a joint statement. In the same period there were 41 articles with references to Neubauer, the leader of a group of perhaps 200,000 Sudeten Germans.

    Of course, many statements of Sudeten German groups are newsworthy and deserve attention by the Czech press, but when old demands and threats are simply repeated by Sudeten German extremists in what are clearly deliberate attempts to destabilise Czech politics at critical periods, it is surprising that the Czech press offer them so much support by reprinting their statements and passing along their rumours. It is obvious that Neubauer understands traditional Czech fears very well and knows too that the Czech press, which uses traditional fears to sell newspapers, will print his every menacing word. In the face of Neubauer's overt manipulation, perhaps a bit more editorial responsibility is in order.

    Often, a New Balance intellectual (266) or a moderate Sudeten German (267), made an effort to defuse the panic by reminding readers that the Sudeten German radicals are very few in number and that Neubauer is unknown in Germany. The rational approach supported on the editorial pages, did not change the headlines.

    Many newspapers thus exhibited a dual personality: they ran calm and reasoned editorials in the back pages but printed upsetting headlines on the front page. Intellectually and philosophically, these newspapers supported the New Balance approach to Czech-German history and relations, but at the same time, they also used shock methods which appealed to traditional fears (268). This dual approach in the papers clearly demonstrates that the editors are very aware of the fact that the traditional Czech sentiments towards Germans remain strong. Though the comment and editorials may support the New Balance, old fears and hatreds sell newspapers.


    Despite the above similarities, the four Czech dailies under examination did have some important differences. The editorial pages of Mladá fronta DNES were certainly more pro-Declaration and pro-New Balance than any of their competitors. Each daily also adopted a different stance towards the competition between the coalition and the opposition Social Democrats. Finally, Právo deserves special mention for its more wide-ranging coverage of the Declaration from start to finish.

    Mladá fronta DNES: Defender of the Declaration -

    While all four newspapers contained more commentary in favour of the Declaration than against it, Mladá fronta DNES, the daily with the largest readership in the Czech Republic (269), was clearly the most pro-Declaration and the most pro-New Balance. As proof, one may simply examine all the commentary pieces relating to the Declaration in the five weeks following the mistaken leak of the document (to take a manageable yet representative time period). One will find that Mladá fronta DNES had 16 editorials and commentary essays in favour of the Declaration and only one against. In addition, that singular piece against the Declaration was by Rudolf Hilf, a pro-reconciliation Sudeten German who, in line with some ultras in the New Balance movement on the Czech side, thought that the Declaration did not go far enough. In the same period, Právo printed 17 for and 8 against, Slovo 9 for and 2 against and LidovŽ noviny 7 for and 4 against.

    The Declaration's backers at Mladá fronta DNES were relentless in their support. When the agreement became public, Mocek and Palata gave the Declaration their full approval, said that it would put an end to legal claims of Sudeten Germans by placing a "full stop in a segment of history" and warned that:

      Those who have fundamental reservations with the text, ought not to seek fault with the negotiators but rather within themselves (270).

    In January, Mocek continued his support in New Balance style by saying that the Czechs should not try to hide their guilt for the transfers behind the Potsdam agreement (271) which is an opinion Mocek has supported, along with Klaus Kinkel, since the days of the Potsdam debate in early 1996 (272). The paper's consistent pro-Declaration (and pro-government) stance was maintained throughout the period in harsh attacks on the opposition Social Democrats who the paper believed were threatening the Declaration and damaging the image of the Republic abroad.

    Some have suggested that German ownership of Mladá fronta DNES is the force behind this "pro-German" position (273). It is, of course, difficult to judge the extent of the owners' interference in Mladá fronta DNES's editorial approach to the Declaration issue. Rather than direct interference, perhaps there is simply some influence in the sense that the editors feel that good relations with Germany are good for their business and personal careers. To say anymore would just be speculation, but certainly, some Czechs believe there is more to it. As far as the pro-Declaration attitude of Mladá fronta DNES is concerned, it seems that the paper is simply continuing its tradition of supporting the government as the Declaration was seen as the government's work.

    Pro-State or Pro-Government?

    Many stories in the dailies failed to clarify the difference between opposition to the state and opposition to the current government (274). All opposition to the government negotiated Declaration was seen as threatening to the state and the gains of the Velvet Revolution. As many coalition politicians did, the press often presented all opposition forces as one group of extremist malcontents.

    Though all newspapers were guilty of this to some extent, Mladá fronta DNES and Lidové noviny far surpassed the others in the amount and consistency of articles which lumped the Social Democratic opposition with the anti-state opposition Communists and Republicans.

    There are scores of cases where this "lumping" occurred, but a few examples here will help to illustrate the point. Mimicking Klaus' attack on the Social Democrats the previous day (275), Luboš Palata in Mladá fronta DNES on 7th February 1997, criticised the Social Democrats and their leader Zeman for their lack of státotvornost (willingness to support the constitution and the foundations of the state) because of their resistance in supporting the Declaration:

    For two years, Foreign Minister Zieleniec tried to make a státotvorný politician out of Miloš Zeman - to make him someone with whom it would be possible to speak about the basic problems of diplomacy - and even include him and his party in the solutions to those problems.

    These attempts, according to Palata, had failed, and others at Mladá fronta DNES also doubted Zeman's státotvornost (276). This criticism essentially classifies him and his party as part of that group which opposes the state in its post-November form: the extreme Communists and Republicans.

    The Social Democrats were flirting with the extremes, according to Mladá fronta DNES:

    It is not without discomfort that one notices the fact that the majority of Social Democratic MPs including Miloš Zeman supported together with the Republicans the proposal to remove the ratification of the Czech-German Declaration from the agenda of this sitting of Parliament. ČSSD thus took another step towards the border which, despite all the scandals surrounding its leader, still divides it from the dark world of extremism. (277)

    When the Social Democrats raised their hands at the same time as the Communists and Republicans in this minor vote in the Parliament which was a futile attempt to delay the ratification of the controversial Declaration, Palata proclaimed that "the treasonous pink alliance" had threatened to destroy Zieleniec's efforts to complete the Declaration (278).

    The Social Democratic opposition did not have legitimate reservations about the text, according to Jiří Leschtina in Mladá fronta DNES but only: "...a short-sighted desire to toady Communist and Republican voters..." (279). This idea was supported by others at Mladá fronta DNES (280)

    Other commentators even lumped Czech opponents of the Declaration with the German revanchists. Stanislav Drahný writing for Lidové noviny claimed that:

      ...with the exception of a few fringe groups of the Czech political spectrum and a segment of the Sudeten Germans, no one is protesting against the Declaration. (281)

    Pavel Tigrid, a champion of the New Balance, writing for the same paper, disregards rational reservations to the Declaration and links those:

      ...reactionaries on the German and Czech sides - the Sudeten group called the Landsmannschaft and our big-mouthed super-patriots in Prague. In unison they call this a scandal. Let them chant together about the past. The rest of us are headed for the future. (282)

    Bohumil PeĐinka, again in Lidové noviny, even claimed that Zeman was aiding the Sudeten Germans:

      Miloš Zeman loves paradoxes wholeheartedly. By his political behaviour lately, he himself has created one: the one and only hope of the politically organised Sudeten Germans is Zeman himself. (283)

    Other newspapers occasionally carried pieces which lumped the Social Democrats with the radical Republicans and Communists and denied that anyone could have rational reservations to the Declaration (284), but such sentiments were moderated by pieces which dispelled the myth that all those opposed to the Declaration were radicals (285).

    Sadly, even respected commentators and political analysts propagated the myth that all opposition was extremism. Jiří Pehe, for example, lumped Social Democrats, Communists and Republicans in an article for Lidové noviny (286) and elsewhere claimed that ČSSD is "looking more and more like a populist and semi-nationalist party" which "on the question of the Czech-German Declaration is standing suspiciously close to extreme parties" (287). The dissident/politician forever trying to make a come-back Jiří Dienstbier, claimed that all who oppose the Declaration were "radical populists" suffering from "provincialism" (288).

    This general view, especially as expressed in the pages of the most widely read pro-government newspaper Mladá fronta DNES, made reasoned public debate over the Declaration almost impossible because if one had any doubts or reservations of any kind, one was instantly labelled "an extremist."


    Formerly the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia but now the only one of the three largest circulation dailies to be in domestic hands (289), Právo (Rudé právo until 1995) proved to be the most well-balanced newspapers of the four under examination in terms of variety of opinions concerning the Declaration. On one notable day, Právo carried an interview with government Declaration negotiator Vondra and an opinion piece from the Chairman of the Communist Party Grebeníček which blasted the Declaration (290). In the five-week sample mentioned above, Právo had both more pro-Declaration pieces and anti-declaration pieces than any other daily. Právo certainly had more articles and commentary pieces about the Declaration than any other newspaper.

    Právo, the second most popular daily in the country (291) also had more source material for research into the Declaration. All newspapers carried the full text of the Declaration when it was mistakenly leaked on 10th December, 1996, but only Právo printed the full texts of important speeches such as Klaus' and Kohl's speeches made at the signing of the Declaration (292). The other three newspapers only summarised them to a greater or lesser extent. The same can be said of the two presidential speeches made in April (293). Právo also printed the full text of the petition against the Declaration by the "working group" of intellectuals (294).

    Právo provided more detail than other newspapers at several points in the Declaration saga. One notable example of this was the coverage of the ratification in the Bundestag. Právo carried more quotes from the speeches of German politicians in the Bundestag during the proceedings than other papers (295).

    The wider variety of opinions and greater detail of Právo offered readers quantitatively and qualitatively better information about the Declaration than the relatively limited pages of its main competitor Mladá fronta DNES.

    The Press: A Dual Face

    The Czech press played a vital role in transmitting information about the Declaration and about the New Balance to the Czech public. Different dailies adopted different positions toward the issue, but all contained more pro-Declaration articles than anti-. Mladá fronta DNES was clearly the most openly in support of both the document itself and the philosophy behind it, and this represents a continuation of its regular pro-government stance. Právo offered the most coverage of the issue and the widest range of opinions.

    These differences should not overshadow the many similarities in the four dailies under examination. The most important aspect of the Czech media in relation to the Czech-German issue in the past two years is that all newspapers exhibited a dual face to the public. On the commentary pages, the papers most often presented the opinion pieces of New Balance intellectuals and editorials supporting them. They adopted an overall philosophy in favour of the New Balance approach to history which stems from that small Žlite group of former exiles and dissidents who developed their pro-Western outlook long before November 1989. The writings and statements of Pavel Tigrid, Jiří Pehe, Jiří Dienstbier, Ludvík Vaculík, Petr Uhl and, of course, Václav Havel, filled the pages of these papers. In their support of the New Balance, they were joined by many in the editorial staff of these dailies in what was clearly a general (though uncoordinated) attempt to convince the Czech public to support the Declaration.

    At the same time, the same papers ran disturbing headlines and shock stories related to the Declaration on the front page in an effort to sell their papers. This demonstrated the point that, wherever their own sentiments lie, the editors knew that traditional opinions of Czech-German relations and history were still wide-spread in Czech society. In fact, as we shall see, most Czechs regard the New Balance version of history with suspicion. The editors of these newspapers were coming to grips with a critical cleavage in Czech society: the yawning gap between intellectuals and the people.

    Public Attitudes Towards Germans, the New Balance and the Declaration:

    Unlike many intellectuals and media commentators, ordinary Czechs were reluctant to support the Declaration and the New Balance approach to history which it represents. Throughout the course of the two years in which the Czech-German Declaration was an issue, the Czech public maintained its traditional sentiments in relation to the Germans and Germany.

    Early Opinions

    From beginning to end of the two year Declaration saga, Czech public opinion was firmly in favour of the post-war transfers of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia. In March 1995, 49% of Czechs said that the transfers were completely right and proper, and 25% said that the transfers were mostly right and proper. 6% said they were improper and unjust and 1% said they were very improper and unjust. 13% were unable or unwilling to answer. Those numbers were almost identical to the results of the same poll taken two years before (296).

    Public opinion research from March 1996, a year into the Declaration debate, showed no change in attitudes towards the post-war events. According to one study, only 7% of Czechs said they would be willing to vote for a party which supported an apology to the Sudeten Germans for the transfers. 86% said they would certainly not vote for such a party.

    The same research also noted that half of all Czechs believe Germany is an economic threat, 39% saw it as a political threat and 25% believed Germany to be a military threat. These figures were actually 4-10% higher in this 1996 poll than they were a few years before, that is, before the Declaration issue came onto the public agenda (297). The Declaration (still shrouded in secrecy in March 1996) was increasing public fears, not promoting reconciliation.

    A few months later in May 1996, one polling agency changed the questions and received a different set of data. It was revealed that 55% of Czechs would support a declaration in which the Czechs would "disavow" the transfers in exchange for a German promise to abandon restitution claims and immediately compensate Czech victims of Nazism. 30% said they could not accept such an exchange. This was hailed as progress in Czech-German relations and a victory for Czech pragmatism by the supporters of the Declaration (298), but, in reality, it did not represent any change in public sentiments.

    The unique poll results in May 1996 simply represented an ambiguity in language. The Czech word for "disavow" (distancovat se), like its English counterpart, has a rather hazy meaning. On the one hand, the term can mean "to renounce" (zříci se, zříkat se), and this is clearly the lens through which Declaration supporters were viewing the poll results. The term, however, can also mean simply "to back away from" (vzdálit se, vzdalovat se) or "to maintain a certain distance from something" (zacho(vá)vat odstup od něčeho) in the sense of denying knowledge or responsibility for something (299). The ambiguity of the question led to the unique response. Even the organisers of the poll admitted that the absence of the clear word "apology" (omluva) accounted for the strange results (300).

    Later polls clearly demonstrated the faulty nature of that May 1996 question and re-emphasised that opinions towards Germans and the Declaration had never changed. In fact, by August 1996, polls were showing that, even though people felt that Czech-German relations were worsening, public support for the whole conciliatory declaration concept was actually falling (301). In the autumn, it was learned that a third of Czechs did not think the Declaration would benefit relations and a another third of Czechs did not see a reason for the Declaration or were not interested in it. Only 32% supported the as yet unknown document (302).

    Research in October 1996 continued to demonstrate the public's negative stance towards the New Balance approach to Czech-German history and relations. It was revealed that, while two-thirds of Czechs expressed "confidence" in democratic Germany, two-thirds also feared a return of a German super-power with nationalist ambitions towards smaller neighbouring states. 75% still approved of the post-war transfers as they had in 1993 and 1995 (303). Three quarters of the Czech populace have plainly never supported one of the basic tenets of the intellectuals' New Balance .

    Opinions After Publication of the Text

    Once the mistaken leak made the text public, popular Czech opinion towards the Declaration changed somewhat, but the negative attitude towards the new version of history did not. In the first round of public opinion sampling after the publication of the text, support for the Declaration jumped to 49%. Those opposed (21%) and those undecided (30%) had declined in number. Some Czechs were either satisfied with the arguments they had been hearing and reading in support of the Declaration, or the published text had relieved them of some of the darker fears which its earlier secrecy had engendered. Of course, still less than half of the population supported the Declaration.

    The reasons respondents gave for rejecting the Declaration are also telling. 13% said is was superfluous and eighteen percent objected to its revision of history. Most interestingly, however, was the most common reason for rejection: "a general mistrust of Germans." 26% of those rejecting the document expressed this feeling (304).

    At no time before or after the publication of the text was the Czech population behind the Declaration. Fewer than half supported the Declaration in the end, and an overwhelming majority consistently rejected the New Balance historical reinterpretation which it represented.

    Individual Voices of Protest

    In addition to the opinion polls, individuals made their voice heard in a variety of ways. Many of those lone voices expressed strong opposition to the Declaration and to the New Balance version of history. Even some pro-Declaration MPs, for example, openly remarked at the number of highly emotive letters they received asking them not to support the Declaration (305). It is worth recording some of the voices behind the public opinion poll figures.

    Some letters to the editors of various papers revealed deeply held beliefs in the traditional interpretation of history and rejected the Declaration. One reader wrote to Právo:

      By their "new approach" to history, the creators of the Declaration obscure the substance of the events in the period 1938-1945, and the Declaration is unfortunately just another step in the gradual and dangerous revision of the results of World War II in which the victim was not Germany but democratic Czechoslovakia. (306)

    Another Právo reader expanded on this theme:

      The word "Sudeten" ought never appear in our press. There never was any Sudetenland, and therefore there were never any citizens of Sudetenland. They were always Czechoslovak citizens of German ethnicity with all the rights, responsibilities, advantages and disadvantages of all the others. They never liked this equality, and therefore they conspired against the Republic and attempted to destroy it right from the beginning. ...they assert that the cause of all evil was the year 1918 and the foundation of independent Czechoslovakia... For them T.G. Masaryk is the cause of all evil... (307)

    Obviously, the New Balance approach to Czech-German history was not acceptable to many Czechs. Referring to a comment in the paper a few days earlier, a reader of Mladá fronta DNES offered the following:

      I am glad to see that someone has finally come out and said that the position of Germany towards compensating the victims of (German) fascism is a German disgrace, a "blemish" on the democratic facade of today's Germany... Instead of this Declaration it would be better for Czech-German relations if the German government or parliament simply recognised the Potsdam agreement. (308)

    An Auschwitz survivor, wrote to Lidové noviny saying that he felt the apologies of the two sides were not properly balanced in the Declaration given the "beastly" horrors of the Nazis (309). In a survey in Slovo, one man agreed: "I have the unpleasant feeling that we are apologising more than the Germans" (310).

    Other Czechs simply felt that the Declaration was a pointless and even damaging review of the past. In the same survey above, another respondent thought that the Declaration was "only a senseless evocation of old ghosts." A Právo reader agreed:

      ...intergenerational returns to the past and efforts to rename concepts, which in their essence remain the same, only prolong the trauma which should die with us. It only means handing that pain to our sons and grandsons... (311)

    Other lone voices were heard though individual acts of protest. A week after the Declaration was leaked, hand-written posters appeared in a village near Cheb, an area formerly peopled by Germans. With slogans such as "Hitler's orphans, stay in the Reich" and "Your home is in the Reich, Mr. Neubauer," the posters primarily attacked Sudeten Germans. With a dismissal of the rural community which is all too typical in Czech politics, the regional ODS leader said that if the posters are only appearing in such a small village, they are not worth worrying about (312).

    More signs appeared in Teplice on the day after the Declaration was ratified. In black spray-painted letters more than a meter high, the words "14th February, 1997 National Treason" appeared in several locations throughout the city. The mayor of Teplice said he would ignore the protest and the police would not investigate (313).

    Of course, these letters to the editors and these individual acts of public discontent do not in themselves show widespread dissatisfaction with the Declaration and the New Balance which it represents. They are included here only to give voice to the polling data which has consistently shown that most Czechs do not accept the Declaration and that most Czechs reject the New Balance version of history. The Declaration and its philosophy, stemming from the pens of various intellectuals, have not been welcomed by the wider Czech public.

    History: Intellectuals and Ordinary Czechs

    Although German society was never very interested in the Czech-German Declaration and the issues surrounding it (314), Czechs seemed captivated by them. Not only were the media full of Declaration stories and commentary, but the subject became a common topic of conversation in homes and pubs across the country. In Czech society, history is often a topic of general conversation, and these discussions reveal a great deal about how Czechs see themselves. Identification with the Czech "presumed national tradition" is an essential characteristic not only of Czech national feeling but also of individual Czech personality (315).

    The New Balance approach supported by prominent intellectuals in the daily newspapers therefore challenged more than just historical fact and the traditional interpretation of the past. The whole approach challenged fundamental Czech notions of themselves as a nation and as individuals. This new history was casting doubts on many an individual's sacred beliefs. Presentations of and ruminations on the darker aspects of Czech history could be seen as a national and even a personal insult.

    In addition to being a Czech-German issue, the Declaration thus became a "Czech-Czech" issue (316) as Czechs confronted their past and, more importantly, their perceptions of the past which form a part of their individual personalities. While some Czech commentators began to damn the Czech "fear of the Germans" (317), muse about the Czech "fascination with Germany" (318) or criticise the Czechs' narrow-minded "provincialism" (319), few understood just how deeply and personally the Czechs cherish their national sympathies.

    Often the intellectuals exhibited an almost hopeless ignorance of public sentiments. One perfect example can be seen in an article by Pavel Tigrid in Lidové noviny in February 1997. Tigrid describes how "contrary to his habit," he was forced to take a taxi in Prague in order to reach a meeting with a group of German MPs at Prague castle. When he explained his haste to the taxi driver, he heard the "cheerful" man say: "Ah, yes... another meeting with those loser Sudetens." Tigrid expresses shock that the taxi driver immediately saw all Germans as Sudeten Germans and that the taxi driver would not accept Tigrid's attempts to explain the new Germany (i.e. the New Balance view of Germany) to him. "They're all the same," said the man as Tigrid listened in surprise and discomfort (320).

    To anyone who is even remotely familiar with ordinary Czech views of Germans, the taxi driver's words are not at all surprising. Tigrid's shock can only be explained by his own self-confession that he does not travel by taxi very often. The intellectual supporters of the New Balance, many of whom were isolated from their people for years in exile or even isolated at home in small and necessarily exclusive dissident communities, are out of touch with the Czech people.

    This makes an important statement about the whole course of the drive to support the New Balance and the Declaration. It was a completely top-down affair which started with little if any public support. Most Czechs did not see a need for a declaration beforehand; most worried when rumours emerged which seemed to be questioning the whole basis for their state, their nation, their own self-image and even sometimes their personal property if they lived in the border regions; and most could not see the purpose of the declaration once it appeared. The intellectual Žlites may have been trying to present the New Balance as rational, modern and cosmopolitan, but most Czechs, with their national and personal self-images at stake, remained highly suspicious of it.

    The Political Parties:

    All political parties relied on traditional Czech fears to support their arguments. Each, however, had a slightly different strategy.

    The Coalition Parties

    As a government negotiated document, the Declaration was naturally supported by the coalition parties. Interestingly, however, Prime Minister Václav Klaus was never the strongest advocate of the Declaration. Perhaps sensing public attitudes were set against it, perhaps not willing to start problems in Czech-German relations which certainly seemed positive from Klaus' economic standpoint or perhaps not wishing to draw attention to his tense personal relationship with the leader of the Czech Republic's largest and most important neighbour, Klaus was reluctant to create a formal declaration. In April 1996, Václav Klaus made an effort to play down the significance of the Declaration (321). In autumn 1996, according to some sources, Klaus was one of the strongest critics of the Declaration when it was discussed at a multi-lateral meeting at Prague Castle (322). Some later said that his willingness to strike a deal with opposition leader Miloš Zeman in February 1997 over an accompanying resolution which many felt would essentially water down the Declaration's meaning, was another example of his "well-known distaste" for the document (323). Recall that the spark for the Declaration came not from the leader of government but from the head of state.

    Státotvornost and Accusations of Extremism:

    As in the pro-government press, the coalition parties, especially the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), tried to turn the Declaration into a litmus test for státotvornost (the quality of supporting the constitution and the foundations of the post-1989 state) and confused the role of an opposition in a democracy. Soon after the publication of the text, Klaus tried to establish the argument that the Declaration would be a test of every party's democratic "responsibility" (324). With this, the premier made it known that whoever opposed the Declaration would be branded as undemocratic and anti-state.

    In February, true to his threat, Klaus directly and bitterly attacked Social Democratic resistance to the Declaration as nestátotvorná (anti-state) (325), and associated Zeman's "irrationality" towards the text with the nationalist extremism of the Republicans and Communists (326). Josef Zieleniec even indirectly accused Czech Social Democrats opposed to the Declaration that they were acting in harmony with Russia (327). It is noteworthy that Christian Democratic leader Josef Lux, no doubt with an eye on a possible future coalition with the Social Democrats, was less willing to lump the Social Democrats with the extremists (328).

    Again as witnessed in the pro-government press, the smooth German ratification was presented by the coalition to the opposition as an enviable example. Karel Ledvinka, an MP for ODA stated that the Czech Parliament should follow the Bundestag and adopt the Declaration without an accompanying resolution and by a large majority (329). Zieleniec (ODS) and Lux (KDU-ČSL) agreed (330).

    Coalition Stress:

    Both the coalition and each individual party within it experienced serious crisis during the Declaration debates. The primary cause of splits was the willingness of some coalition members to part with stated government opinion and support the accompanying resolution.

    After Kohl's speech at the signing, Zieleniec intimated that he might support an accompanying resolution (331). This was certainly driven by a desire to answer Bonn's interpretation of the Declaration with one from Prague. Zieleniec was quickly reminded of coalition policy against any additional resolution (332) and was corrected by his perplexed coalition colleagues (333).

    The strange battle over the accompanying resolution during the ratification procedures of the Declaration saw Prime Minister Klaus himself break with his party and his coalition to forge a deal with Social Democratic (ČSSD) opposition leader Miloš Zeman not just once but twice. After the first deal between the leaders of the two strongest parties, Klaus' party and coalition colleagues blasted the deal. Even Zieleniec, who had just a few weeks earlier broken ranks on the same issue, attacked the deal. Lux flatly rejected the idea for an accompanying resolution, and the leader of the ODA caucus accused Klaus of behaving as if his coalition partner was ČSSD and not KDU-ČSL and ODA (334). The pro-government press branded the deal "the greatest mistake in (Klaus') career" (335) but was relieved to see that after the strong rejection by his party colleagues, "the Prime Minister's mistake was corrected just in time" (336).

    The second Klaus/Zeman compromise finally ended the filibustering and brought the Declaration's ratification, but it left ODS "split to atoms" (337). Some ODS ministers were so incensed that they openly refused to vote for the resolution. Klaus' excuse that he was a "man of improvisation" did not impress the leader of the ODS caucus Milan Uhde who, upset that the caucus leadership was kept out of the back room negotiations, quipped that next time he would probably just receive a fax telling him how to vote (338). Deputy Parliamentary Speaker and ODS MP Jiří Honajzer lashed out at Klaus, calling him a "legal nihilist" (339).

    KDU-ČSL also suffered a serious internal conflict as the Chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Vilém Holáň was nearly thrown out of his party by party leader Josef Lux (340). Again, the pro-government press harshly criticised any compromise with the Social Democrats (341). It was said that the political strife within the parties had not been so serious since the debates over the split of Czechoslovakia (342).

    Upon reflection, the fierce criticism of compromise from within the coalition and from the pro-government press seems rather misplaced. It is hardly strange that, due to the simple numbers in Parliament, a minority coalition had to seek compromise with an opposition party in order to win strong support for a proposal. It was unrealistic for coalition politicians to believe that ČSSD support would come for free. Klaus sought compromise with Zeman because he had to. His real mistake seems to have been keeping his party and his coalition partners in the dark as to his intentions.

    In any case, the debate over the Declaration was fierce and damaging to all the coalition parties. Both individually and as a coalition, the three parties suffered a crisis of confidence in the aftermath of the Declaration debate. For a Declaration which very few Czechs wanted and which actually solves none of the difficult Czech-German questions as the government had originally hoped, bruised coalition politicians had to be questioning whether the bitter struggle in Parliament was at all worth it.

    Social Democrats: Ally and Opposition

    The electoral platform of the Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) was a hybrid:

      We are convinced that the Agreement on Good Neighbourliness will form a solid foundation for all possibilities of friendly co-operation with Germany, including the formation of Euroregions, joint ecological projects and youth exchanges. We categorically reject, however, any questioning of the results of the Second World War and the revival of old conflicts of the past. (343)

    Issued in January 1996, this platform statement clearly emerged in the troubled atmosphere of the Potsdam debates in January and February and is primarily aimed at Kinkel's comments calling the Potsdam agreement only a "political statement" (344). In any case, no platform could hide the fact that the Social Democrats were completely split on the issue of the Declaration from start to finish as they have been on so many other issues in recent years.

    Inside or Outside?

    The Social Democratic Party was in conflict with the coalition over the Declaration even before negotiations with Germany began. At the very beginning party leader Miloš Zeman had hoped to be involved in those negotiations and proposed that they be held on the inter-parliamentary level. The coalition led by Klaus would not allow this and kept the negotiations with Germany in the domain of the government. Still, Zeman, as the leader of the strongest opposition party was promised he would be involved in the talks (345).

    The question is: how involved were the Social Democrats in the negotiation of the Declaration? Zeman was certainly shown early drafts of the highly secret text at various times. After a meeting with Havel and coalition party leaders regarding a draft of the Declaration, Zeman spoke of cross-party co-operation in words which a few months later would be used against him:

    What is important in this matter is the fact that the Czech side has a unified position, that we put aside our party and personal conflicts and that we agreed that the main priority is to defend the interests of the Czech state. (346)

    Others in the Social Democratic Party, like most in Parliament seem to have been kept outside the loop (347).

    If Zeman at least was kept informed about the secret negotiations (348), one certainly would not guess it from his later statements. When the text was mistakenly released, Zeman haughtily refused to comment on it until Parliament was officially presented with a copy (349). He then delayed comment until the January sitting of the party presidium (350). In January, Zeman expressed reservations about the historical omissions in the Declaration (351), and stated that he wanted an accompanying resolution to the Declaration when it is ratified in Parliament. The resolution was to reconfirm the importance of the Potsdam Agreement and the results of World War II (352). He then stated that the Declaration in its final form had lost all of its original intent (353). With so many reservations to the document and plans for resolutions to fill in its gaps, Zeman appeared as if he had never seen the earlier drafts.

    For his silent denial of his earlier involvement with the drafts and for his refusal to champion the Declaration to Social Democratic MPs, Zeman and his party were threatened with political ostracism by Havel. In February, Havel said that weak support from the Social Democrats on the Declaration issue would negatively effect his relationship with that party (354). Falling out of favour with the widely respected President would cost the party dearly as they would be placed in the same category with the Republicans and Communists with whom Havel refuses to meet. Havel's approval gives parties authority and legitimacy (355). It was hardly an exaggeration that Zeman's final judgement of the Declaration would be "one of the most important decisions in his career" (356).

    A Split Party:

    Of course, the real cause for Zeman's retreat from his earlier defence of the Declaration was the fact that his party was hopelessly split between supporters and opponents of the final document. With his popularity falling in favour of other members of his own party (357), Zeman was walking a fine line. If he showed too much support for the text or if he opposed it too strongly, large sections of his party would abandon him.

    The split in ČSSD could not have been more wide open. On the one side, many important figures within the party supported the Declaration. Zdeněk Jičínský was one Social Democratic MP who openly supported the Declaration at every opportunity (358). The popular MP and Deputy Party Chairwoman Petra Buzková, a strong rival of Zeman's, came out uncompromisingly in favour of the Declaration as did MPs František Spanbauer and Jaromír Schling, Květoslava Kořínková and Pavel Dostál (359).

    One week before the ratification, Dostál, well known for his verbal attacks on Republicans (360), was assaulted by four men wielding straight razors as he left the Parliament building. His face was slashed, and he was hospitalised. Due to threats made during the attack, his children had to be accompanied to school by the police for some time after. The attack was certainly politically motivated, and most believed it was related to his positions strongly in favour of the Declaration and against Republican protests rejecting Czech-German reconciliation (361).

    On the other side of the ČSSD split were scores opposed to the Declaration. About a week after the Declaration was leaked, several leading members of the Social Democratic Party expressed their opposition to it. The Deputy Chairman of ČSSD Peter Morávek and the leader of the Parliamentary caucus Stanislav Gross were among the early critics (362). For Morávek, the Germans did not express enough regret in the Declaration (363). Gross later became the main advocate of an accompanying resolution to make the Declaration more acceptable to the doubters (364). Václav Grulich MP and Foreign Affairs Spokesman and Senator Jan Kavan also sought a formula to make Social Democratic support possible (365).

    In words that condemned not only the Declaration but the New Balance version of history behind it, Slavomír Klaban, the honorary chairman of the party, rejected the "compromise with truth" that the Declaration represented:

    In conflict with the truth, praising "the long history of fruitful and peaceful coexistence of Czechs and Germans, during which a rich cultural heritage was formed and remains to this day" evokes only a bitter smile at our foreign minister's erudition, which is able to associate the beastly murders of our citizens in Lidice and Ležáky, the deaths of 400 thousand citizens of the former First Republic and the Nazi plans for the physical liquidation of the nation with "a rich cultural heritage." (366)

    Klaban's advanced years led some to believe the ČSSD split was along generational lines (367), but whole regional party centres were declaring their dissatisfaction with the Declaration. In December 1996, the Prague 8 regional organisation expressed its "absolute disagreement" with the document and especially condemned the revision of history they felt it represented. Czech-German history was not a matter of peaceful coexistence for these party members but rather a story of permanent confrontation (368). This was a rejection of one of the fundamental tenets of the New Balance. In February 1997, the regional party organisation for West Bohemia followed suit by condemning the Declaration (369).

    Several Social Democratic politicians stated that after realising the attitudes of the Czech voters, they had little choice but to reject the Declaration. Some MPs in the party said that the negative stand of their voters had convinced them to oppose the Declaration (370). Senator for ČSSD Jiří Vyvadil even claimed to have conducted a "small referendum" on the issue and discovered highly negative attitudes towards the Declaration in his border constituency (371). Social Democratic Senator Václav Reintinger admitted that the voters were highly critical of the Declaration and the party had to take that into consideration (372). After speaking with her constituency, Hana Orgoniková MP-ČSSD believed that the people's critical voices on the Declaration should be made known through a national referendum on the issue (373).

    In the weeks before the ratification crisis, Social Democratic support for the Declaration was on the wane. The statements by Kohl at the signing and fumbled attempts by Zieleniec to win the support of Social Democrats only turned many away from the Declaration or convinced them of the need for an accompanying resolution to re-emphasise the Czech interpretation of the document (374).

    It was, of course, clear by mid-January that at least four Social Democrats would support the Declaration in Parliament, and thus it was also clear that the Declaration would narrowly pass (375). The Social Democratic Central Committee's decision at the end of that month to allow its MPs to vote according to their own conscience (376) not only reconfirmed the fact that the Declaration would be ratified by a thin margin but also reconfirmed the party's split on this key issue. As a large opposition party facing a minority government, ČSSD was theoretically in an excellent position to upset the government, but as has happened on other issues, their failure to be united completely undermined their political position.

    With an eye on international prestige, however, the coalition parties wanted to win the vote by more than just the thin margin that a handful of independently minded Social Democrats would give them. The issue of the accompanying resolution thus became critical for the support of a significant group of Social Democrats and for a strongly supported ratification.

    Zeman's Choice:

    The coalition and the pro-government press stepped up their attack on the apparently indecisive Zeman, but the leader of the strongest opposition party, faced with a tortuous split in his party, was in a difficult position. Despite the coalition charges that he was in league with the extremists, Zeman, at certain times, was merely reiterating the public's grievances against the Declaration. Certainly most Czechs agreed that if the document failed to end the Sudeten German restitution claims once and for all, "what real sense did the Declaration have?" (377)

    Unable to block ratification but able to decide whether it passes by a slim or strong majority, Zeman decided to attempt to win prestige from the situation. He did this on the international level through eleventh hour meetings with German President Herzog and leading German Social Democrats (378). The latter supported Zeman's idea for an accompanying resolution and promised to present it to the Bundestag during ratification. Given the numbers in the German Parliament, of course, this can only be seen as a superficial gesture of international support for Zeman.

    At home Zeman also sought to avoid his hopeless political position and gain prestige instead. For Zeman the whole issue of the accompanying resolution could earn him prestige in the eyes of his countrymen in that by forcing the coalition to compromise, both he and his party would be seen to be important.

    Interestingly, Zeman made the same mistake as Klaus in their compromise over the accompanying resolution that brought about the Declaration's final ratification by a strong margin. By keeping his party colleagues out of the discussions, Zeman's party also became "split to atoms" by the Declaration end-game (379). The party was filled with more tension and internal strife than even before the ratification (380). Opposition Social Democrats, like coalition politicians, must have been questioning whether the whole affair was worth the enormous trouble and huge political cost.

    The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia

    Since at least 1945, Czech Communists have always had a strongly nationalist and anti-German message (381). This nationalist legacy continued to be seen throughout the two year period of the Declaration debates as the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) uncompromisingly appealed to ethnic fears. The fact that they are ostracised from normal political life, especially by a president who refuses to meet with the leaders of this party which consistently represents 10% of Czech voters, forces them to use unconventional methods and propose radical measures to make their views heard.

    Early Efforts:

    An early example of their radical notions was the Communists' proposal to the Parliament regarding language. In a effort to halt the "pressure of Germanisation" in the Czech language, this measure would have eliminated German signs from shops in the Czech Republic and made it illegal for foreign firms to require Czech employees to speak a foreign language. Of course, given the parliamentary numbers, the proposal had no chance of becoming law.

    According to Party Spokeswoman Věra Žežulová, the measure was brought about by popular feelings of discomfort with so many German signs in the Republic especially in the border regions (382). Those public feelings of disquiet certainly do exist and are by no means limited to Communist voters. The Communists were trying to capitalise on traditional Czech fears which they realised were prominent in Czech society.

    There is some evidence to suggest that the Communists are better aware of these traditional attitudes. Because they are usually omitted from the pages of the largest national dailies, Communist politicians spend more time in small face-to-face meetings with voters in cities, towns and villages in the effort to get their message across (383). This fact means that the Communists are in greater contact with ordinary Czechs with typical views and traditional fears. Perhaps this makes the Communists more aware that the nationalist card is worth playing in Czech politics.

    Communists and the Declaration:

    As would be expected given their strongly nationalist leanings, the Communists have opposed the Declaration almost from the beginning. Some of their objections to the document may have appeared more rational. For example, in agreement with the overwhelming majority of Czechs, Communist Party Chairman Miroslav Grebeníček labelled the transfers "an act of justice and a factor eliminating instability" (384). He felt that the Declaration inappropriately equated the post-war transfers with the crimes of Nazism and that it thus presented a false interpretation of history (385). Deputy Chairman Miloslav Ransdorf called it "a non-standard document" which could have unforeseen consequences (386).

    Other objections of the Communists were comparatively less rational, but they still represented attempts to play to public fears and national pride. Grebeníček labelled the Czech government "the government of national treason" for its negotiation of the Declaration (387). He also called the document "the victory of the revanchists" and said that the Landsmannschaft's disappointment with the Declaration was only a clever deception (388). Greben'Đek said that the document "cleared the path for individual property claims of the citizens of the former Greater German Reich and their descendants" (389) and accused the government of working in the interests of "their foreign protectors" (390) Utilising imagery from the Czech national revival, Ransdorf called it a "national shame" (391). Communist MP Zdeněk Klanica continued the barrage of slogans by warning of the "collaboration politics of the Czech ruling élite and the pro-government wing of ČSSD" (392).

    Perhaps, as some suggested, the Communists were trying to expand their voter base by appealing to the more "patriotic" elements in ČSSD with their softer tones and to potential Republican voters with their more aggressive speech (393), but after some of their more irrational utterances, escaping the "extremist" label would be very difficult for the Communists.

    Public Protests:

    Continually shut out of normal political life by the President and the major press, the Communists resorted to several acts of protest to make their views known to a wider audience. Within a week of the Declaration's leak, the Communist Party had decided to initiate a petition against it (394). They had even hoped that other parties and individual politicians would join the petition committee (395), and indeed the committee eventually had representatives from the Czechoslovak Committee and from the Pensioners for Life Security (DŽJ), a party which took just over three percent in the 1996 Parliamentary elections (396). The petition they drafted warned of the threat to sovereignty represented by the Declaration (397).

    At a public meeting at Můstek in Prague on 18th December, 1996, the petition organisers claimed to have collected 1500 signatures. Several harsh arguments started between the Communists and passers-by at that meeting (398), and though appearances of leading Communists on television were strongly criticised by some (399), the party was finally getting the attention it desired.

    More Communist inspired protests came in the new year. Public protest meetings held by Grebeníček packed meeting halls in regions where Communist support was strong (400). The day before Kohl's visit to Prague, the Communists organised another meeting on Wenceslas Square to gain signatures for the protest petition. Communist sources claimed to have gained 2000 signatures this time (401). Other protests were held in other towns and cities. Communist supporters also joined the raucous Republican protests during the visit of Kohl (402). Many reporters described the crowds at these meetings as mostly "old men" and "pensioners" (403) revealing that the press would not treat the protests very seriously.

    After the Communist proposal to delay the ratification procedures fell through on 4th February, 1500 Communist protesters outside the Parliament were able to make their disappointment heard in shouts of "No Declaration!" and "White Mountain!" Symbolically, an ODS MP and Miloä Zeman agreed to close the window so as to be able to ignore the protests (404).

    Along with Republicans, Communist MPs boycotted the speech of visiting German President Herzog in protest (405), and Greben'Đek kept up his attacks on the Declaration at the Communist May Day meeting (406).

    The Communists clearly played to national sentiments in their opposition to the Declaration. Often out in the villages and towns and close to ordinary Czechs, they have a good feeling for the typical fears that most Czechs have towards the Sudeten Germans and Germany. They aimed at these attitudes when trying to win public support. Of course, the relatively unreconstructed Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia is still unable to escape its past, and so even if they say the words many would like to hear, they will not win greater support than they already have.

    The nationalist nature of the Communist condemnations of the Declaration were topped only by the Republicans.

    The Republicans: Extreme Expression of Common Ideas

    The Association for the Republic - Republican Party of Czechoslovakia, led by Miroslav Sládek, never pulled any punches in its resistance to the Declaration and the conceptual movement of reconciliation behind it. Their electoral programme said it plainly enough:

    We reject any and all negotiations with the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft, and we regard those politicians who negotiated about a return of the Sudeten Germans and about the cancellation of the Beneä decrees to be traitors to their nation. (407)

    The Republicans were vehemently opposed to both the Declaration and the New Balance approach to Czech-German history, and they took a variety of actions to protest what they saw as high treason.


    Earlier actions and statements by the Republicans let it be known years in advance that Sládek's party would resist any agreement with the Germans. It would be impossible to list all the anti-German acts and speeches of the members of this party since it came into existence just after the Revolution, but a few points will be instructive. In July 1994, for example, a group of Republicans including top figures Josef Krejsa MP, Rudolf Šmucr MP and Sládek's personal assistant Lubom'r Votava physically attacked those taking part in a commemoration service at the site of the former concentration camp of Terezín (Teresienstadt). In a protest against the German representation at that commemoration, the Republicans kicked wreaths and disrupted the service as police stood by and perhaps even encouraged their actions (408).

    In another example, when Czech police shot German tourist Thomas Rankel, Miroslav Sládek infamously remarked: "That's all right, there are too many Germans anyway" (409). About the only Germans the Republicans seem to be able to accept are those connected to Franz Schonhuber, the German Republican chief who sent congratulatory greetings to the first congress of Czech Republicans and from whom the Czech Republicans adopted their party's logo (410).

    As other research has noted, Republican successes in the North Bohemian regions, where they can poll fifteen to twenty percent in some towns, has for years been based on their stoking public fear of a return of Sudeten Germans and fear of German capital. In the world according to the Republicans Havel is a lackey of the Germans (411).

    Republican posters pasted all across the Czech Republic in the past few years have been particularly revealing. One poster repeated the accusations of high treason against the government for its negotiations with the Sudeten Germans and added: "Of course, there is only one penalty for high treason - the most severe!" A second showed the outline of the Czech Republic in national colours held firmly in the clutches of an enormous black eagle bedecked with swastikas. "No to the Sudeten Germans!" read the caption (412).

    It is not at all surprising that the Republicans would renounce the Declaration when it became public. Given their past, their radical reaction to the Declaration was to be expected.

    The Declaration: "The Great National Tragedy"

    The Republicans were disseminating false information about the Declaration during its long period of secrecy. Jan Vik, a Republican MP, was one member of the party who was allegedly involved in producing and circulating what purported to be secret information about the Declaration negotiations which demonstrated secret agreements between the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft and the Czech coalition parties preparing the groundwork for a return of the Sudeten Germans. The information was completely fabricated and only Vik's re-election to Parliament and the renewal of his Parliamentary immunity saved him from prosecution (413).

    One would think that when the Declaration finally became public after a year and a half of secrecy, its relative lack of content in comparison to the Republican-imagined threats might just have calmed the party down somewhat, but obviously any deal with Germany would be damnable in Republican eyes. Members of the Republican Party wasted no time in condemning the Declaration. Deputy Chairman of the Republican Caucus Vik labelled it "The Great National Tragedy" and "yet another important step towards the future domination of the Czech Republic by the Federal Republic of Germany" (414). Sládek immediately claimed that once the document was signed, there would be a flood of Sudeten Germans into the border regions and a massive wave of Sudeten restitution claims (415). Just days after the text was made public, national popular support for the Republican party jumped from 5.1% to 7.0% (416).

    The party soon announced it would draw up its own declaration which would call on Germany to pay the Czech Republic 305 billion German marks as compensation for war damages (417).


    Kohl's visit to Prague to sign the Declaration was met with a wave of Republican protests. The most significant of the protest actions took place just outside the building where the Declaration was being signed, the Lichtenštejn Palace in Prague. Behind a cordon of policemen and a line of busses, the harsh chants of Republicans (and some Communists who joined them) were heard: "SS ODS!" and "Klaus raus!" Banners proclaimed that the treachery of the governing coalition would be remembered forever and that "We will not betray Masaryk!"

    After a brief presentation of the Republican declaration, Sládek rose to speak:

      Enough of Havel, enough of Klaus.... the Declaration is the completion of Hitler's plan... the new Munich... If we had just shot all the Sudeten Germans (after the war), there would be peace today... The only thing we have to regret from the war is that we killed too few Germans.

    The crowd, numbering perhaps two hundred, cheered, and with Sládek's encouragement, they burned a German flag. About the same number of police and journalists looked on. Attempts by Police President Oldřich Tomášek to wrestle the microphone away from Sládek proved fruitless (418). These antics gained enormous amounts of media coverage for the Republican Party which had taken just over 8% nationally in the last Parliamentary elections.

    The Attack on Dostál:

    Though concrete evidence is lacking, it seems that the Republican Party may have been involved in the attack on Social Democratic MP Pavel Dostál primarily due to his open support of the Declaration. Sládek had several times publicly remarked on Dostál's "dark skin" (419). Dostál had several times sharply criticised the Republican Party. Most notably, just a few days before his attack, Dostál had lashed out at Sládek for his antics at the protest described above and for Sládek's connections to the German Republicans led by the former SS member Schonhuber (420). At the end of January 1997, Republican MP Krejsa, writing in the pages of the party newspaper Republika, declared:

      I don't wish that journalistic pathological humanist with the non-white inclinations anything good. It is thanks to him that I was labelled a racist by Parliament. So that happy gypsy who constantly sues me for (my writings in) Republika, can get his black ass kicked for all I care... (421).

    A few days later, Dostál was brutally attacked as he left the Parliament. Of course, Republican connections to violent skinhead groups are well documented (422). However likely the connection may seem, though, direct evidence of Republican involvement in the attack on Dostál is lacking.

    The Filibuster:

    Republican filibuster tactics during the ratification proceedings of the Declaration were as much aimed at delaying immunity hearings for the party's top members as they were about blocking the Declaration. As one commentator noted:

      Republicans want to stretch out the discussion of the Declaration in the Parliament as much as possible, and they clearly are not looking forward to the end of this sitting when the Parliament will debate the proposals of the Immunity Committee which call for the prosecution of four of their MPs. (423)

    One of the four in question was Sládek himself for his comments at the protests during Kohl's visit (424). The police were later reluctant to proceed against Sládek without first consulting a linguist to examine the Republican leader's comments (425).

    The Republican filibuster was notable for its outrageous and extremely racist rhetoric. Republican MP Šmucr, for example, announced that:

      The Czech government is comprised of members of other nations foreign to us - that is Jews, Poles and former Sudeten Germans and other nations. It is therefore completely understandable that such a government will hardly assert the Czech interest of maintaining the sovereignty and identity of the Czech nation in Europe (426).

    Sládek proclaimed:

      ..what the government is presenting today is nothing new in our history. Even before the Second World War, many urged that we deal with Germany carefully, that we act accommodatingly, that we don't irritate her and in the end our soldiers even got the order not to shoot. The forces were not allowed to provoke. And where did this policy of reconciliation and non-irritation of our large neighbour lead? To the near genocide of our nation. Now we are again in the same situation, and it won't take much to disappear in the German sea like the Lusatian Serbs. (427)

    Krejsa added his dislike for Alexandr Vondra, the Czechs' chief negotiator of the Declaration:

      I don't have anything against a dissident expressing thanks for the flow of marks (he received) under the last régime, but that such an important document was negotiated by a well-known anal-spelunker of the newly emerging Greater German Reich under the guise of the European Union, a man who in pro-German sentiment is more Catholic than the Pope - Saša Vondra. (428)

    There were scores more offensive comments on the floor of the Parliament and also several comparisons of Kohl to Hitler (429). Sládek later called his party's behaviour during the Declaration ratification procedures: "in no way unusual" (430).

    The Use of Ethnic Fears in Czech Politics

    Typical, Not Exceptional:

    The Communists and Republicans were not the only ones to attempt to capitalise on ethnic fears. It is important to realise that during the two year period when the declaration was current, all political parties played on Czech national sentiments and fear of a Sudeten German return in order to win the support of the electorate. Nationalist rhetoric and stoking ethnic fear were not the sole domain of extremist parties or the opposition parties as some commentators tried to portray. Of course, the Communists and Republicans were more crude in their use of ethnic fear as a political tool, but all the major parties participated in such moves, albeit in more subtle ways. Obviously, they were well aware of public opinion as evidenced by poll results which showed that 86% of the Czech public could not bring itself to vote for any party which supported an apology to the Sudeten Germans (431)

    The Civic Democratic Party (ODS) demonstrated its willingness to play on Czech fears of a Sudeten German return, for example, on a number of occasions. While the Republicans claimed that the Declaration was a first step of a plan to repatriate the Germans, leaders of ODS argued that the return might happen if the Declaration was not ratified. Aware of the deeper fears many have, Foreign Minister Zieleniec promised that the current Czech government would never negotiate with the Sudeten Germans (432). According to Zieleniec, the Declaration closed the door on the demands of the Sudeten Germans and offered the Czechs a German guarantee that old claims would not be pursued (433). Czech Ambassador to Germany Jiří Gruša stated that the whole motive behind his party's and the government's support of the Declaration was to "stabilise Czech statehood" (434). The message from ODS was clear: without the Declaration, our nation will continue to be threatened by the Sudeten Germans.

    The Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), also played on public fears in a similar manner in order to win support for the government's declaration. The leader of the party Jan Kalvoda said that the only purpose of the Declaration was to end once and for all the threat of Sudeten German restitution claims (435). Another MP for ODA stated that if the Declaration was not ratified, "we will be in a worse situation with Germany than we are today" (436). Again, fear of the Sudeten Germans and fear of Germany were used.

    The third coalition partner, the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) also realised the political value of playing to the public's traditional fears of Sudeten Germans. For example, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Jan Kasal, a Christian Democrat, used the same logic as ODS and ODA above in his support of the Declaration (437). In 1995, party leader and Agriculture Minister Josef Lux announced that the Sudeten German threat could be reduced if the state's half million hectares in the border regions were sold to individual Czech citizens (438), and he re-supported this proposition as a way to prevent Germans buying all the land during the 1996 election campaign (439). Of course, it was pointless to make this proposal at all, because Sudeten Germans (and all foreigners) are prevented by law from owning property in the Czech Republic. Lux needlessly raised the issue of the Sudeten German threat to score political points in the upcoming election.

    The Social Democrats (ČSSD) were also no strangers to using ethnic fear as a vote-winner. Social Democratic supporters of the Declaration such as Zdeněk Jiíčnský MP, were prone to adopt the government's argument:

    If the Declaration were rejected on the Czech side, that would strengthen those forces in the Federal Republic of Germany which are opposed to it, that is the extremists of the nationalist Landsmannschafts and their patrons, especially the CSU. That is clearly not in the interest of the Czech Republic. (440)

    Party leader and Speaker of Parliament Miloš Zeman, in agreement with the overwhelming majority of Czech citizens, labelled the post-war transfers as "a legitimate act" and rejected any apology for them (441). He also demanded that the Declaration end the Sudeten German claims once and for all (442). When asked what would be unacceptable in a declaration, Zeman showed he could also play to more extreme fears:

    If, to give an example, part of this Declaration established a new Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, clearly we would not vote for such a declaration. (443)

    During the ratification struggle, much of ČSSD's argument for attaching an accompanying resolution to the Declaration in Parliament was that a clear statement needed to be made that would finally end the claims of Sudeten Germans (444).

    Thus all political parties realised traditional public sentiments and fears and tried to utilise them in their approach to the Declaration issue. In this, one can say that pragmatic Czech politicians were closer to public opinion than the idealistic intellectuals who created the New Balance and sparked the drive for the Declaration.

    A Final Note on the Extremists:

    Sládek and the Republican Party did not create Czech fears of the Germans and Germany. They simply play on existing traditional fears based on national attitudes which can be observed across a wide spectrum of Czech society. In a comparison of feelings of ethnic fear with their fellow countrymen the excesses in Republican speeches represent differences of degree not differences in kind. The 8% of Czechs who voted for the Republicans - or the 20% which voted for the two extremist parties combined - are not from a different world. The one in five adults who are attracted to these parties and many of the other four who are not have similar beliefs and fears based on national self-image. Those twenty percent are only more entranced by those national myths. The Republicans simply represent the most zealous end of the universal Czech spectrum of ethnic fear. Even after the Republicans' February actions and words, 35% of Czechs still did not find Sládek and his party to be extreme at all (445).

    Sládek's Republicans, and the Communists to some extent, touch a nerve in Czech society. Like the Communists, the Republicans find themselves out amongst the people more often in smaller meetings (446), and thus they have some understanding of the basic suspicions ordinary Czechs have towards the New Balance. The extremists are acutely aware that 75% of Czechs support the post-war transfers of Sudeten Germans, and they know that 86% of Czechs would never support a party that wanted to apologise to the Sudeten Germans (447).

    Republicans did not invent Czech national sentiments. They play on them, encourage them and exaggerate them, but they did not invent them. Those feelings were there before the Declaration, and they are there now. Banning extremist political parties, as some demanded in the winter and spring of 1997, would not make those feelings disappear.

    What is perhaps most disturbing, was a point made by Pavel Dostál a couple of weeks after he was attacked:

      Today, the statistics say that, in comparison with the world, there is relatively low unemployment in the Czech Republic, but the support of radical parties is high above the European average. (448)

    Put bluntly, if twenty percent of the Czech population is willing to support extremists when times are relatively good, what will happen when the bad times come? Recall that The Economist recently forecast a doubling of unemployment in the Czech Republic over the next year or two (449).

    Even the idealistic Czech intellectuals behind the New Balance inspired Declaration seem to have learned something about their country, though reality came as a shock to them. As Václav Havel noted just after the ratification debacle: "These people were elected by somebody" (450).

    VI. Conclusions

    The Damage:

    The end result of the Czech-German Declaration was a political fiasco and very nearly a complete national disaster. First, the Declaration settled none of the problems it was intended to solve. As Kohl's words at the signing and as the words of the German ambassador to Prague at the end of March make clear (451), all the old questions concerning Sudeten German restitution remain open. The Czech victims of the Nazis remain (with the Slovaks) the only Nazi victims without individual compensation from the German government. The Czech press is still fascinated by the Sudeten German issue and the musings of Neubauer (452). The Declaration has changed none of these things.

    In fact, by dredging up old problems and reminding everyone of the traditional animosities, the Declaration has actually hurt Czech-German relations more than it has helped them. Harsh exchanges of accusations and frustrations hardly represent a reconciliation.

    The very sense of national apologies is questionable. The Declaration contains an illogical mix of rejection of collective guilt on the one hand and admission of collective guilt on the other. Collective national apologies and regrets for the crimes committed by individuals more than half a century ago do not seem to have much practical purpose for people today. Raising old ghosts only raised old hatreds.

    Second, the Declaration issue tore political parties to the breaking point and thus damaged the young party system in the country. The political cost of supporting the unpopular Declaration for the coalition was high. People were beginning to lose faith in the whole reform process since the Revolution, and the unpopular Declaration did nothing to stem the rising feeling of discontent (453).

    Finally, the Declaration debate, specifically the actions of extremist parties and the efforts of those in power to try to stop them, threatened several fundamentals of democracy in the Czech Republic. The farce that political life had descended into certainly did nothing for the image of democracy among the Czech people.

    The Intention:

    The Czech-German Declaration is a manifestation of a new approach to history by Czech intellectuals. What Havel labelled "the New Balance" in 1995 represents the culmination of years of Czech thought that stretches back into the writings of Czech emigrants and dissidents of the 1970s and 1980s. The philosophical background of the movement was an attempt to redirect Czech thought towards the Western traditions in Czech history and to reject connections to the East, especially pan-Slavic ideas concerning the relationship between the Czechs and Russia. Whether the New Balance is closer to historical fact or not, the intellectual movement certainly has an agenda.

    The New Balance intellectual movement seeks not only to re-evaluate the Czech view of Germany and the Germans but also to change Czech opinions about the Czech nation itself. It seeks to redefine the Czech national myth to include negative factors so that the Czech nation loses its "provincial" character and "becomes a member of the club of adult nations" (454). The goal is not to eliminate the Czech national myth but to force it to evolve in a more philosophically balanced, cosmopolitan direction. The Declaration, as a manifestation of this movement, was even declared by some to be "in the interest of the Czech nation" (455).

    The Rift:

    Throughout the entire two year period when the Declaration was current, very little evidence ever emerged which could show that the wider Czech public was convinced of the intellectuals' ideas. The Czech public consistently rejected condemnations of the post-war transfers and apologies to the Sudeten Germans, which have been central to the New Balance approach. Most Czechs never supported the Declaration.

    The entire episode demonstrated the deep rift between ordinary Czechs and the core of Czech intellectuals, many of whom have spent decades isolated from their fellow countrymen in necessarily exclusive dissident cliques or in outright exile. The intellectuals behind the New Balance and the Declaration often appeared simply out of touch with public fears and the strength of traditional sentiments. Those sentiments not only form the basis for Czech national identity but also form a part of Czechs' personal identity, and therefore the attacks on national "provincialism" which intellectuals like Tigrid and Pehe (two former exiles) made during the course of the Declaration debates would be taken as personal insults by many Czechs. Such attacks would hardly serve the intellectuals' cause of enlisting support for the Declaration, but they failed to recognise this fact. Havel's realisation that twenty percent of the Czech public cast their votes for parties whose existence Havel consistently refused to recognise came only at the end of the period.

    Pragmatic politicians, in contrast to the idealistic intellectuals, were at all times nearer to the public mood. All the parties recognised the traditional fear of Germans and Germany which exists in Czech society, and all parties played on the common fear of a Sudeten German return. Extremist parties simply played the same game to an extreme degree. Many leading politicians such as Klaus, no doubt aware of popular sentiment, were reluctant to even embark on the Declaration process.

    One can even say that the inability of leading intellectuals to identify with ordinary Czechs and offer them acceptable intellectual pathways in this era of transition leaves the Czech public without reasonable alternatives and drives them towards the extremes. It is difficult enough for the average Czech to identify with those who rebelled against the old régime, but when those élites present ideas that are in direct conflict with his understanding of his nation and elements of his own personality, it is little wonder that he stops listening. Lacking a modern political and intellectual philosophy they can relate to, the Czech public falls prey to the arguments of the extremists, who often appear to be closer to the people than the almost alien former exiles and dissidents.

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