The Carpathian Germans were a small German people living in the territory of today's Slovakia from the 12th century to 1945, when they suffered genocide. This are the current doings, of the people I come from. This page is provided as a private volunteer public service, and does not represent the official opinions of the Carpathian German Landsmannschaft.

Dr. Thomas Reimer March 5, 2006

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What are the Benes Decrees, in German Benesch-Dekrete:
During World War II, the Western Allies decided to reconstruct Czechoslovakia, and recognized the retired former president Edvard Benesch as head of a Czechoslovak president in exile--though legally, that state had ceased to exist in March 1939 when 27 countries, including France, Great Britain and Russia, recognized the independence of Slovakia. Among Czechs, the decision was not popular, since many blamed Benesch's prewar ultranationalist policies for the break-up of the state. Also, the last prewar Czech parliament had elected the popular Emil Hacha as president. In Slovakia, the thought of a replay of Benesch's oppression of Sloval culture stiffened the resistance of many Slovaks against the Soviet army. But Slovak autonomists were silenced by force after the war, and Hacha died on June 27, 1945 under suspicious circumstances in the hospital of the Pankraz Prison. Despite a rather shaky right to issue ordnances concerning people living in the former CSR, Benes had begun to issue decrees about postwar Czechoslovakia on August 20, 1940. Until October 28, 1945, he issued a total of 143 decrees. On March 28, 1946, the provisional Czechoslovak parliament gave its post-facto blessing to these decrees.

This website lists, in German, the indidividual decrees that dehumanized ethnic Germans and Magyars. An English version will follow: Benesch-Dekrete
This website, from Vancouver, charts the evolution of the Benes-decree jurisprudence, at Human Rights for Minorities in Central Europe

Of these, 15 decrees dehumanized Magyars and German citizens of Czechoslovakia. It is these that are called in the discussion "Benesch-Decrees" and and which offend many people opposed to racism. These 15 decrees singled out German and Magyars of the CSR. Czech and Slovaks who had collaborated with the Nazis were to be tried as individuals, but Germans and Magyars were presumed guilty as group and collectively stripped of their citizenship (decree #33 of August 2, 1945), and property without compensation, (decrees 12 of June 21, 1945 and 108 of October 25, 1945) and then "ethnically cleansed" from the country. After their "final solution" to their German problem, the Beneshists prepared to do the same with the Magyars, but were stopped in 1947 by the Soviet Union in order to dampen anti-communist feelings in Hungary. During the Vertreibung, Germans were interned in concentration camps where many died of hunger and disease. Also, some Czechs and Slovaks murdered and raped Germans civilians. Particularily odious was the Benes-decree 115 of May 8, 1946 that declared all deeds (down to the rape and murder of children) were "justified acts of retribution" that could not be prosecuted. These murders were not even declated crimes needing an amnesty to protect the murderer from legal measures. And so, even today, any of the Beneschists who murdered children cannot be called an "amnestied criminal" in the Czech and Slovak Republics without libel action in court, because the still valid Benes-decreees state that what he did was not a crime.

Decree #33 allowed on the paper that Germans and Magyars who had actively fought for the CSR during the 6 years that country had not existed legally (and by international treaty at that), could be reinstated. They had 6 months to lodge an application. To understand the cynicism of the law, consider first that Czechoslovakia was an artificial country with no claim on the loyalty of its non-Czech citizens. This had to be earned through its conceited attitude, the Czech government did not. Why should an ordinary person have fought FOR the CSR when the world community, in 1938, had decided to end the experiment? Then, the decree made as liable as any KZ commander the average, unpolitical person IF of German or Hungarian ancestry, no matter what the age or gender. Look at your grandmother! If a dictatorship were to take over your country, would she be worthy of expulsion, even death, simply because she did not attack the Gestapo with bare hands? Hundreds of thousands of Czechs and Slovaks had collaborated with the Nazis, and Benes had them judged as individuals. The great majority of Czechs and Slovaks had been as passive and unpolitical as the great majority of ethnic Germans. Yet an unpolitical Slavic grandmother was not condemned, whereas a German and Magyar one was. Besides, the exemption for active resisters was only window dressing for the Americans--for in practice active social-democrats, even Jews, were murdered and expelled just as anyone else, actions legalized in Fall 1946.

Not only were the Benes-decrees odious at the time. Their continued lawfulness in the Czech and Slovak republics continue to have effects on survivors. They prevent them from living in their old homeland as legal natives (which they are, after all), get restitution for their loss of property, etc., just as other individuals who suffered from ethnic discrimination during World War II do. It is highly insulting, too, to the dignity of the survivors, and their children, such as myself.

Benes Decree Events 2005

Alas, nothing moved!
The Karpatenpost in its March issue reprinted a KDL resolution from 1996 demanding that Benes decrees be voided and at least those remaining in Slovakia receive their property back. It also reprinted an article from the Karpatenblatt noting that the new restitution law from 2003 allows only property confiscated after 1948 to be restituted, which excludes by design Germans and Magyars. There only may be a chance if a piece of land was not registered as confiscated because it was forgotten. This happened at times to remote property in the mountains.

April 2005 The General Assembly of the deported Sudeten Germans in Austria reiterated that those Benes-decrees which led to the mass-murder and expulsion of the Sudeten Germans must be voided. The board of trustees of the KDL Austria declared that it agreed with the Sudeten German declaration, and that the current government of the Slovak Republic unfortunately supports the Benes decrees (Heimatblatt, Mai/June 2005, p. 18-19)

During the summer, Czech prime-minister Jiri Paroubek stated that he was considering an official apology (not more, certainly no restitution of any kind) to those Germans who had actually fought in the anti-Nazi resistance, and were ethnically cleansed in 1945-46. He was soundly criticized by the rabidly nationalistic Czech leadership, incl. president Vaclav Klaus. Slovakia prime-minister Mikulas Dzurinda issued a declaration that Slovakia won’t even consider that. Considering this persistent inhumane attitude, KDV president Ondrej Poess declared in the Karpatenblatt that while the KDV will never accept the ethnic cleansing as justified, “we have to be realistic” about obtaining justice. This is sad—and a sad verdict about Slovak society. The Baltic states and Hungary have extended their post-war compensation laws to include ethnically-cleansed Germans, Serbia and Croatia are working on legislation to do so. It is time that Slovaks overcome their smug, racist attitude.

That there was no movement at all in the Benes-decree issue was confirmed by Laszlo Nagy, of the Slovak parliament’s Committee on Minorities and Human Rights, to a group of Austrian members of parliament led by Norbert Kapeller (OVP), and including Werner Kummerer (SPO) and Barbara Rosenkranz (FPO). The delegation visited from November 28 to 30, and included a member of the KDL Austria.

Benes Decree Events 2003

2003/09/16. It appears that Slovakia has voided the Benes-decrees 12 and 108 concerning the expropriation of real estate owned by Germans. As the Verband der Volksdeutschen Landsmannschaften Oesterreichs (the Austrian counterpart of the Bund der Vertriebenen in Germany), in Vienna reported, the Slovak Supreme Court stated that the Czechoslovak Restitution Law Nr. 229 from 1991, which is valid in Slovakia and allowed restitution only of those expropriated by the Communist regime, was discriminatory and unconstitutional. As the Slovak constitution protects all citizens equally, to exclude innocent Slovak citizens of German ancestry from restitution of the property taken from them on the basis of their ethnicity won't do. The Slovak parliament then passed an amended restitution law (Nr. 172/2003) allowing restitution of real estate confiscated on the basis of collective guilt (Benes Decrees). However, as the VLOe notes, this now applies only to current citizens of the Slovak Republic--not those who were ethnically cleansed in 1945-46. However, once Slovakia becomes part of the EU in 2007, this restriction would have to fall. Restitution has to be asked for by 31.XII.2004. For more information see Restitution and Karpatenblatt from July 2003, article by Josef Roob. However, in Karpatenblatt Nov. 2003, reported that the Slovak parliament passed on October 24, 2003 a new restitution law that again contains the old restrictions. The new law voided the amended law 172/2003.

The European Parliament showed that in the end, they are just the usual bunch of gastropodes and catamites that become professional politicians. Any street whore has more decency, as the persons who in May by a large majority voted to accept membership of the Czech and Slovak Republics despite the obvious official pride of these two countries at having committed (Czechs) and abetting (Slovaks) genocide. It just showed again that there is no "European Union" of values, despite the constant blather by Tony Blair and others about such--it's just a EEC (European Economic Community), a bunch of free-marketeers and bankers, with the Jolly Rogers but without morals.

2003/05/21 A delegation of the Czech settlers of the former Hohenstadt/Moravia, now called Bratronice, visited the Bavarian small city of Luhe-Wildenau, their future sister city. As reported by the local newspaper Der Neue Tag, the mayor of Bratronice castigated the "evil deed"of the Vertreibung, and called upon the Czech government and society to admit it. God bless these men. With such, reconciliation is possible. By the way, how many Slovak mayors, though receiving funds from the KDL for churches and schools, have spoken thus on the record, in public? Not many, even the churches evade the issue.

A good article by Christopher Szabo in Sobaka on the Benes-decrees and the moral ambiguity, to say the least, of the Western countries in continuing to tolerate them Omerta on the Benes-Decrees

A May 2002 article in the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (an otherwise heavily anti-German weekly from Switzerland, which makes light of the Vertreibung and accuses Germans collectively) noting Jews who were expropriated by the Benes-decrees as well, showing again that their aim was ethnic cleansing, not punishment of Nazi-crimes, which served only as pretext: Jewish victims of Benes-decrees

Benes Decree Events 2002

Since February, there is much going on about the Benes-decrees after Czech prime-minister Zeman raised the topic by calling the Germans of Czechoslovakia a collective of Nazi agents and asking the European Union to agree officially that the decrees are unproblematic from a legal and moral point of view with European human rights obligations. With this, the Czech political establishment overdid it. The public outcry has been such that the Brussels EU bureaucrats were forced to take note of the issue. There is much week-to-week development going on, which I will summarize once the legal analysis of the Benes decrees ordered by the EU Parliament will be available.

2002/01/16In an interview with the daily Die Presse (Vienna), Maria Kadlecikova dismissed the idea that the Benesch-decrees need to be discussed when Slovakia joins the European Union, with a short reference to the 1991 "apology."

Benes Decree Events 2001

2001/10/XX During his visit in Vienna, Czech president Vaclav Havel admitted to Austrian president Klestil that the Benesch-Decrees were "blood vengeance" based on "ethnic hatred." But as far as giving the victims satisfaction and compensation.....zilche! (Based on Die Presse, Vienna, of October 19, 2001. As soon as Havel spoke, most of the political parties in Prague sharply criticized him and some even called for his resignation or impeachment.

2001/03/24. The Carpathian German historian Joerg Hoensch died, 65 years old at the eve of retirement. Born in Freudenthal/Moravia into a family from the Upper Zips, he taught since 1972 at the University of the Saarland in Saarbruecken. In his works about Slovakia, Prof. Hoentsch followed all too often the rule, when in doubt, blame the Germans. He also associated with Ferdinand Seibt of the Collegium Carolinum, who has tried to revise through creative accounting the number of Germans killed in 1945-46 under the Benesch-decrees from 250,000-300,000 down to 40,000. ( For details about that brand of revisionism, see Fritz-Peter Habel's critique on the history page).

2001/03/07 VDA Prize to KDV. The over 125-year old VDA (Verein fuer das Deutschtum im Ausland) awarded its 2001 Prize of 50,000 DM (about $22,000) to the Karpatendeutscher Verein in Slovakia. Present at the award ceremony was Rudolf Schuster, president of the Slovak Republic. He spoke but studiously avoided mentionning the Benesch-decrees. However, Bartolomaeus Eiben, the chair of the KDV, reminded the audience of the pain these unjust and racist laws still caused.

Events 2000

2000/12/08 Benesch-Decrees. Slovak president Rudolf Schuster, in a greeting to the Sudeten German Akademie in Munich, wrote that the countries that ethnically cleansed their German minorities should go beyond occasional apologies and try to make up some of the damage, just as Germany did for Holocaust victims. Predictably, both Czech and Slovak nationalists objected, and Schuster was forced on 1/17/01 to state that he would not push for a voiding of the Benesch-decrees, nor for an apology for measures that hit "fascist collaborators." (By the way, the Landsmannschaft never asked for a pardon for convicted war criminals, so one wonders who insinuated that). But, courageously, Schuster maintained that collective guilt was wrong and that many innocents were harmed in 1945-1947 during measures that "require re-examination." (from Ostpreussenblatt 27 Jan. 2001, P. 6, and Presse (Vienna) 18 Jan. 2001)

2000/08/25-27. Second Carpathian German Day in Pressburg/Bratislava to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the KDV, which has grown to 4,342 members in 36 local branches. About 800 Carpathian Germans from Slovakia, Germany and Austria came. The Slovak government, and the German and Austrian embassies were represented. As Oskar Marczy noted, the chances for survival of our little group are not too bad, all things considered. During a recent visit by President Schuster in Stuttgart, Marczy and other KDL officers spoke with him about the Benes-decrees. Schuster was friendly but stated nothing could be done.

2000/07/12. Madeleine Albright, our Czech-born American Secretary of State, gave Jan Kavan, the Czech foreign minister, an official diplomatic note in which the US government declared any challenge of the Benesch-decrees to be against US interests. This in the same week the US government had Germany (with Austria soon to follow), compensate people who suffered during the Nazi regime from the confiscation of their assets and forced labor solely because of their ethnicity, and did not yet receive any share of the $100 billion paid by Germany and Austria since the 1950s. To deny at the same time Germans whose assets were confiscated and who often had to perform slave labor after the war solely because of their ethnicity the protection of the law shows a perverted sense of morality at the very least. However, since no compensation fund has been set up by the Czech government, should a class-action suit be filed by Sudeten Germans in the US against Czech firms and insurance companies that benefitted from theft and slave labor, then it is likely that any judge will disregard that "statement of interest," as they have the right to do.

2000/02/10. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan stated to Austria that under no circumstances would the Czech Republic alter the Benesch-Decrees. It is to be hoped that the European Union will apply pressure to change his defense of genocidal laws contrary to the UN Charter and common decency. Kavan is on a roll, though, and reiterated his statements on Feb. 28 in Die Welt.

Events 1999

1999/11/11. Benes^-Decrees/Benesch-Dekrete. As the Standard (Vienna) of Nov. 13 reported, during a debate between Austrian legislators and Slovak justice minister Jan Carnogursky on Nov. 11, the latter defended the decision of the Slovak parliament to condemn the Benesch Decrees as immoral YET at the same time to refuse to alter or cancel them. This position is saddening, especially considering the goodwill Carpathian Germans have shown to the Slovak people throughout the Czech occupation and after 1993, when they greatly helped the Slovak Republic counter the negative image created by mainstream German media more sympathetic to the Czech Republic. On the Czech side, Die Welt of Nov. 12 reported that Sudeten Germans in the United States proceed with the preparations for their class action suits against Czecho-Slovak insurance companies who obeyed the orders of the postwar Beneschist regime to hand over their policies to the Czech state. Even Ed Fagan, the star lawyer who represented Jews who had lost their insurance and bank accounts when during the war the Nazis took them, expressed interest in joining the case. Though, owing to 60 years of US media-hatred against Germans, the victims won't be able to enjoy the public support that would force the Czech insurance companies to settle, the legal rulings in favor of Jewish victims of Nazi racism apply to German victims of Czech racism as well. Keep reading about this interesting case!

1999/04/15. The European Parlament in Brussels adopted a resolution asking the Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovenia (in ex-Yugoslavia) to abolish postwar laws that discriminate against former citizens solely because of their ethnicity, i. e. the Benesch-Decrees, and in Slovenia the AVNOJ-Decrees, before joining the European Union, thereby rejecting the advice of theCouncil of Ministers which wanted the Czechs certified as democracy without shadows from the past. On May 20, 1999, the Austrian Parlament (Nationalrat) passed a resolution condemning the Benesch-Decrees and demanding that the Czech Republic abolish these before being able to join the EU, which is based on respect for individuals. Czech nationalists are alarmed, for this may delay Czech membership and access to the fleshpots (EU-subventions) of the rich West. Right now, Slovak politicians refuse to void the Benesch-decrees by pointing to the Czech Republic

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Events 1999

1998/11/03. The United Nations Human Rights Committee monitors the observance of the International Covenant on Civil Rights, which bans among else ethnic discrimination. The Czechoslovak Republic signed the Covenant in 1976, and the Optional Protocol in 1991. Both successor countries have notified the United Nations that they consider themselves successors to the signature of that Covenant by the defunct CSSR. The Czech and Slovak republics, on the basis of the Benes-decrees, ban any restitution to people expropriated before 1948 (when the Communists replaced the Beneshist regime). After the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic reaffirmed the legality of all Benesch-decrees on March 8, 1995, and the Czech government on August 23, 1995, rejected brutally and in insulting terms any political solution, and considering that the United Nations, that year, affirmed that refugees from the Balkan wars had a right to return to their old homes, three test cases were brought by descendants of victims against the discrimination against Germans in the Czech and Slovak restitution laws, through the law firm of Leewog and Grones, in Mainz, which deserves the thanks of well-minded people.

The HRC has each time refused to rule on the suits, rejecting them because the petitioners had "not exhausted all domestic remedies," and finding also that since all people expropriated before 1948 were being treated alike, there was no evidence of ethnic discrimination. (The logic reminds of the deep South in the 1950s--since the poll tax applies in principle to all, the law is not racist). The rejections used the same "boilerplate" arguments, with minor variations. The three cases were:

1. Ruediger Schlosser v. Czech Republic, Communication 670/1995, ruling of October 5, 1998, 64th session. The father, Franz Schlosser, from Aussig, was a Social-Democrat militant and opponent of Hitler. On the paper he should have been exempted from the summary voiding of citizenship but of course not, since that exception was mere window-dressing to allow Benesch to claim he did not conduct a Hitler-style ethnic cleansing. For the entire ruling, see Schlosser v. Czech Republic

2. Gerhard Malik v. Czech Republic, Communication 669/1995, ruling of November 3, 1998, 64th session. The Malik family is from Schoenbrunn/Oder. For the entire text, see Malik v. Czech Republic

3. Peter Drobek v. Slovakia, Communication 643/1995 of July 14, 1997, 60th session. The rejection is noted in Drobek v. Slovak Republic and Drobek v. Slovak Republic

Bearing Witness: Living through the Benes Decrees 1945-1947

According to Paul Brosz, by April 1945, there still were 21,000 un-evacuated Carpathian Germans in Slovakia. After fighting ceased, perhaps 40,000 returned to their homeland. They were innocent of any crimes, and saw no reason for anxiety. Stripped of all civil rights, they were interned. Many died, usually of willfull neglect from starvation and disease, in camps such as Novaky near Priewitz/Prividza, or massacres such as in Prerau/Moravia on June 18, 1945, when Czech soldiers under captain Karol Ctibor Pazura pulled 269 mainly Zipser women, children and old men from a train, (young men were POWs or labor camp inmates), had them dig their graves, strip,and killed.The youngest victim was seven months old. Others were carried off as slave laborers to the Soviet Union and died there.

In 1949 the Hilfskomitee fuer die ev.-luth. Karpatendeutschen calculated that about 13,000 Germans had been killed between Summer 1944 and Dezember 1946. Paul Brosz, in Das letzte Jahrhundert, p. 66, notes that probably 23,000 Carpathian Germans were killed during and after the war, 13,000 being civilians murdered between Summer 1944 and the closing of the camps in 1947, plus 9,000 soldiers at the front and about 1,000 civilians deported to Sibiria. This means of blood toll of 16%, or every sixth Carpathian German. This number does not include the 9,900 Carpathian German Jews. When the German government tallied the losses, it included them because they had registered as ethnic Germans of Jewish faith and of course were our fellow Carpathian German countrymen. But their fates differed radically during the war. They were not killed for being Germans, but for being Jews. But they are Carpathian German victims of the war as well. Our memorial in Danbury includes them among our losses.

By the end of 1946, the majority of interned Carpathian Germans were deported to Germany and Austria. Between 6,000 to 10,000 remained in Slovakia, usually women married to Slovak men, and the village of Hopgarten, (today Chmelnica),protected by its remotedness and a lot of luck. These are estimates. In the absence of complete lists, the number of victims is estimated based on statistical analysis, just as for any other mass-tragedy, such as the genocide of the Jews or the genocide of the Armenians. In the 1990s, a historical commision of Czech- and Slovak historians, and "reeducated" German historian, including Ferdinand Seibt, used a variety of accounting tricks to argue that "only" 40,000 Sudeten Germans and "hundreds" of Carpathian Germans died in these years in massacres and camps. For political reasons, the KDL does not make an issue of these fake numbers, and our brethren in Slovakia are prevented from very understandable political considerations from challenging them. I mention this criticism because websurfers may encounter sites, including Carpathian German sites, that use these politically opportune numbers and may feel bewildered.

There is an official German investigation about the ethnic cleansing of Germans in Eastern Europe Headed by the historians Werner Conze, Hans Rothfels and Theodor Schieder, it collected evidence and testimony from victims in the early 1950s, when memories were still fresh. This Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen aus Ost--Mitteleuropa, or Documentation on the Deportation of the Germans from East and Central Europe, an English translation exists but I base this on the German original), has eight or nine volumes, organized by geographical area. Volume IV, Die Vertreibung der deutschen Bevoelkerung aus der Tschechoslowakei, has 2 books, and in the second there are, under testimonies 129 to 137, Carpathian German testimonies covering the time from the uprising to the "ethnic cleansing." They make for sad reading. For instance, the peasant Alexander Mosurak reported that in Novaky, they were put into barracks without any beds or straw to sleep on the ground, and then:

"With insufficient food, we had to go daily to work, cutting trees. Our food consisted of 0.15 liters (6 fl. oz) of pea-soup, mornings and evenings. The peas were often still half-raw, which harmed digestion. Sicknesses, especially the dysentery (Ruhr), broke out and the mass-dying began. Daily 30 to 40 people died. The graves had to be dug by the families themselves in an open field, for it was not allowed to bury Germans with Slovaks....Despite the illnesses, we had to continue to work. None of us still hoped to survive. Only when a Catholic priest was able to get to the Red Cross, did we get a small ration of bread, too. This was the first after 10.5 weeks."

Carpathian German suffering is described in greater detail in two books:

Isidor Lasslob and Adalbert Hudak, eds. Leidensweg der Karpatendeutschen 1944-1946, Eine Dokumentation. (Stuttgart: Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Karpatendeutschen, 1983, 2nd ed. 1995). ISBN 3-9800778-2-9.
The 137-page book contains testimony from survivors, copies of documents and photos. Check the page "Annoted Bibliography" for address for ordering. This book has been being translated into English by our Landsmann Julius Loisch. To order it, send $24 (includes postage) to John E. Scholtz, Secretary
Carpathian Germans in USA and Canada
14100 Worthington Road
Philadelphia, PA 19116

Heinrich Koch. Unser Holocaust. (Wien: KDL Oesterreich 2001).
An excellent 68 pages booklet, with testimony and documents. Euro 4 (US-$4) plus postage from the KDL in Vienna.

For the general framework, read:

Alfred de Zayas. Nemesis at Potsdam. The Anglo-Americans and the Expulsion of the Germans: Background, Execution, Consequences. (Routledge & Kegan Paul 1977) ISBN 07100 0458 3. There is a new, revised 1998 edition from Picton Press in Rockport, Maine, with the ISBN 0-89725-360-4. The book can be ordered from the press at 1-201-236-6565.

Alfred de Zayas. A Terrible Revenge: The Ethnic Cleansing of the East European Germans, 1944-1950.
New York: St Martin's Press 1994. ISBN 0-312-12159-8 (pbk). 180 pages. This book is shorter and without pictures.

In these two works, the American international lawyer and senior advisor at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, analyses the brutal ethnic cleansing of 15 million German civilians from their Eastern homelands, including Czechoslovakia. The topic is very "politically incorrect" on US campuses since the 1950s, even more than looking at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a non-Zionist point-of-view. And so very few of the many PhDs that come out of US campuses every year dare to look at this part of modern history. Zayas had the courage, and a supportive dissertation advisor, to launch him into this topic. Because of the silence, consider buying a copy for your local library, too.

Both books are available online among else from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Buy a copy and donate it to your public library!