Czech Minister Calls For Peaceful Relations at Meeting of Sudeten Germans
During his speech, Bek greeted the Sudeten Germans as dear compatriots. Photo credit: Mikuláš Bek, via Facebook.
Regensburg, Germany, May 29 (CTK correspondent) – After all the hatred, pain and even blood that has characterised relations between Czechs and Sudeten Germans in the past, they must now jointly work in favour of peace, said Czech Education Minister Mikulas Bek at the Sudeten German congress in Regensburg yesterday. During his speech, Bek greeted the Sudeten Germans as dear compatriots.
Bek has become the third member of the Czech government to attend the Sudeten German meeting, after former culture minister Daniel Herman and former Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Belobradek.
After Bek’s speech, Sudeten German high representative Bernd Posselt apologised for the Sudeten Germans’ role in Nazism.
“As a citizen and a politician, I have always believed that the road from Prague to Berlin does not lead through Dresden only, but also through Munich, and that the road from Prague to Munich leads through a dialogue with the Sudeten Germans,” said Bek.
He also stated that the shift in relations was visible everywhere.
“This is the first time that a Czech minister is standing here without needing courage,” he said, adding that what used to be an exception requiring courage has become commonplace. “I am happy about that,” he noted.
At the beginning of his speech, delivered in German, Bek greeted the Sudeten Germans as dear compatriots, which was met with applause.
“Dear compatriots, I want to extend my warm greetings to you on behalf of the Czech government and especially on behalf of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala,” Bek said.
He also said Czechs, Germans and Sudeten Germans must care for democracy, freedom and the rule of law in Central Europe, and resolutely confront the aggression from the east, referring to the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.
“We have experienced a lot of hatred, pain and even blood, due to which we must work for peace,” he said.
Bek ended his speech with the Latin prayer ‘Agnus dei’ (Lamb of God). “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, grant us peace,” he said in Latin.
Before his speech, Bek told CTK that he had decided on the content of his speech himself, not in agreement with the government. “This was my political responsibility,” he said.
He does not acknowledge the critical reactions he has faced from some political groups for attending the Sudeten German congress, as times have changed enough to allow the burdens of the past to be bridged, he said.
Posselt described Bek’s speech as historic. “I don’t often use the word historic, but this was a truly historic moment,” he said.
Posselt then apologised, on behalf of the Sudeten Germans, for their role in the rise of National Socialism.
Posselt has repeatedly made such apologies in recent years. Today, he stressed that his apology was in response to the words of Czech President Peter Pavel, who thanked the Sudeten Germans for their contribution to the mutual rapprochement in Selb, Bavaria, a week ago.
Posselt also mentioned Pavel’s speech in Terezin (Theresienstadt), in the Usti region, which had been the site of a Nazi internment ghetto for Jews and a concentration camp during WWII. The Czech president said that Theresienstadt had become a symbol of the worst things men were capable of. It is necessary to accept responsibility for the crimes committed by our ancestors and learn a lesson from them, Pavel added.
“As the president said, we must not forget the crimes of our ancestors,” Posselt said. He also thanked all those involved in the rapprochement with Czechs, including Herman and Belobradek.
Bavarian Minister-President Markus Soder also spoke about the development of relations with the Czech Republic at the meeting. “God save the new connections with our Czech friends,” Soder concluded.
He thanked Posselt for what he was doing for the friendship with Prague. “You are the central figure for bringing the Czechs and Germans closer together,” Soder stressed.
As on Saturday, the Czech national anthem was played at the end of the main assembly of the Sudeten German congress, after the Bavarian and German anthems. This was followed by the European anthem. The Czech anthem was played for the first time by the Sudeten Germans at their congress in Hof last year.