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Kriegs- und Nachkriegsfolgen

Dekrete des Präsidenten Edvard Beneš

The Decrees of the President Edvard Beneš

Text auf Englisch plus Dokumente auf Deutsch und Englisch

Česká verze textu -


1. The Decrees in General

Photo Courtesy Victor Adler: President Beneš Reviewing Czechoslovak Troops Arrived from Egypt to England, 1943

The Decrees of the President of the Republic are norms that were issued in London during Czechoslovakia´s occupation by Nazi Germany and on Czechoslovak territory immediately after the termination of that occupation, prior to the meeting of the Interim National Assembly and the renewal of a parliamentary order (from July 21, 1940 to October 28, 1945). The President was authorized to issue the Decrees following a hearing in the State Council (a body comprised of officials in exile of all Czechoslovak political orientations) and upon the Government´s proposal. These Decrees were required to be additionally ratified by the Parliament (this was done on March 28, 1946). The Decrees governed numerous aspects (among them the topical question concerning the activities of the Resistance in Exile, the waging of the war alongside the Allies against Germany, the state budget, and the country´s post-war reconstruction). Needless to say, during the period of emergency legislative and executive powers in countries under military occupation, those countries´ governments in exile proceeded in a similar fashion (including the Netherlands).

Unsubstantiated statements and generalizations with respect to the Presidential Decrees may provoke emotional reactions. The Decrees as a whole constitute an expression of the continuity of democratic Czechoslovakia´s legal status, even during the country´s occupation itself, and a counterbalance to the measures adopted by Nazi Germany´s administrative offices. Persistently, the London-based governmental bodies were targets of the hateful attacks by the Nazi occupation forces. The occupation propaganda spoke in the same breath of "a new Europe" and "a new European order" as being alternatives to the Allies´ plans for the future arrangement on the European continent. One need hardly point out what types of associations attacks on the Decrees, together with the resistance to Nazism and the continuity of the Czech legal regime might unconsciously evoke (owing perhaps to one´s unfamiliarity with the overall context).

2. Norms Concerning Germany and the Germans

a) Transfer of the population

No Czechoslovak (Czech) legal norm (decree, law, etc.) ever existed that would have dealt with the displacement of the German population and opinions among Allies concerning this issue varied. Of special importance for the future development was in this respect particularly the view of the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The whole matter was treated solely in the decision adopted at the Potsdam Conference (the Soviet Union, Great Britain, United States) on August 2, 1945. This applies in equal measure to the Germans from Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

The above provision cannot be separated from the overall context of the punitive approach adopted by the Allied Forces against Germany and the Germans, which was expressed, for example, in the form of the end-of-the-war bombardments, the Morgenthau plan for the deindustrialization of Germany, the Potsdam Conference, and the Paris War Damages Agreement ("Agreement on Reparation from Germany... ", Paris 1946). This punitive approach, shared also by the Western Allies, lasted until the early 1950s. It was based on the preceding events, especially the Nazis´ genocidal plans and acts. During the war, the Czechs, too, were victims of expulsion, physical liquidation and forced assimilation, since the Nazis had elaborated plans according to which the Czechs as a nation would become extinct within a thirty-year period, "still during the Führer´s lifetime".

To a certain extent, the Czech politicians of that period identified themselves with and supported the post-war punitive measures, including the transfer. Today, with the lapse of time, these measures might well be reassessed and rediscussed; however, the Czech party can hardly repeal non-existent legal norms. All it can do is to voice its political opinion with respect to the events of those days. On the bilateral level, this was done by way of the Czech-German Declaration on Mutual Relations and Their Future Development, adopted in 1997. The Czech side has expressed regret about the wrongs and suffering caused to many innocent people in the context of the post- war removal and forced transfer of Sudeten Germans, expropriation and deprivation of citizenship, especially with regard to the application of the principle of collective guilt. The Czech-German Declaration was welcomed by many states, including the Austrian government, as a positive step towards common European understanding.
The conclusions of the Potsdam Conference were confirmed by its signatory states in 1996.

In this connection, the reverse side of this problem should be mentioned: the overwhelming majority of the Czech victims of Nazism or their descendants were never indemnified (only a small group has received payments from the jointly financed Czech-German Fund for the Future). Moreover, the laws stipulating that the sentences pronounced against the Czech Resistance fighters during the war had been lawful were valid in Germany until 1997 (without the European Parliament ever, or in any form whatsoever, expressing an opinion on this matter). Furthermore, the Czech party received no payments of any sort for pre-war Germany´s debts to it (in accordance with the London Debt Agreement). The German indemnification and restitution laws concerning the victims of Nazism are clearly discriminatory, as they explicitly excluded victims from Central and Eastern Europe for no good reason. For example, the Communist regime was frequently cited as the factor barring the transfer of compensation payments, although from 1960 on, payments were made with no problem at all to former members of the Wehrmacht who lived in those same countries. The question of extensive financial transfers of Czech funds to the Reich and indemnifications for individual losses and sufferings has to date been resolved only in part. Nevertheless, in the interest of common European understanding, the Czech government is not approaching these issues in the spirit of confrontation. For example, together with the governments of Poland, Israel, Russian Federation, Ukraine and Belarus it has negotiated compensations for former slave and forced labourers, to be paid in the near future by the Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future".

b) Decrees Concerning Confiscations of So-called Enemy Property and Citizenship

It may be assumed that the critics of the Decrees - owing to the fact that no transfer decree exists - are referring particularly to the measures regarding property and citizenship.

Several such decrees were issued. The initial measure was stipulated in Decree No. 2/1945 of February 1, 1945, and particularly in Decree No. 5/1945 of June 3, 1945, determining that "any form of property transfer and transaction affecting property rights in terms of movable and immovable assets, and public and private property shall be invalidated, if it was adopted after September 29, 1938, under pressure of the Nazi occupation or national, racial or political persecution" (i.e. this Decree repealed the Nazi confiscation measures adopted against the victims of Nazism). At the same time, however, the property owned by persons deemed unreliable in terms of state interests was placed under a national administration. In Czechoslovakia, this measure affected German nationals and persons who had collaborated with them ("persons who were involved in activities oriented against the state´s sovereignty, independence, integrity, its democratic and republican form, security or the defence of the Czechoslovak Republic; persons who incited such activities, who attempted to make other persons undertake such activities and who intentionally supported, in any form whatsoever, the German and Hungarian invaders"). German property, the owners of which "had been the victims of political or racial persecution and who had remained loyal to the State´s democratic and republican ideas", was to be exempted from national administration and returned to its owners. This decree was followed by a number of other measures, especially Decree No. 108/1945 of October 25, 1945 "on the confiscation of enemy property". In compliance with its Paragraph 1, German property, the owner of which had suffered Nazi or fascist terror, was exempted from such confiscation. In accordance with Czechoslovak law, expropriation without indemnification was facilitated by the Constitutional Charter adopted in 1920. In terms of its international validity, it was endorsed, for example, by the Paris Conference held in 1945 and in various other agreements.

The question of citizenship was treated in Decree No. 33/1945 of August 2, 1945. On the basis of this decree, the Czechoslovak State released from its citizenship those persons who, "in compliance with the regulations of the foreign occupation forces had acquired German or Hungarian citizenship". Czechoslovak citizenship was maintained in the cases of those Germans who, at the time of the increasing threat to the Czechoslovak Republic, had officially supported the Czechs, or those who had manifested "their loyalty to the Czechoslovak Republic, had never committed any offence against the Czech and Slovak nations, and who had either actively participated in the struggle for the liberation of the country, or had suffered under Nazi or fascist terror".

The legal norms adopted at a later date largely reconfirmed or strengthened the exceptions allowing exemption from the confiscation and citizenship measures (on the basis of these norms, Czechoslovak citizenship was maintained in the case of larger groups of persons).

Today, these decrees and laws have lost their original significance. According to the Czech Constitutional Court´s ruling of March 8, 1995, Decree No. 108/45 was a singular act which "for more than four decades has established no legal relations and thus no longer has a constitutive character"; it is thus naturally no longer applicable in the future. On February 17, 1999, within the framework of its Foreign Policy Concept, the government of the Czech Republic deemed these legal norms "extinct"; this formulation was also adopted, on June 9, 1999, by the Czech Republic´s Chamber of Deputies.


The decrees dating from 1940-45 are historical acts, which for their most part lack any significance today. They reflect the continuity of Czechoslovakia´s legal status during the period of its struggle against Nazism and form a part of a complex of wartime and post-war events and approaches. On the bilateral, Czech-German level, this question was resolved by way of the Czech-German Declaration adopted in 1997 (text in English, Czech, German), in which both parties agreed that they would not burden their relations with legal and political problems of the past. The so-called punitive approach to Germany does not constitute a specific Czech problem, but is rather a matter to be considered in a broader context, which thus far has not been discussed on the international level. It is questionable to what extent the reopening of these matters (furthermore, at a time when the legal and material wounds suffered by the victims of the Nazi aggression have not yet fully healed) would contribute to peace and understanding in Europe. At present, a discussion of those decrees lacks any legal significance or meaning; it can be nothing more than a historical debate.

The Czech Republic is a legal state. Currently, this country has no legislative norms that would facilitate the expropriation of property without indemnification (without a court verdict). Naturally, it is equally impermissible to expel any group of either native or foreign inhabitants. The Czech Republic - whose citizens were subjected in the past to genocide, expulsion, execution, assimilation or confiscation of property by the Nazis and who later, under the Communist regime, suffered a violation of their basic human rights and dignity - firmly espouses the protection of human rights and dignity, while also actively defending those rights in the international arena. The Decrees of the President of the Czechoslovak Republic from 1940 - 1945 form a part of the Laws of the Czech Republic although they are now operationally outworn.



The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg rejected the complaint filed by 90 Sudeten Germans against the Czech Republic as unsubstantiated

Evropský soud pro lidská práva ve Štrasburku odmítl žalobu 90 sudetských Němců proti České republice jako neopodstatněnou

Pressemitteilung der Bundesregierung vom 25.8.2005 zu der Erklärung der Tschechischen Regierung, die sich bei jenen aktiven Gegnern des Nationalsozialismus, die - darunter auch tschechoslowakische Staatsbürger deutscher Volkszugehörigkeit - nach 1945 von Zwangsmaßnahmen des tschechoslowakischen Staates betroffen waren, entschuldigt hat..

Erklärung der Tschechischen Regierung vom 24.8.2005

Erklärung des MP Gross und Bundeskanzler Schröder. 19.11.2004

Die Erklärung der Bundesregierung zu Vermögensfragen vom 5.8. 2004
"Die Position, die der Bundeskanzler in Warschau für individuelle Restitutionsansprüche gegen Polen deutlich gemacht hat, gilt auch für entsprechende Forderungen, die möglicherweise gegen Tschechien erhoben werden. Für die Bundesregierung besteht in dieser Frage kein Unterschied zwischen den beiden Ländern".

Die Erklärung des Bundeskanzlers Gerhard Schröder zu Vermögensfragen, Warschau 1.8. 2004
"Wir Deutschen wissen sehr wohl, wer den Krieg angefangen hat und wer seine ersten Opfer waren. Deshalb darf es heute keinen Raum mehr für Restitutionsansprüche aus Deutschland geben, die die Geschichte auf den Kopf stellen. Die mit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg zusammenhängenden Vermögensfragen sind für beide Regierungen kein Thema mehr in den deutsch-polnischen Beziehungen. Weder die Bundesregierung noch andere ernst zu nehmende politische Kräfte in Deutschland unterstützen individuelle Forderungen, soweit sie dennoch geltend gemacht werden. Diese Position wird die Bundesregierung auch vor allen internationalen Gerichten vertreten".

Gutachten zu Ansprüchen im Zusammenhang mit dem II. Weltkrieg (Prof. Dr. J.A. Frowein, Prof. Dr. Jan Barcz)

Erklärung des Außenministeriums der Tschechischen Republik zu vermögensrechtlichen Fragen der Nachkriegsaussiedler (03.08.2004)
Czech foreign ministry statement concerning property law questions of the post-war displaced persons

Stellungnahme des Präsidenten der Tschechischen Republik, Václav Klaus, zu dem Gesetz über Edvard Beneš
President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus, about the act concerning Edvard Beneš (statement in German)

MFA Statement on the Resolution of the European Parliament on Enlargement Negotiations
MFA Statement on the Resolution of the European Parliament on the State of Enlargement Negotiations, passed June 13, 2002 at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (13/06/2002)

Resolution of the European Parliament on the State of Enlargement Negotiations - Draft Text which has remained unchanged in its paragraphs on the Czech Republic. Passed 13/06/2002.

French MFA Spokesman on the Beneš Decrees
Statement of the MFA of France spokesman on the Beneš Decrees from 18th April 2002. In Czech and French - available also on the French MFA web pages ( click here).(25.4.2002)

Resolution of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Chamber of Deputies, Concerning the Presidential Decrees
"...The legal and property relations arising from them are unquestionable, inviolable and unchangeable."( click here for German version)(24/4/2002)

President of the Czech Republic Václav Havel: "Edvard Beneš: Dilemmas of a European Politician"
Article by President Havel on former President Beneš (pages of the Prague Castle) ( click here for German version)

Joint Press Statement of Prime Minister Zeman and EU Commissioner Verheugen
"...those on citizenship and those on property, by their very nature and content, no longer produce legal effects. We thus maintain our position that these Czechoslovak Presidential Decrees are not part of the Accession Negotiations and should have no bearing on them..."(11/4/2002)

Documentation for the European Parliament
Documentation transmitted by Czech Ambassador to European Communities Libor Sečka to the European Parliament Foreign Commitee Chairman Elmar Brok. (5/4/2002)

Ambassador Sečka´s Letter to the EP Foreign Commitee Chairman
Introductory letter and the documentation transmitted by Libor Sečka, the Czech Ambassador to European Communities to the EP Foreign Commitee Chairman Elmar Brok.(5/4/2002)

MFA Reaction to the Declarations of EP Deputy and SLD Chairman Bernd Posselt
in Czech (5/4/2002)

Minister Jan Kavan on the Statement of European Commissioner Günther Verheugen
I declared, in a recent dialogue with Commissioner Günther Verheugen in Brussels, that President Beneš Decrees were and would remain part of the Czech legal code, but that they were today faded away, ineffective and not applicable.(14/03/2002)

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Telička on the Statement of EC Member Verheugen
Transcription of the extraordinary press conference of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Telička on the statement of EC member Verheugen at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.(13/3/2002) - in Czech

Jan Kavan: "Decrees Were Also Used by Today EU Members"
Article published in Lidové noviny the 8th March 2002 (11/3/2002) - in Czech

Osteuropa Institut Bremen - Juli 2002

European Parliament

Resolution of the European Parliament on the State of Enlargement Negotiations - Draft Text which has remained unchanged in its paragraphs on the Czech Republic. Passed 13/06/2002.

Legal Opinion on the Presidential Decrees and the Accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union - October 2002. ( in Czech, German and French)

European Parliament Resolution on the progress made by each of the candidate countries towards accession - November 20, 2002

European Commission

The Czechoslovak Presidential Decrees in the Light of the Acquis Communautaire
Summary Findings of the Commission Services - in pdf format.

Verheugen, Commissioner Responsible for the Enlargment
"...those on citizenship and those on property, by their very nature and content, no longer produce legal effects. We thus maintain our position that these Czechoslovak Presidential Decrees are not part of the Accession Negotiations and should have no bearing on them..."

Joint Press Statement of Prime Minister Zeman and EU Commissioner Verheugen
"...those on citizenship and those on property, by their very nature and content, no longer produce legal effects. We thus maintain our position that these Czechoslovak Presidential Decrees are not part of the Accession Negotiations and should have no bearing on them..."(11/4/2002)


Statement of the French MFA Spokesman
In Czech and French, available also on the French MFA web pages ( click here)

Pleuger, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
"Germany will not seek to include the problem of the Benes decrees in the Czech Republic's accession talks with the European Union" (ČTK report, 8th April 2002)

Blair, Prime Minister
"Czechoslovakia's post-war Benes decrees pose no obstacle to the Czech Republic's EU accession." (ČTK report, 8th April 2002)

Lindh, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"Concerning the Beneš Decrees: I do not think that it has any place in the present discussion on the EU enlargement, because this is purely a bilateral issue. Sweden is not involved and therefore I am not going to comment upon it, but I see it as a bilateral issue and it will not be a part of any EU negotiations".

Kukan, Minister of Foreign Affairs - in Slovak
"Pokiaľ ide o dekrety prezidenta republiky, to je skutočne otváranie minulosti s cielom klásť prekážky pri budovaní budúcnosti......nemáme záujem na tom, aby my sami sme iniciatívne oživovali túto debatu alebo tieto diskusie. To nie je v našom záujme a nebudeme tak postupovať."
Non paper of the MFA of the Slovak Republic on the Presidential Decrees from 1940-45 - pages of the Slovak MFA

M. Grossman, Under Secretary of the U.S. State Department
"...On the Benes Decrees, I'm sorry. We did not talk about this, this morning. I read what Prime Minister Blair here said a week ago, and I think its very easy for me to associate myself with what he said." (transcription of a press conference from 18th April 2002)

Exchange of Verbal Notes between the Czech Republic and the United States of America regarding issues of property arising out of the Second World War from 12th July 2000
Výměna nót ČR-USA k majetkovým otázkám vyplývajícím z II. světové války z 12. července 2000
Notenaustausch zwischen der Tschechischen Republik und USA über die aus dem II. Weltkrieg herrührenden Vermögensfragen vom 12. Juli 2000

Verbální nóta České republiky anglicky česky německy
Verbal Note Czech Republic in English in Czech in German
Verbalnote der Tschechischen Republik englisch tschechisch deutsch

Verbální nóta USA anglicky česky německy
Verbal Note USA in English in Czech in German
Verbalnote der USA englisch tschechisch deutsch

Potsdam Conference

The Potsdam Conference - full text of the Protocol of the Proceedings
signed by the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States:
... The Three Governments, having considered the question in all its aspects, recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations, or elements thereof, remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, will have to be undertaken.


Decrees of the President of the Republic from the years 1940-1945 - information document
Full text here. This document is not an official position of the MFA. It has only an informative value.

The Czech-German Commission of Historians
Brief Presentation and its Composition

The Czech German Declaration Adopted in 1997 on the Pages of the German Ministry of Foreign Affaires
Deutsch: Deutsch Tschechische Erklärung über die gegenseitigen Beziehungen und deren Künftige Etwicklung vom 21. Januar 1997
in German, for Adobe Acrobat - pdf format.
English: Czech-German Declaration adopted in 1997

EU Documents on the Czech-German Declaration
Council of Europe Statement on the Czech-German Declaration, 22nd January 1997
European Union Presidency Statement on the Czech-German Declaration, 21st January 1997

Paris War Damages Agreement
Agreement on reparation from Germany, on the establishement of an Inter-Allied Reparation Agency and on the Restitution of monetary gold

London Debt Agreement
Text of the Agreement on German External Debts from 1953

Munich Agreement - text in English

Speech of the Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich on the Elimination of the Czech Nation
text in German
text in Czech (unofficial translation)

Edvard Beneš: Curriculum Vitae/ Lebenslauf (auf Deutsch) /auf Tschechisch)
The Decorations of President Beneš (1919-1948) (Czech/English)








Beneš-PDF 201 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

BenesZakon 74 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

Churchill-PDF 12 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

PostupimskaKonference 78 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

ParizskaMirovaKonference 67 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

ExternalDebts 209 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

DekretyKveten 82 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

DekretyRijen 97 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

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starsburg 84 KB DOC (Worddatei ) 22.10.2008

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prohlášení vlády z 24.8.05 "gesto" 21 KB DOC (Worddatei ) 22.10.2008

S. Gross a G. Schröder TK Berlín 19.11.2004 25 KB DOC (Worddatei ) 22.10.2008

Gutachten zu Ansprüchen im Zusammenhang mit dem II.... 111 KB DOC (Worddatei ) 22.10.2008

ErklärungAussenmin 37 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

klaus-PDF 195 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

Stanovisko EK k BD.pdf 39 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 26.08.2008

Dekrety-inf.materiál-aj.doc 201 KB DOC (Worddatei ) 26.08.2008

CouncilOfEurope 37 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

EUDeclaration 37 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

Munich 42 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

HeydrichNemecky 101 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

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BenesZivotopisCJ 116 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008

Vyznamenani Benes 74 KB PDF (Adobe-Acrobat-Datei ) 22.10.2008