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The history of the Czech Embassy building in Berne

The bernese building in which the Czech Republic has its Embassy, including the historical garden, is one of the architectonically most enchanting ones in the city. The history of acquisition is one of war, sugar, of the precision of a Swiss official and a velvet divorce.

The Villa Jenner is today situated in the midst of an urban area. The beautiful park surrounding her make her into somewhat of a green oasis. She is one of the most beautiful and interesting Czech Embassy buildings worldwide. Even the story of her acquisition is an interesting one:

It is a tale of war, sugar, of the precision of a Swiss official and of a velvet divorce. – At the beginning of the 1920s the new state (1918) Czechosovakia signed a contract to deliver sugar to Switzerland with the value of 24 million francs. As a compensation the country was bound to buy machines and other goods. The termination of this compensational business was however slowed down through various complications. Therefore the Swiss debt was partially used to finance the work and living costs of the Czechoslovak delegation to the United Nations in Geneva.

At the same time Czechoslovakia being a new state was in dire need of an adequate building to be used for the representational needs of the Embassy in Bern. The czechoslovak ambassador in Bern, H.E. Dušek,  succesfully suggested that the remaining financial means from the comensational transfer could be used for the acquisition of such a building. The choice fell upon the Villa Jenner and the contract signed on the 16th of July 1926.

During WW II as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was  established by Adolf Hitler, all Czechoslovak Embassies and Consulates worldwide were closed and taken over by the Germans. In the coming years the German Embassy repeatedly attempted to persuade the Swiss land registry offcials to register the German Reich as the owner of the edifice. Due to the Swiss precision these attempts were futile as the Swiss primarily requested acceptable proof that the war was actually won and Czechoslovakia officially a part of Germany.

After the end of WW II the diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Czechoslovakia were renewed. The Swiss Government decided that the Villa Jenner was to be returned into Czechoslovak hands on May 15th 1945 and then ambassador Jaromír Kopecký took over the property the very next day. The edifice remained in Czechoslovak hands from that day onwards until the end of 1992 when the federation split into two independent states – the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  Due to the peaceful preparation of the split (the agreed Convention on the splitting of state property abroad) it was agreed that  the Villa Jenner would belong to the Czech Republic only as of the 1st of January 1993.

The main building holds representative rooms and the office of the ambassador. The former „gardener´s house“ at the entrance of the compound houses the Consular Section of the Embassy.