PRAGUE (Nov. 20)
Czech Jews are at odds with their government over a declaration meant to improve relations between the Czech Republic and Germany.
The statement is intended to ease tensions rooted in Germany’s wartime occupation of Czech lands, and the subsequent deportation of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia.
The document, developed over the past year, is expected to be signed later this month.
The Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic opposes a provision in the declaration requiring the German government to compensate Czech victims of Nazism by contributing to a foundation that funds civic initiatives.
The federation wants victims to be compensated on an individual basis.
In a letter sent to Czech Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec last month, the federation said, “Individual reparation of Nazi victims is a very important matter” and “any other solution would not be considered proper reparation.”
The federation claims that it has been virtually ignored by the Czech government on this matter.
“We met with some people at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and they seemed receptive,” said Tomas Kraus, the federation’s executive director. “But our voice was not heard.”
Last week, Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Vit Kurfurst said the declaration “doesn’t talk about individual reparations, and it isn’t supposed to.”
Kraus suggested that Czech officials might not want to broach the subject of individual compensation because they might have to discuss claims made by Sudeten Germans who were expelled by the Czech government at the end of the war.
“And that is an explosive issue,” Kraus said.
For Kurfurst, the federation’s views are not important.
“It’s a matter to be dealt with by the foreign ministries of Germany and the Czech Republic,” Kurfurst said. “We can’t consult interest groups here, just as the German side can’t consult Sudeten Germans.”