Czech Senate refuses to endorse Benes

March 25, 2004 at 7:47 AM

PRAGUE, Czech Republic, March 25 (UPI) -- The Czech Senate Thursday voted down a motion endorsing former President Eduard Benes, who sanctioned mass expulsions of Germans after World War II.

Benes, who died in 1948, presided over one of the most troubled periods of Czech history including the Munich agreement of 1938 in which Western leaders effectively ceded Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany.

Benes's most controversial legacy is the expulsion of nearly 3 million Germans, a third of the total population, from the Czech lands after the war.

The expulsions resulted in thousands of deaths, sometimes in forced marches to the border with Germany. German politicians have occasionally raised the issue as a potential barrier to good relations with the Czechs when they join the EU on May 1.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder canceled a visit to Prague in 2002 after then Czech premier Milos Zeman likened the ethnic Germans to a Nazi "fifth column."

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