The Jews of Bohemia and Moravia: Facing the Holocaust

By Livia Rothkirchen | Go to book overview

6
The Czechoslovak
Government-in-Exile
in London
Attitudes and Reactions
to the Jewish Plight

There is consensus that during the five years of his exile it was Beneš himself who acted as the central figure and architect of his government's policies.1 His personal secretary in those crucial years, Edvard Táborský, wrote about him: “As of 1939 until in late 1944 nothing of political importance, insofar as it depended on the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile, could be decided without Beneš.”2 Indeed he was president, premier, foreign minister, and at times ambassador; he maintained contacts with the Czech and the Slovak Home Resistance, the Protectorate Government, the Moscow-backed Czechoslovak Communists, the German emigrants in London, and the Jewish organizations in the free world.3 Beneš saw the undoing of Munich and its consequences as his raison d'être, hence the struggle waged for international recognition for the legal continuity of the First Republic and its pre-Munich boundaries became his objective and obsession; he “kept thinking of it literally day in day out.” All through the years spent in exile he went on describing the events as he saw them, and which, in effect, became so fateful in shaping his policy in the postwar years.4

Deeper insight into the subject emerges in the diaries of Jaromír Smutný, who served until the end of the war as Beneš's chef de cabinet and who meticulously recorded the president's conversations with politicians and other prominent personalities, adding his own comments.5 From his long personal acquaintance with Beneš, Smutný saw him as a statesman with a pragmatic, realistic approach to international affairs. About his personal character and approach to people, Smutný has the following comment:

-160-

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