The Jews of Bohemia and Moravia: Facing the Holocaust

By Livia Rothkirchen | Go to book overview

Epilogue
Between 1945 and the Velvet
Revolution of 1989

Historians term the immediate postwar years (1945—48) the period of “pseudo-democracy” to indicate that the reconstructed state was not a continuation of the pre-Munich First Republic. In spite of certain similarities and the fact that President Beneš was reinstated, from the outset both internal and external affairs took a different turn. In the wake of the Teheran and Yalta agreements determining the “division of spheres of influence,” Czechoslovakia was occupied by Russian troops; only Budějovice, Pilsen, and some other localities in western Bohemia were for a short time under American occupation.

The so-called Košice program of the new government of April 4, 1945, delineated domestic policy according to a draft meticulously drawn up by leading Czech Communist exiles in Moscow with a view to changing the social order.1 They were to occupy key posts in the cabinet of Prime Minister Klement Gottwald, who would become the new president after Beneš's resignation in June 1948. While President Beneš's ambiguous attitude toward the Jews during his years of exile in London has received adequate attention, his attitudes and policy after the end of the war have not so far been appraised.

As a true disciple of Masaryk, Beneš remained a staunch supporter of Zionism during the war years while he was head of the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile. This is clear from his declaration made on April 17,1941, to the World Jewish Congress delegation visiting his home in Putney: “He was sure that the civilized world would find a reasonable settlement of the Jewish question after the war and that he and his Government would do their best to facilitate this.”2

On the occasion of a mass rally organized by the Zionist Federation in London on October 30, 1942, to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, both President Beneš and Jan Masaryk sent messages of encouragement to Chaim Weizmann. Beneš recalled events in 1917—18 and the

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