Czechs praise Kaczynski’s apology for 1938 annexation


Jan Sechter, the Czech Ambassador in Warsaw, has praised remarks by President Kaczynski, describing Poland’s part in the annexing of Sudetenland just before WW II as “a sin”.


“Poland’s participation in the annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938 was not only an error, but above all a sin,” Kaczynski told an audience of world leaders, including Prime Minister Putin and Chacellor Merkel on September 1. “This was and shall forever remain a wrong,” he added.


President Kaczynski’s remarks were made in speeches commemorating  the 70th anniversary of the start of WW II on September 1 and refered to the occupation by Poland of the Zaolzie region following the 1938 Munich Agreement, which allowed Nazi Germany to annex Sudetenland, previously in Czechoslovak territory.


In October 1938, Polish troops annexed an area of 801.5 sq km with a population of 227,399 people. The Polish government at the time argued that Poles in the area should have the same rights as Sudeten Germans.


President Kaczynski also said that the Munich Agreement, signed by France, Germany and Great Britain had “violated Czechoslovak territory.”


The area, returned to Czechs after WW II was disputed between Poland and Czechoslovakia ever since. But since Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia joined the EU in 2004 and the Schengen Zone in 2007, the matter has lessened in importance.


Czech Ambassador Sechter said yesterday that President Kaczynski had made a unique gesture in front of so many foreign guests at the Westerplatte ceremony, however.


Prague, 1968?


Asked whether Poland should also apologize to the Czechs for Polish troops being part of the pacification of the Prague Spring in 1968 – when Warsaw Pact nations jointly brought down the anti-communist uprising - the ambassador said that this was a completely different situation. “Back then, Brezhnev treated us all like satellites. This was consistent with his theory of limited sovereignty for countries of Central Europe. If Moscow decided on a similar action in Hungary, for instance, then the Czechoslovak Army probably would have also taken part in the invasion,” said the ambassador.


“So we do not treat what was done by the Polish Army in 1968 as a Polish initiative. For us, the true attitude of the Poles was symbolized by Richard Siwiec,” Jan Sechter said.


On 8 September 1968 Siwiec set himself on fire in protest against the invasion during a harvest festival in Warsaw. (pg)