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Extended hand

June 12, 2011

Bavaria has pledged to "seek dialogue" with the Czech Republic as the two neighbors still work to patch up differences over Prague's expulsion of over 3 million Germans from the Sudetenland after World War II.

Seehofer at the Sudetenland meeting
Seehofer said he supports personal exchangesImage: dapd

At the annual Sudetenland group's weekend meeting in the city of Augsburg in southern Germany, the Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer said his state would work together with the Czech Republic to converge on reconciliation over the expulsion that has strained ties between the two neighbors for decades.

"I am fully behind dialogue and for personal encounter," Seehofer told the estimated 20,000 participants attending, adding, however, that the dialogue would require patience.

"We have stretched out our hand, and we will leave it stretched out and will try to go forward for the benefit of people on both sides," he said.

Seehofer's governing conservative Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, has a strong voter base among Bavaria's Sudeten Germans, who continue to seek from Prague an official apology for the decrees that forced some 3.5 million ethnic Germans from their homes in the Nazi-occupied Sudetenland after World War II.

Untimely gathering

Seehofer's remarks came after critical comments from Czech President Vaclav Klaus regarding this year's Sudeten gathering - and the expellees' calls for a diplomatic apology from Prague.

Heinrich Himmler, left, and Reinhard Heydrich
The killing of Heydrich, right, provoked a bloodbathImage: AP

Klaus said in a statement that it was a sign of "extraordinary insensitivity and a lacking historical consciousness" to demand an apology for the expulsion just days after the anniversary of the massacre in Lidice.

On June 19, 1942, SS soldiers murdered 340 people in the northwest Czech village in retribution for the killing of Reinhard Heydrich, the SS general in charge of Bohemia and Moravia and highly favored by Hitler.

The Lidice massacre - as well as the Nazi-occupation of then Czechoslovakia - is often cited as justification for the Sudetenland expulsion.

Prague remains unwilling to discuss the 1945 decree on a diplomatic level. In December of last year, Seehofer became the first Bavarian leader to visit its eastern neighbor in a visit described by the Czech foreign minister at the time as "a symbol that we are putting the past behind us."

Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP, dpa)

Editor: Sean Sinico