When representatives from West Germany and Czechoslovakia meet in Bonn on Wednesday (11 April), one topic will dominate these talks aimed at normalising relations between the two countries.
CU Map of Sudetenland
GV Nazi troops marching past
CU Adolf Hitler
GV Nazi troops saluting
GV Lorry with election posters
GV Sudetenlanders voting
CU Election poster of Hitler
GV Delegates to Munich conference arriving
CU Hitler signing
CU Chamberlain signing
CU Daladier signs
CU Mussolini sings
GV Chamberlain out of plans and filmed by press (2 shots)
SCU Chamberlain speaks to crowd and waving document
GV Prague (3 shots)
GV & CU Czech refugees (3 shots)
GV Nazi troops enter Sudetenland (5 shots)
CU Nazi soldier removing town sign from wall
GV Soldiers march together with mule pack cheered by Sudetenlanders
GV & CU Hitler arriving by car (3 shots)
GV & CU Placards on motor vehicles in London (3 shots)
GV Nazi troops gathered in Berlin stadium (3 shots)
CU Adolf Hitler
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Background: When representatives from West Germany and Czechoslovakia meet in Bonn on Wednesday (11 April), one topic will dominate these talks aimed at normalising relations between the two countries.
The topic is the 1938 Munich Agreement, a document which allowed Nazi dictator Hitler to seize Czechoslovakia's northern territories, the Sudetenland.
Although the three other signatories of the Munich agreement -- Britain, France and Italy -- have long since disavowed its validity, this controversial document still stands between West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and the realisation of one of his oldest political dreams -- the normalisation of relations with East Europe.
Chancellor Brandt has embodied in his Ostpolitik of conciliation towards Communist Eastern Europe a fervent desire to heal the wounds of the Hitler era and of the Cold War that followed.
So far, four of the seven Warsaw Pact countries -- the Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany, and Rumania -- have signed treaties formally establishing relations with Bonn. Next in line is Czechoslovakia, and both sides say the 1938 accord is the main obstacle to normalised Bonn-Prague relations. Once the Munich Agreement problems are solved, both Hungary and Bulgaria have indicated their willingness to establish full ties with the West German government.
Talks between Czechoslovakia and West German began in June 1972, but each of the five meetings broke down over the Munich Agreement.
Czechoslovakia in these meetings wanted the Agreement declared invalid from the beginning onwards -- in legal terms "ex tunc".
West Germany, on the other hand, insisted that although the Agreement is no long valid and was in any case immoral, to declare it invalid "ex tunc" would pose insurmountable legal problems, affecting the millions of Sudetenland citizens germanised by the accord and expelled from Czechoslovakia after the war.
To declare the Munich Agreement invalid from the beginning onwards would, for instance make all these German citizens of Sudetenland who fought in Hitler's armies traitors to Czechoslovakia.
In addition, Bonn officials point to the mass of civil local acts taken by the Sudetenlanders under German law -- such as marriages, divorces, property transfers -- which had the accord never existed, would now be illegal.
At the same time, of the Agreement never legally existed, Czechoslovakia, according to the West German government, could claim reparations for Hitler's seizure of the territory, which it won back at the end of the Second World War.
Furthermore, Sudetenlanders also fear that in declaring the Agreement invalid "ex tunc", they would no longer be able to press compensation claims arising from their expulsion.
There is optimism that Wednesday's talks in Bonn will be the first step in normalising Czech-German relations. In recent official statements issued from Prague, there is, for the first time, no direct mention of Czechoslovakia's former insistence on the Munich Agreement to be declared invalid "ex tunc".