Beneš, Edvard

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Beneš, Edvard, born 28-05-1884 into a peasant family in the small town of Kožlany, Bohemia. His brother was a Czechoslovak politician Vojta Beneš, grandfather of Emilie Benes Brzezinski. Voita died age 73 on 20-11-1973 in South Bend, USA. Edvard  spent much of his youth in Vinohrady district of Prague, where he attended a grammar school. During this time he played football for Slavia Prague. After studies at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Charles University in Prague, he left for Paris and continued his studies at the Sorbonne and at the Independent School of Political and Social Studies. He completed his first degree in Dijon, where he received his Doctorate of Laws in 1908. He was involved in Scouting. During World War I, Beneš was one of the leading organizers of an independent Czechoslovakia abroad. He organized a Czech pro-independence anti-Austrian secret resistance movement called “Maffia”.  In September, 1915, he went into exile where in Paris he made intricate diplomatic efforts to gain recognition from France and the United Kingdom for the Czechoslovak independence movement, as he was from 1916–1918 a Secretary of the Czechoslovak National Council in Paris and Minister of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs within the Provisional Czechoslovak government. In May 1918 Beneš, Masaryk, and Stefanik were reported to be organizing a Czecho-Slovak army to fight for the Western Allies in France, recruited from among Czechs and Slovaks able to get to the front and also from the large emigrant populations in the United States, said to number more than one and a half million. From 1918–1935, Beneš was first and the longest serving Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia, and from 1920–1925 and 1929–1935 a member of the Parliament.  He represented Czechoslovakia in talks of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1921 he was a professor and also from 1921–1922 Prime Minister. Between 1923–1927 he was a member of the League of Nations Council. He was a renowned and influential figure at international conferences, such as Genoa 1922, Locarno 1925, The Hague 1930, and Lausanne in 1932. Beneš was a member of the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party and a strong Czechoslovakist – he did not consider Slovaks and Czechs to be separate ethnicities. In 1935, Beneš succeeded Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk  as President. Masayk died old age 87 on 14-09-1937, in Lány. He opposed Nazi Germany’s claim to the German-speaking so-called Sudetenland in 1938. In October, the Sudeten Crisis brought Europe on the brink of war, which was averted only as France and Great Britain signed the Munich Agreement, which allowed for the immediate annexation and military occupation of the Sudetenland by Germany.
After this event, which proceeded without Czechoslovakian participation, Beneš was forced to resign on 05-10-1938 under German pressure and Emil Hacha was chosen as President. In March 1939, Hácha’s government was bullied into authorizing the German occupation of the remaining territory of Czechia. On 22-10-1938 Beneš went into exile in Putney, London. In November 1940 in the wake of London Blitz, Beneš, his wife, their nieces, and his household staff moved to The Abbey at Aston Abbotts near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. The staff of his private office, including his Secretary Edvard Táborský and his chief of staff Jaromír Smutný, moved to The Old Manor House in the neighbouring village of Wingrave, while his military intelligence staff headed by František Moravec  was stationed in the nearby village of Addington. Moravec died age 71 on 26-07-1966 in Washington D.C. In 1940 he organized the Czechoslovak Government-in-Exile in London with Jan Šrámek as Prime Minister and himself as President. In 1941 Beneš and František Moravec planned Operation Anthropoid, with the intention of assassinating Reinhard Heydrich This was implemented in 1942, and resulted in brutal German reprisals such as the execution of thousands of Czechs and the eradication of two villages of Lidice and Ležáky. Although not a Communist, Beneš was also on friendly terms with Josef Stalin. Believing that Czechoslovakia has more to gain from an alliance with the Soviet Union than in Poland, he torpedoed the plans for the Polish-Czechoslovakian confederation and in 1943 he signed the entente between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. According to British writer Nigel West’s book on the Venona project, Edvard Beneš was Soviet source codename “19”. Identity of Soviet source codename “19” is unclear. in May 1943. After the Prague uprising at the end of World War II, Beneš returned home and reassumed his former position as President. He was unanimously confirmed as the president of the republic by the National Assembly on 28-10-1945. Under article 58.5 of the Constitution, “The former president shall stay in his or her function till the new president shall be elected.” On 19-06-1946 Beneš was formally elected to his second term as President. The Beneš decrees, officially called “Decrees of the President of the Republic”, among other things, expropriated citizens of German and Hungarian ethnicity, and paved the way for the eventual expulsion of the majority of Germans to West and East Germany and Austria. The decrees are still in force to this day and remain controversial, with the expellees demanding their repeal. The Czech government’s repeated assurances that the decrees are no longer applied have been accepted by the European Commission and the European Parliament. Beneš presided over a coalition government, from 1947 headed by Communist leader Klement Gottwald  as prime minister. Gottwald died age 56 on 14-03-1953 in Prague. On 25-02-1948, under pressure from Gottwald, Beneš appointed a Communist dominated government in effect, giving legal sanction to a Communist coup d’état. Shortly afterward, the Communist dominated National Assembly drafted the Ninth of May Constitution. Rather than sign it, Beneš resigned as President on 07-06-1948 and Gottwald succeeded him.

Death and burial ground of Beneš, Edvard.

Beneš had been in poor health since suffering two strokes in 1947, and he was rendered a broken man after seeing a situation come about that he had made his life’s work to avoid.
He died of natural causes at his villa in Sezimovo Ústí, Czechoslovakia on 03-09-1948, age 64. He is interred along with his wife, she died 02-12-1974, in the garden of his villa and his bust is part of the gravestone.

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