Edvard Benes

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Edvard Beneš (May 28, 1884, Kožlany, Bohemia, then in Austria-Hungary - September 3, 1948 Sezimovo Ústí, Czechoslovakia) was a leader of the Czechoslovak independence movement and the second President of Czechoslovakia.

In 1912 he taught at the Charles University of Prague, from 1916-1918 Benes was a Secretary of the Czechoslovak National Council in Paris and Minister of the Interior and of Foreign Affaires within the Provisional Czechoslovak government. From 1918-1935 Benes was Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia, and from 1920-1925 and 1929-1935 a member of the parliament. In 1921 he was a professor and also from 1921-1922 Premier Minister. From 1923-1927 he became a member of the League of Nations Council (1927-1928 president of its committee), de jure 1935-1948 President of Czechoslovakia (1938 - 1945 president-in-exile), de facto 1935-1938 and 1940-1948 President of Czechoslovakia (1940-1945 president-in-exile).

During World War I he was one of the leading organizers of an independent Czechoslovakia abroad.

He was a member of the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party (till 1925 called Czechoslovak Socialist Party) and a strong Czechoslovakist - he did not consider Slovaks and Czechs to be separate ethnicities .

Beneš became first Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia and in 1935 succeeded Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk to become President. In October 1938, after the Munich Agreement ceded the Sudetenland to Germany, but before the German occupation of the Czech speaking Bohemia and Moravia, he resigned from office and went into exile in Putney, London. Then in 1940 organized the Provisional Government-in-Exile in London led by Jan Šrámek, and Beneš himself became the President of Czechoslovakia in exile. In November 1940 he moved to Aston Abbotts near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.

Although oriented to the West, in 1943 he signed the entente between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union in order to secure Czechoslovakia's political position, as well as his own.

At the end of World War II, he returned home as the President of Czechoslovakia. He resented the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia on 25 February 1948 led by Prime Minister Klement Gottwald, and resigned as President on 7 June 1948. Gottwald succeeded him as President. He died at his villa in Sezimovo Ústí later in 1948.

The so-called Beneš decrees, which, among other things, expropriated the property of ethnic German and Hungarian Czechoslovakians, paved the way for the eventual expulsion of ethnic Germans to Germany and Austria.

Reference

  • Paul E. Zinner "Czechoslovakia: The Diplomacy of Eduard Benes" pages 100-122 from The Diplomats 1919-1939 edited by Gordon A. Craig & Felix Gilbert, Princeton University Press: Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America, 1953
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