Edvard Beneš

Edvard Beneš

Infobox_President | name=Edvard Beneš

order1 = 2nd
office1 = President of Czechoslovakia
term_start1 = 18 December 1935
term_end1 = 5 October 1938
predecessor1 = Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk
successor1 = Emil Hácha
office2 = President of Czechoslovakia "in exile"
term_start2 = 1940
term_end2 = 2 April 1945
order3 = 4th
office3 = President of Czechoslovakia
term_start3 = 28 October 1945
term_end3 = 7 June 1948
predecessor3 = Emil Hácha
successor3 = Klement Gottwald
order4 = 4th
office4 = Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia
term_start4 = 26 September 1921
term_end4 = 7 October 1922
predecessor4 =Jan Černý
successor4 = Antonín Švehla
birth_date=birth date|1884|5|28
birth_place=Kožlany, Austria-Hungary
death_date=death date and age|1948|9|3|1884|5|28
death_place=Sezimovo Ústí, Czechoslovakia
party=Czechoslovak National Socialist Party
spouse=Hana Benešová|

Edvard Beneš ( Audio-IPA|Cs-Edvard Benes.ogg| [ˈɛdvart ˈbɛnɛʃ] ) (May 28 1884 Kožlany, Bohemia (then part of Austria-Hungary) – September 3 1948 Sezimovo Ústí, Czechoslovakia) was a leader of the Czechoslovak independence movement and the second President of Czechoslovakia.


Edvard Beneš was born into a peasant family in a small village of Kožlany near Rakovník, ca. 60 km west of Prague. He spent much of his youth in Vinohrady district of Prague, where he attended a grammar school from 1896 to 1904. 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 ("École Libre des Sciences Politiques"). He completed his first degree in Dijon, where he received his Doctorate of Laws in 1908. Then he taught for three years at the Prague Academy of Commerce, and after his habilitation in the field of philosophy in 1912, he became a lecturer in sociology at Charles University. He was involved in Scouting. [cite web
title = Skauting »Historie
publisher = Junák - svaz skautů a skautek ČR
language= Czech
url = http://verejnost.skaut.cz/skauting/historie/
accessdate =2007-09-23

First exile

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.


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 (serving as president of its committee from 1927–1928). 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 (until 1925 called Czechoslovak 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. He opposed Germany's claim to the German German-speaking Sudetenland in 1938. In October, the Sudeten Crisis brought Europe on the brink of war, which was only averted as France and Great Britain signed the Munich Agreement, which allowed for the immediate annexation and military occupation of the territory by Germany.

After this event, which proceeded without Czechoslovakian participation, Beneš was forced to resign on 5 October 1938 under German pressure and Emil Hácha was chosen as President. In March 1939, Hàcha's government was bullied into authorising the German occupation of the remaining Czech Republic. (Slovakia had declared its independence by then.)

econd exile

On 22 October 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.

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. [http://neviditelnypes.lidovky.cz/historie-spion-kteremu-nelze-verit-d64-/p_spolecnost.asp?c=A080311_173033_p_spolecnost_wag] This was implemented in 1942, and, predictably, 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 Stalin. 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.

econd presidency

After the Prague uprising at the end of World War II, Beneš returned home and reassumed his former position as President. He was not elected President in 1945 but unanimously confirmed as the former president of the republic by the National Assembly on 28 October 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 June 1946 Beneš was formally elected to his second term as President. [http://psp.cz/eknih/1945pns/stenprot/002schuz/s002001.htm]

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 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 involving Democrats and Communists, with the Communist leader Klement Gottwald as prime minister. On 25 February 1948, the Communists assumed complete power in a coup d'état. Beneš resigned as President on 7 June 1948 and Gottwald succeeded him as President.


Beneš died of natural causes at his villa in Sezimovo Ústí, Czechoslovakia on September 3 1948. He is interred along with his wife in the garden of his villa and his bust is part of the gravestone.



* Neil Rees "The Secret History of The Czech Connection - The Czechoslovak Government in Exile in London and Buckinghamshire" compiled by Neil Rees, England, 2005. ISBN 0-9550883-0-5.
* John Wheeler-Bennett "Munich : Prologue to Tragedy", New York : Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1948.
* 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.
* Milan Hauner *(ed.): Edvard Beneš’ MEMOIRS: THE DAYS OF MUNICH (vol.1), WAR AND RESISTANCE (vol.2), DOCUMENTS (vol.3). First critical edition of reconstructed War Memoirs 1938-45 of President Beneš of Czechoslovakia (published by Academia Prague 2007. ISBN 978-80-200-1529-7)

ee also

* History of Czechoslovakia
* List of Presidents of Czechoslovakia
* List of Prime Ministers of Czechoslovakia

External links

* [http://www.mzv.cz/wwwo/mzv/default.asp?id=12983&ido=7970&idj=1&amb=1 Biography at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic]
* cite news
title="Sons of Death"
work=Time Magazine
en icon - an article published in Time Magazine on September 26, 1938 - free archive
* [http://sechtl-vosecek.ucw.cz/en/cml/dir/funeral_edvard_benes.html Pictures of Edvard Beneš funeral (1)] en icon - lying in state (in the opened coffin)
* [http://sechtl-vosecek.ucw.cz/en/cml/dir/35mm_funeral_edvard_benes.html Pictures of Edvard Beneš funeral (2)] en icon - funeral procession with wreaths and laying of coffin into grave
* [http://sechtl-vosecek.ucw.cz/en/cml/dir/benes.html Pictures of Edvard Beneš and his wife] en icon - archive of Šechtl and Voseček Museum of Photography

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