|President of Czechoslovakia|
18 December 1935 – 5 October 1938
|Preceded by||Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk|
|Succeeded by||Emil Hácha|
|President of Czechoslovakia in exile|
1940 – 2 April 1945
|President of Czechoslovakia|
28 October 1945 – 7 June 1948
|Preceded by||Emil Hácha|
|Succeeded by||Klement Gottwald|
|Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia|
26 September 1921 – 7 October 1922
|Preceded by||Jan Černý|
|Succeeded by||Antonín Švehla|
28 May 1884|
|Died||3 September 1948
Sezimovo Ústí, Czechoslovakia
|Political party||Czech National Social Party|
Edvard Beneš (Czech pronunciation: [ˈɛdvard ˈbɛnɛʃ] ( listen); 28 May 1884 – 3 September 1948) was a leader of the Czechoslovak independence movement, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the second President of Czechoslovakia. He was known to be a skilled diplomat.
Edvard Beneš was born into a peasant family in the small town of Kožlany, Bohemia, about 60 kilometres (37 mi) west of Prague. His brother was the Czechoslovak politician Vojta Beneš, grandfather of Emilie Benes Brzezinski. He spent much of his youth in the Vinohrady district of Prague, where he attended a grammar school from 1896 to 1904. 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 (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[clarification needed] in the field of philosophy in 1912, he became a lecturer in sociology at Charles University. He was involved in Scouting.
During World War I, Beneš was one of the leading organizers of an independent Czechoslovakia from abroad. He organized a Czech pro-independence anti-Austrian secret resistance movement called "Maffia". In September 1915, he went into exile, and in Paris he made intricate diplomatic efforts to gain recognition from France and the United Kingdom for the Czechoslovak independence movement. From 1916–1918 he was a Secretary of the Czechoslovak National Council in Paris and Minister of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs in the Provisional Czechoslovak government.
In May 1918, Beneš, Masaryk, and Štefánik 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 1,500,000.
From 1918–1935, Beneš was the first and longest serving Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia, and from 1920–1925 and 1929–1935 a member of Parliament. He represented Czechoslovakia in talks on 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 in 1922, Locarno in 1925, The Hague in 1930, and Lausanne in 1932.
Beneš was a member of the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party (until 1925 called the 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 Nazi Germany's claim to the German-speaking so-called Sudetenland in 1938. In October 1938, the Sudeten Crisis brought Europe to 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 5 October 1938 under German pressure and Emil Hácha was chosen as President. In March 1939, Hácha's government was bullied into authorising the German occupation of the remaining Czech territory. (Slovakia had declared its nominal independence by then.)
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. This was implemented in 1942, and resulted in brutal German reprisals such as the execution of thousands of Czechs and the eradication of the two villages of Lidice and Ležáky.
Although not a Communist, Beneš was also on friendly terms with Stalin. Believing that Czechoslovakia had more to gain from an alliance with the Soviet Union than with Poland, he torpedoed the plans for the Polish-Czechoslovakian confederation and in 1943 he signed the entente between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.
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 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.
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. On 25 February 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. Although it was not a completely Communist document, it was close enough to the Soviet Constitution that Beneš refused to sign it. He resigned as President on 7 June 1948 and Gottwald succeeded him.
Beneš had been in poor health since suffering two strokes in 1947, and was 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 3 September 1948. He is interred along with his wife (who lived until 2 December 1974) in the garden of his villa and his bust is part of the gravestone.
In 1934 H.G.Wells wrote "The Shape of Things to Come", a prediction of the Second World War. In Wells' decpiction the war starts in 1940 and drags on until 1950, Czechoslovakia avoids being occupied by Germany, and Beneš remains its President throughout. Wells assigns to Beneš the role of initiating a cease-fire to end the fighting, and the book (supposedly written in the 22ed Century) remarks that "The Benes Suspension of Hostilities remains in force to this day".
- Stalo se před 100 lety: Robinson a Beneš - Radio Praha
- "Skauting »Historie" (in Czech). Junák - svaz skautů a skautek ČR. Retrieved 23 September 2007.
- 'Czech Army for France' in The Times, Thursday, 23 May 1918, p. 6, col. F
- HISTORIE: Špion, kterému nelze věřit - Neviditelný pes
- Andrea Orzoff. Battle for the Castle. Oxford University Press US. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-19-974568-5. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- A. T. Lane; Elżbieta Stadtmüller (2005). Europe on the move: the impact of Eastern enlargement on the European Union. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 190. ISBN 978-3-8258-8947-0. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- Roy Francis Leslie; R. F. Leslie (1983). The History of Poland since 1863. Cambridge University Press. p. 242. ISBN 978-0-521-27501-9. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- Prozatimní NS RČS 1945-1946, 2. schůze, část 1/4
- Hauner, Milan, ed. "'We Must Push Eastwards!' The Challenges and Dilemmas of President Beneš after Munich," Journal of Contemporary History (2009) 44#4 pp. 619-656 in JSTOR
- Lukes, Igor. Czechoslovakia between Stalin and Hitler: The Diplomacy of Edvard Benes in the 1930s (1996) online
- Neville, Peter. Eduard Beneš and Tomáš Masaryk: Czechoslovakia (2011)
- Rees, Neil (2005). The Secret History of the Czech Connection: The Czechoslovak Government in Exile in London and Buckinghamshire During the Second World War. Buckinghamshire: Neil Rees. ISBN 0-9550883-0-5. OCLC 62196328.
- Zbyněk Zeman, Antonín Klimek: The Life of Edvard Beneš 1884-1948: Czechoslovakia in Peace and War, Oxford University Press / Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1997, ISBN 0-19-820583-X ISBN 978-0198205838
book review by Richard Crampton
- Zinner, Paul E. (1994). "Czechoslovakia: The Diplomacy of Eduard Benes". In Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert. The Diplomats, 1919-1939. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. pp. 100–122. ISBN 0-691-03660-8. OCLC 31484352.
- John Wheeler-Bennett Munich : Prologue to Tragedy, New York : Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1948.
- Hauner, Milan, 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)
-  www.czechsinexile.org President Benes in exile in England during World War II
- Biography at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Czech)
- "Sons of Death". Time Magazine. 26 September 1938. Retrieved 14 August 2008. (English) - an article published in Time on 26 September 1938 - free archive
- Pictures of Edvard Beneš funeral (1) - lying in state (in the opened coffin)
- Pictures of Edvard Beneš funeral (2) - funeral procession with wreaths and laying of coffin into grave
- Pictures of Edvard Beneš and his wife - archive of Šechtl and Voseček Museum of Photography
|Minister of Foreign Affairs of Czechoslovakia
Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk
|President of Czechoslovakia
|President of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile and President of Czechoslovakia
1940–1945 and 1945–1948
|Awards and achievements|
Marshal Ferdinand Foch
|Cover of Time Magazine
23 March 1925
George Harold Sisler