Benes, President Edouard, 1884-1948

Benes was the President of the Czech repubiic-in-exile during World War II. Benes was President of Czechoslovakia at the time of the Munich Agreement (29 September 1938), which compelled the Czechs to cede fortified Sudetenland to Germany. After this defeat for the Czech republic, Benes resigned and left for the West. In 1939 after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Benes formed the Czech National Committee in Paris. In 1940 it transferred its base to London and Benes immediately started trying to get the Allies to repudiate the Munich Agreement and get recognition for his government. He organized refugees into units which served in the British Army and RAF. He was unwilling to encourage sabotage and guerrilla warfare so long as Czechoslovakia was far from the front but he gave the order for the operation to assassinate HEYDRICH. When this was accomplished it increased his standing in the eyes of the Czechs. Benes’ government was finally recognized by Britain in July 1941 and the Munich Agreement was repudiated in August 1942. He negotiated with the USSR because he felt he had to accommodate the Communists in Czechoslovakia. Benes signed a Pact of Friendship and Mutual Assistance with the USSR in December 1943. At the end of the war he obtained agreement to massive transfers of Czechoslovakia’s Germans to Germany which made for stability in postwar Czechoslovakia. Benes returned to Prague and was elected President of the Republic in 1946. After the Communist takeover in 1948 he resigned and died shortly afterwards.

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