Germany and Czechoslovakia will discuss property claims by Germans who were expelled from western Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland after World War II, it was announced Friday.
The province was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938.After World War II in 1945, the Czech government ousted about 3 million Sudeten Germans, most of whom resettled in East or West Germany.
"At the government level we will be discussing this," German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher told a news conference during a one-day visit to Prague.
He stressed, however, that the Sudeten German question would not necessarily figure in a new treaty of cooperation to be signed by Czechoslovakia and Germany.
The German government has come under increasing pressure from the Sudeten Landsmannschaft, an organization representing former Sudeten Germans and their descendants, which is seeking the return of German property that was confiscated by Czechoslovaks after 1945.
Many former Sudeten Germans also claimed to have suffered ill-treatment after the war, being deprived of sufficient food and even being sold as indentured servants to local Czech farmers.
Genscher emphasized that the question of restitution or remuneration for the Sudeten Germans was a matter for the two governments to discuss and said Bonn would not bow to pressure from the Landsmannschaft.
"This question and all ownership questions are for the governments to discuss and not for private demand," he said.
On Thursday, a group known as the Czech Union of Freedom Fighters issued a statement rejecting the demands of the Landsmannschaft and similar German groups as "unjustified."
The union, which includes World War II resistance fighters and victims of Nazi concentration camps, said the "damage caused to our citizens by Nazi violence, in which the Sudeten Germans took part in important posts, has not be redressed."
Dagmar Buresova, chairwoman of the Czech National Council, warned current Sudetenland residents to make sure they have valid titles to their property.
"Citizens living in the border lands, particularly in the Sudetenland, should ensure the legality of ownership rights of property they have acquired and even those rights they may have stemming from small privatization," she said Thursday.
The Czechoslovakian parliament last week passed a law to privatize state-owned small businesses except those that were illegally confiscated.