Eduard Benes

Eduard Benes

Eduard Benes, was born into a peasant family at Kozlany, Bohemia in 1884. He was educated in Prague, Dijon and Paris where he gained a doctorate in sociology.

On the outbreak of the First World War Benes was professor of sociology in Prague. The following year he escaped from Austria-Hungary and went to Paris where he joined with Tomas Masaryk in the fight for Czechoslovakian independence. The two men formed the Czechoslovak National Council with Benes its first general secretary. Throughout the rest of the war Benes worked to persuade the Allies to support the establishment of an independent state for the Czech people.

As a result of the Versailles Peace Treaty the independent state of Czechoslovakia was established. Benes became foreign minister of the new country. He worked hard for the League of Nations and attempted to obtain good relations with other nations in Europe.

Benes replaced Tomas Masaryk when he retired as president in 1935. He considered the Munich Agreement negotiated by Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler as a grave betrayal and resigned from office and went into voluntary exile.

In 1941 Benes became head of a Czechoslovakia provisional government in London. In March 1945 Benes flew to Moscow and along with Jan Masaryk accompanied the Russian-sponsored Czechoslovak Corps that liberated the country from Germany.

Benes remained president of Czechoslovakia for three years. After Klement Gottwald formed a pro-communist government in February 1948 he attempted to keep his presidential role neutral in the struggle for power. In June 1948, when it became clear that Gottwald intended to introduce a Russian-style political system, Benes resigned from office. Eduard Benes died a broken man three months later.