Benes had resigned as president of the Czechoslovak Republic on October 5, 1938. In London he and other Czechoslovak exiles organized a Czechoslovak government-in-exile and negotiated to obtain international recognition for the government and a renunciation of the Munich Agreement and its consequences. Benes hoped for a restoration of the Czechoslovak state in its pre-Munich form after the anticipated Allied victory. In the summer of 1941, the Allies recognized the exiled government. In 1942 Allied repudiation of the Munich Agreement established the political and legal continuity of the First Republic and Benes's presidency.

The Munich Agreement had been precipitated by the subversive activities of the Sudeten Germans. During the latter years of the war, Benes worked toward resolving the German minority problem and received consent from the Allies for a solution based on a postwar transfer of the Sudeten German population.

The First Republic had been committed to a Western policy in foreign affairs. The Munich Agreement was the outcome. Benes determined to strengthen Czechoslovak security against future German aggression through alliances with Poland and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, however, objected to a tripartite Czechoslovak-Polish-Soviet commitment. In December 1943, Benes's government concluded a treaty with the Soviets.

Benes's interest in maintaining friendly relations with the Soviet Union was motivated also by his desire to avoid Soviet encouragement of a postwar communist coup in Czechoslovakia. Benes worked to bring Czechoslovak communist exiles in Britain into active cooperation with his government, offering far-reaching concessions, including nationalization of heavy industry and the creation of local people's committees at the war's end. In March 1945, he gave key cabinet positions to Czechoslovak communist exiles in Moscow.

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