On Thursday 15 September 2011, Czech PM Petr Nečas honored the memory of six million Holocaust victims during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jersualem. However, on the way to the memorial, both he and Czech Education Minister Josef Dobeš had to walk by a small group of demonstrators protesting against the Czech Education Ministry’s hiring of controversial bureaucrat Ladislav Bátora.
“We don’t know how it is possible for the Education Minister to hire an adviser and subordinate who praises anti-Semitic books and is active in similar organizations,” protester Nataša Dudinská said. She and three colleagues held signs as they waited for the Czech delegation to exit the memorial’s main exhibit. The protesters hoped the Czech Education Minister would realize the inappropriatness of Bátora’s hiring at an exhibit dedicate to the murderous results of anti-Semitic ideas and words. “Nothing else has helped. The atmosphere alone that governs in certain circles in the Czech Republic is an anti-Roma, anti-Semitic, intolerant atmosphere,” Dudinská said.
“We are responding to the fact that neo-Nazism is generally increasing in the Czech Republic as far as attacks are concerned, which recently have targeted Romani people. In addition, we are criticizing the fact that Ladislav Bátora is at the Czech Education Ministry,” said Tamara Moyzes, an Israeli citizen who has been living in the Czech Republic for 10 years.
News server Aktuálně.cz reports that Czech Education Ministr Josef Dobeš condemned the protest against his subordinate as unfair. Speaking immediately after his visit to the museum honoring the memory of the six million murdered, he compared the attacks on Bátora, a favorite of Czech President Václav Klaus, to the persecution of the Jews. “I definitely will not respond to that demonstration – I noticed it, but I was in a completely different frame of mind,” Dobeš told journalists, adding: “Something symbolic occurred to me. If I believe that what was written on those banners about someone isn’t true, then there is a need to stand up for him. It’s sort of a link to what I experienced in the museum, when I saw how sometimes someone got the courage to stand up for the people who were being subjected to mass murder,” the minister said.
Several nonprofit organizations from the Czech Republic spoke up before the Czech delegation flew to visit Yad Vashem, asking Czech PM Nečas how it is possible that Ladislav Bátora, who is linked to anti-Semitic and extremist groups, continues to work as a high state official. They sent their declaration to the director of the Yad Vashem memorial, Avner Shalev. Signatories included the Czech branch of Amnesty International, the Czech Helsinki Committee, Tolerance and Civil Society (Tolerance a občanská společnost), the Union of Liberated Political Prisoners and their Survivors (Svaz osvobozených politických vězňů a pozůstalých -SOPVP), the Terezín Initiative, ROMEA, teachers of civics and history in Plzeň, and several individuals. Copies of statements in English were also sent to the director of the memorial from the Jewish Liberal Union (Židovské liberální unie), the Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust (Výbor pro odškodnění romského holocaustu) and members of the National Action Plan for Inclusive Education team (Národně akčního plánu inkluzivního vzdělávání – NAPIV). Oldřich Stránský, SOPVP chair, also complained that he has yet to receive a response from either the PM or the Education Minister to a letter he sent them regarding this issue on 7 August 2011.
The Education Minister, who holds office on behalf of the governing coalition party Public Affairs (Věci veřejné -VV), recently removed Bátora from his position as director of human resources at the ministry after protests by coalition party TOP 09, de facto promoting him to the positon of deputy director of the minister’s cabinet, making him the direct superior of the director of human resources. “Bátora has attended many seminars in the past because he is interested in history,” Dobeš said in Jerusalem when asked to respond to allegations that his subordinate participated in anti-Semitic seminars. “I don’t perceive any such thing in his actions.” Bátora participated in the lectures together with people from the hardcore anti-Semitic community in the Czech Republic, lectures given by, for example, leading neo-Nazi Kalinovský, who at the time was the spokesperson for the anti-Semitic, militant Nazi racist movement called National Resistance (Národní odpor – NO). The lecture cycle was organized by the extremist Patriotic Front (Vlastenecká fronta -VF). Bátora also compiled a pamphlet entitled “Česká revue” (Czech Review), which he calls a “reader”. The pamphlet contains reprints of anti-Semitic texts. In his introduction to the “reader”, Bátora wrote the following about Rudolf Vrba (1860-1939): “The Premonstratensian chaplain Vrba of Průhonice wrote a voluminous (almost 1 300 page) work called The Rule of Money (Vláda peněz) sometime during the spring of 1911. However, the renown of this Christian-social national economic commentator has probably lasted only thanks to his anti-Semitic works, which include, in particular, The Murder at Polná and the Jewish Question in the Austrian Parliament (Vražda v Polné a židovská otázka v rakouském parlamentu) or the brilliant Adulteration of the Slavs (Zkáza Slovanů).” Czech PM Petr Nečas responded to the protest at Yad Vashem by saying that the Education Minister is responsible for his own bureaucrats. “If it were my co-worker at an office which I were leading, I have said that he would long ago have been removed from that position,” the PM said. After reviewing the exhibition, which touchingly familiarizes viewers with the causes, course and results of the Nazi annihilation of the European Jews, Nečas laid a wreath in the Hall of Memories. The dark room, in which an eternal flame is lit, commemorates the names of 22 concentration extermination camps and murder sites around Europe.
The history museum tells the story of the Holocaust from the Jewish perspective in its nine galleries. The chronological analysis is accompanied by the personal stories of Jews who lived and died during the Nazi era. In the Hall of Names, which the PM also visited, the names and personal data of the millions of victims are recorded on symbolic tombs erected by survivors in memory of their loved ones.
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