PRAGUE (Jul. 22)
A memorial tablet to Josef Tiso, the wartime puppet leader of Slovakia, has been removed from the former Roman Catholic teachers college in the Slovak town of Banovce, where it was unveiled on July 8.
The tablet, which had been ceremonially placed on the building and blessed by the bishop of Nitra, Josef Korec, was taken down by order of the Slovak government, following a storm of protests.
During World War II, Tiso, a Roman Catholic priest, was president of a Slovak puppet state allied with the Nazis. He was responsible for the deportation of thousands of Slovak Jews.
The memorial tablet had been unveiled on the occasion of the anniversary of the foundation of the teachers college by Tiso when he was still a local priest.
In 1939, he became Adolf Hitler’s collaborator in dismantling Czechoslovakia and the Nazis’ choice for the presidency of the Slovak state set up by them.
Under his rule, nearly 60,000 Slovak Jews were deported from Slovakia to Nazi death camps between March and October 1942. Another 12,000 Jews were killed in the later years of the war.
Tiso was put on the list of war criminals by the Allies and extradited to Czechoslovakia for punishment. In 1947, Tiso was convicted by a court in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, of high treason, collaboration with the Nazis and crimes against humanity. He was later hanged.
There had been several attempts by clerical and separatist forces in Slovakia to present Tiso as a martyr to Communist revenge.
The Christian Democratic Movement of Slovakia, one of the partners in the Slovak coalition government, also approved the tablet and, while condemning the “unforgivable deportation of the Jewish population from Slovakia,” called for an “impartial evaluation of the past.”
It also expressed disagreement with “triggering emotions” against Tiso and those responsible for the unveiling of the memorial tablet.
But after Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel and a number of newspapers condemned it, Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar announced that the memorial tablet had to be removed.