Havel Decries Popular Anti-semitism During Visit to Synagogue in Slovakia
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Havel Decries Popular Anti-semitism During Visit to Synagogue in Slovakia

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Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel unveiled a memorial to Jewish victims of the Nazis and their Slovak collaborators Tuesday in the northern town of Dolny Kubin.

Havel’s presence and remarks in the Slovak town were a direct rebuke to the anti-Semitism that has become part of the strategy of Slovak separatists whose goal seems to be the dismemberment of the Czechoslovak federal republic.

The playwright president unveiled a tablet on the wall of the local synagogue, inscribed with the names of 93 Jewish families deported from the town during World War II.

He spoke about the social causes of anti-Semitism, which still manifests itself despite the Holocaust’s destruction of Czechoslovak Jewry.

Havel observed that “when for whatever reason a society is disappointed, frustrated and disillusioned, searchers for scapegoats appear and point at presumed culprits.”

They try to fabricate theories about certain people they allege are manipulating the lives of others from behind the scenes, he said. “Unfortunately, their demagogy sometimes takes root in the soil of popular discontent.”

Havel’s description fit the attack on Jews in an article last week on the front page of the Prague daily “Express,” after a failed attempt by Slovak nationalists to push a divisive language bill through the Slovak Parliament in Bratislava.

It claimed that the Charter 77 movement, which led the bloodless revolution that ended 42 years of Communist rule in November 1989, was a Jewish Free Mason lodge acting in conspiracy with the KGB, the CIA, the Czech secret police and Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad.


Havel’s spokesman, Michael Zan-Tovsky, told a news conference Monday that the article was “filth” spewed by a “gutter journal” to spread dissension and demoralize the population. He said the president was disgusted and nauseated by it.

The Dolny Kubin synagogue was the president’s first stop on his three-day tour of Slovakia.

Jaroslav Franek, speaking on behalf of the Slovak Jewish community, thanked him for coming to town and paying tribute to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. He also spoke of Slovaks who risked their lives during the war to save Jews.

But when Frantisek Miklosko, chairman of the Slovak Parliament, recalled the tragic events that led to the disappearance of the Jewish community from Dolny Kubin, he was interrupted by whistles from nationalists in the audience.

The separatist elements in Bratislava tried to pass a bill forbidding the use of any language but Slovakian, even in districts of Slovakia with large Hungarian populations. They organized mass rallies in the streets of Bratislava against Czechs, Hungarians and other non-Slovaks.

But the Slovak Parliament eventually adopted a language law recognizing the rights of minorities. The separatist leaders were branded demagogues and irresponsible political adventures.

Nevertheless, 40 Slovak nationalists continued a hunger strike Tuesday outside the Parliament building, demanding enactment of the discriminatory law.

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