PRAGUE (Dec. 10)
The prime minister of the Slovak republic believes “a small group of psychologically unbalanced Skinheads” was probably responsible for the vandalism of the Jewish cemetery in the Slovak town Nitra last month.
But Vladimir Meciar was less than forthright when asked why no acts or expressions of moral outrage emanated either from Slovak officialdom or the citizenry at large.
In sharp contrast, the crude anti-Semitism drew a strong rebuke from Civic Forum, the largest political movement in the Czech republic, and an apology from Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel.
Meciar replied in writing to questions submitted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the incident in Nitra, 75 miles northwest of Bratislava, capital of the Slovak republic.
There, early in November, Jewish gravestones were daubed with swastikas and slogans calling for the extermination of Jews.
Asked why neither the Slovak government nor the national council took a position in the case, Meciar indicated he did not think it was a national issue.
“The Slovak republic distinguishes between the attitude of the Slovak nation toward the Jewish question and the attitude of a small group of psychologically unbalanced Skinheads,” he said.
He went on to claim that Slovakia proved its sympathy toward Jews under the Nazi puppet regime in World War II headed by Father Josef Tiso, a Roman Catholic priest.
“While the clerico-fascist leadership of this state paid the Nazis 500 marks for every deported Jew, our citizens gave shelter to and cared for thousands of Jews,” he claimed.
More than 100,000 Jews lived in Slovakia before the war. Only about 3,000 live there today.
A CONTROVERSIAL POLITICAL FIGURE
Meciar said the Slovak republic made clear its feelings by participating in the erection of a memorial to Nazi victims in the town of Komarno.
But Komarno was not part of Slovakia during the war.
The town on the Danube was then in Hungary, and the Jews and others deported from there in 1944 were victims of Hungarian fascists. Their Slovak counterparts had deported most Jews two years earlier.
Asked if in Bratislava or elsewhere in Slovakia some protest action was being organized to express the repugnance felt over the Nitra cemetery desecration, Meciar replied, “Here in our country, the silent majority of decent people was induced into a state of complacency by the quick revolution over totalitarianism.”
He was referring to last year’s so-called “velvet revolution,” which ended 40 years of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia without bloodshed.
“As a result of the blustering of extremist groups, such as displays of anti-Semitism, this complacency is being overcome,” he said.
According to the prime minister, “the investigation is not yet closed” in the Nitra incident. He preferred not to speculate about the outcome.
He thought, however, that it was “an individual act of morally unbalanced Skinheads,” because if it were the work of the “local neo-Nazi underworld, the investigation would be easier.”
Meciar has become one of the most controversial figures in Czechoslovakia. Though he entered politics as a democrat and never belonged to the chauvinist separatist movement, Meciar has been demanding ever more autonomy for Slovak authorities and a concomitant reduction in the authority of the Prague government.
His clashes with Havel and the federal prime minister, Marian Calfa, have brought the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis.