PRAGUE (Dec. 23)
Members of the National Council, the parliament of the Slovak republic, observed a minute of silence last week in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, after acknowledging that anti-Semitic acts were perpetrated by Slovaks during World War II.
They vowed that would never happen again.
A declaration was read at a Dec. 20 session of the National Council by a member of parliament, Jana Mistrikova, who was a student leader during the upheaval in Bratislava in November 1989 which overthrew the Communist regime.
Slovakia is the eastern part of the confederation that constitutes the republic of Czechoslovakia, headed by President Vaclav Havel.
But Czechoslovak Jews have cause for concern about the powerful Slovak separatist movement, which includes elements nostalgic for the fascist puppet state set up in Slovakia by the Nazis during the war. That regime, headed by Josef Tiso, a Roman Catholic priest, deported tens of thousands of Jews to death camps.
The statement by the deputies of the National Council recalled that era.
“Today, after one year of free life, we representatives of the whole of Slovakia and its various political streams and groups feel that it is our moral duty to express publicly to our Jewish fellow citizens our deep regret for the wrongs perpetrated against them,” the statement said.
It recalled that in 1942 and 1944, tens of thousands of citizens of Jewish origin were deported from Slovakia and that nearly all of them perished in concentration camps.
“This crime against humanity burdens the conscience of all of us, though most of us belong to new generations which have no personal share in the tragic events of nearly half a century ago.”
The statement noted that “many Slovaks then took part in the armed struggle against violence and did their utmost to help their Jewish co-citizens against persecution.
“On the eve of the forthcoming holidays of mutual understanding and love, we meditate about our past and inquire into our conscience, at the same time offering our hand to all nations and nationalities that lived and live with us in our common country,” the statement said.
“Consider this declaration a promise that new, democratic Slovakia will never go astray from the road of respecting freedom, of tolerance, democracy, legality and interhuman love without regard to nationality, race, religion or conviction.”