PRAGUE (Mar. 17)
Thousands of Slovak separatists chanted anti-Czech, anti-Semitic slogans, waved portraits of Nazi war criminal Josef Tiso and physically assaulted President Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia last week in the main square of Bratislava, the Slovak capital.
The occasion last Thursday was the 52nd anniversary of the founding of the Nazi puppet state of Slovakia on March 14, 1939. The date has become a rallying point of Slovak nationalism in which a strong element of anti-Semitism persists.
One person was arrested for unlawful conduct. Stanislav Panis, a member of the Slovak Parliament who is a jazz drummer, was referred to the attorney general by Jan Mlynarik, a fellow member of Parliament. He was accused of propagating fascism, which is illegal under the penal code.
The separatists, who cherish the memory of their short-lived statehood, waved its artifacts in the square, including Tiso’s portrait and the colors of the notorious Hlinka Guard, the fascist militia during the Nazi occupation.
Tiso, a Roman Catholic priest Hitler installed as president of the Slovak state, was hanged for war crimes on April 17, 1949. He ordered the deportation of 70,000 Slovak Jews, virtually the entire Jewish population, to Nazi death camps.
The adulation his memory received last Thursday in Bratislava apparently did not impress the prime minister of Slovakia, Vladimir Meciar, who claimed the influence of fascist elements in Slovakia is being exaggerated.
Meciar, who was abroad last Thursday, blamed Havel’s office, specifically presidential press spokesman Michael Zantovsky.
Zantovsky, whose mother is Jewish, recently charged that many Slovak nationalists believe the Nazi puppet state was the golden age of the Slovak nation.
The Prague daily Lidove Noviny recalled in an editorial Saturday that Tiso paid the Nazis 500 marks for every Jew deported from Slovakia. “This war criminal was adored in the main square of Bratislava as father of the motherland,” the editorial observed.
Havel himself warned in a recent broadcast to the nation against nostalgia for an event that brought war and misery.
His unexpected appearance in Bratislava on the anniversary was criticized by some Slovak newspapers. But leading Czech and Slovak personalities praised him for his courage.
Frantisek Miklosko, chairman of the Slovak National Council, who accompanied Havel, apologized for the behavior of the crowd. He urged his fellow Slovaks to wake up from their depression and lethargy and present themselves to the world as a civilized, culturally mature nation.