PRAGUE (Nov. 6)
Slovak nationalists are demanding the removal of Czechoslovakia’s ambassador to the United States, Rita Klimova, for allegedly slandering Slovakia by allegations of anti-Semitism in interviews with U.S. journalists.
The issue was put on Monday’s agenda of the Slovak National Council, to be debated at a later date.
Klimova, who is of Jewish origin, is accused of unjustly reporting anti-Semitic demonstrations in Slovakia, which comprise the eastern half of the federated Czech and Slovak republics.
National President Vaclav Havel has come to her defense. He said the envoy did not speak of “anti-Semitic demonstrations” but of “demonstrations of anti-Semitism” in Slovakia, which are thoroughly documented.
The difference of meaning was lost in translation, said Havel, who has no intention of firing Klimova: nor has Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier.
But passions are running high among Slovak separatists, who cannot deny gross manifestations of anti-Semitism in their country, which was once a Nazi puppet state.
Vandals have desecrated Jewish cemeteries in several Slovak towns. Anti-Semitic graffiti appear on walls.
In the streets of Bratislava, the Slovak capital, news vendors freely hawk copies of “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” an anti-Semitic forgery that originated in Czarist Russia 100 years ago.
The primary target is not the present Jewish community of Slovakia, which numbers no more than 2,000, but the memory of the tens of thousands of Czechoslovak Jews deported to Nazi death camps by Josef Tiso, the Catholic priest whom Hitler installed as boss of the “independent” republic of Slovakia in 1939.
That was the only time in history that a Slovak state in any form existed, and nostalgic memories of it persist, even among Slovaks who were not born at the time. They are trying to vindicate their forebears by exculpating both the puppet state and its leader, Tiso, who was hanged as a war criminal in 1947.