PRAGUE (Mar. 16)
Bratislava was the scene of a neo-fascist rally Saturday marking the 53rd anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s creation of the Nazi puppet state of Slovakia, which deported its Jews to death camps.
The meeting in the Slovak capital attracted several thousand devotees of the fascist state, which lasted from March 14, 1939, when Czechoslovakia was occupied by the German army, until the fall of the Third Reich in 1945.
It was the only time in history that Slovakia was nominally independent, though, in fact, it was controlled by Nazi Germany. That brief era exerts a nostalgic attraction for present-day Slovak separatists, many of whom were born after World War II.
The key speaker at the Bratislava rally was Stanislav Panis, a Holocaust denier who is a member of Czechoslovakia’s federal Parliament and a former pop music drummer.
Panis claimed in a Feb. 26 interview on Norwegian television that the Nazis could not possibly have killed 6 million Jews with the technology available at the time.
“The ovens could simply not manage to burn all of them,” he was quoted as saying.
Newspaper columnist Karel Kovanda of the Prague daily Lidove Noviny called on the wavering forces in the Slovak political arena to say “enough is enough” to people like Panis.
Kovanda noted that “such remarks are punishable by law in France, Canada and Germany” and urged the Immunity and Mandate Committee of the federal assembly to declare that a person like Panis, who openly preaches racial intolerance, has no place in the supreme legislative body of the country.
MOST PARTIES DID NOT TAKE PART
Kovanda said Panis insulted the memory of the 6 million dead in an apparent attempt to exculpate the wartime Slovak regime, which even paid the Germans to liquidate 70,000 Jews.
Slovakia was headed by Father Jozef Tiso, an anti-Semitic Roman Catholic priest handpicked by Hitler, who was subsequently hanged as a war criminal.
Most of Slovakia’s political parties, including the separatist Slovak national party, did not take part in the neo-fascist event, which featured symbols and paraphernalia of the Nazi era and anti-Jewish, anti-Czech slogans.
Some of them openly condemned the organizers for sullying Slovakia’s image in the world.
But the attitude of several Slovak politicians and political parties is ambiguous as they prepare for the elections in June.
While condemning the deportation of Jews by the Tiso regime, Slovak Prime Minister Jan Carnogursky defended Tiso’s declaration of Slovakia’s independence, on Hitler’s order, as the only alternative to the country’s occupation by Hungary.
The Christian Democratic movement, headed by the prime minister, split recently when its radically separatist wing defected to form a new party.
The chairman of the Slovak National Council, who was elected in 1990 as a member of the Slovak branch of President Vaclav Havel’s Public Forum, has now joined Carnogursky’s Christian Democratic movement.