Wjc Seeking Formal Inquiry into Slovak Official’s Past

The World Jewish Congress is calling for an independent investigation into the wartime past of a newly appointed Slovak Cabinet minister.

Files in the archives of the previous Czechoslovak government indicate Dusan Slobodnik wore the uniform of the Slovak equivalent of the Hitler Youth and was selected by S.S. specialists for training in terror actions against civilians, WJC legal adviser Daniel Lack said.

The records associate Slobodnik with the extermination of the population of Plostina Na Morave and other villages. Other allegations attribute anti-Semitic statements and actions to him.

He was appointed minister of culture in the government of Vladimir Meciar three months ago in anticipation of the formal separation of the Czech and Slovak republics on Jan. 1. He is currently in Geneva to represent his government at a U.N.-sponsored conference on human rights.

The WJC is taking up the case with the Czech and Slovak authorities, as well as with the U.S. Department of Justice, Lack said.

If the allegations against him are proven true, it would qualify him for the U.S. State Department’s “watch list” of undesirable aliens, barring his entry into the United States.

It would also lead to a demand that he be removed from his government post “at a minimum,” a WJC spokesman said.

Last Friday, Slobodnik denied he had taken part in wartime killings. He acknowledged to the Swiss newspaper Tribune de Geneve that he joined the Hlinka Youth in the Nazi-sponsored Slovak state at the age of 17 but said it was only because he had been forced to do so. As evidence he was not anti-Semitic, he said he had allowed his son to marry a woman who is half-Jewish.

He also acknowledged he was arrested and imprisoned by the Soviets in 1944 but said it was an arbitrary action rather than punishment for crimes. He was released in 1953 and returned to Czechoslovakia.

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