Vladimir Meciar, the prime minister of the soon-to-be-independent republic of Slovakia, joined Israel’s ambassador to Czechoslovakia, Yoel Sher, last week in the unveiling of a memorial to the 6,000 Jews who were deported from the Slovak city of Nitra 50 years ago.
The ceremony at the Nitra synagogue was the last in a series of observances in memory of the Slovak Jews deported to Nazi extermination camps in 1942 by the Slovak puppet regime of Josef Tiso.
The unveiling, which took place Oct. 21, was attended by representatives of the Slovak Jewish community as well as by high-ranking Slovak politicians. In attendance was Ivan Gasparovic, chairman of the Slovak National Council, which on Jan. 1 will become the Parliament of an independent Slovakia.
In his speech at the commemoration, Gasparovic said that the tragedy of the Jewish nation should induce “our contemporaries to fight against totalitarian regimes all over the world.”
He also recalled the many selfless Slovaks who helped save Jewish lives.
Slovak leaders are doing their utmost to dissociate themselves from Tiso’s heritage, which, however, has many devotees among nationalist extremists.
In November 1990, the Jewish cemetery in Nitra was desecrated by vandals, who daubed gravestones with swastikas.