The Czech Education Ministry is likely to withdraw its endorsement of a recently published history textbook that Jewish leaders worldwide have called anti-Semitic, Jewish groups said this week.
The Anti-Defamation League, the World Jewish Congress and the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Czech Republic all have voiced their opposition to the book, Handbook on church History.
The text, according to those who have seen it, claims that Jews in the Middle Ages collected extensive assets in all countries, took over money-lending businesses and were extraordinary usurers, charging more than 100 percent interest.
In addition, the book’s author, Pavel Mracek, purports in the text that Jews in the Middle Ages committed ritual murders, crucifixion of Christian boys and the persecution and murder of Jews who converted to Christianity.
The ADL urged the Czech Education Ministry in a letter to the country’s U.S. ambassador to revoke its endorsement of the book and “renounce the anti-Semitic accusations” the book contains.
Because the book is endorsed by the government, students at state schools get copies for free.
Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, wrote in a letter to Michael Zantovsky, the Czech Republic’s ambassador to the United States that “author Pavel Mracek argues that Jews are responsible for provoking Christian hatred.”
Foxman also wrote, “As you surely know, such anti-Semitic myths have plagued the Jewish people for centuries. During medieval times in particular, accusations of Jewish ritual murder during the Passover holiday incited countless pogroms.”
Foxman said the ministry has ordered a new review of the textbook.
According to media reports, a spokesman for the book’s publishing house, Krystal, said the author was not an expert in church history, and may have cited outdated, inappropriate sources in preparing the book.
Meanwhile, Elan Steinberg, WJC’s executive director, said Tuesday that the ministry is likely to rescind its endorsement of the work. He said WJC representatives have communicated directly with the Ministry of Education in Prague.
The WJC also has made its opinion of the text known in Rome.
“The document violates the spirit and the letter of Vatican II,” Steinberg said, referring to the Vatican policy that rejected former anti-Jewish teachings of the church.
The Jewish community in the Czech Republic has also reacted to the work, Steinberg said. Steinberg added that the Czech Jewish community “may instigate legal action” based on laws in that country that ban “racial incitement and religious intolerance.”
The textbook also has been the subject of debate in the general Czech press, Steinberg said.