Secret Police Once Ordered to Keep Tabs on Czech Jews

Soviet officials had once ordered the former Czechoslovakia to keep tabs on its Jewish citizens, according to an official inquiry launched here.

In August, Czech Jewish leaders expressed alarm over reports that the Communist-era Czech secret police compiled lists of the members of the country’s Jewish community.

At the time, the Czech Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism, also known as the UDV, said it would launch an investigation of the reports.

As a result of that investigation, the UDV announced Dec. 13 that, having been prompted by Moscow, the Czechoslovak Interior Ministry ordered the secret police to register all Jewish citizens and to monitor their activities during the 1970s and 1980s.

UDV head Vaclav Benda told the Czech Press Agency that the Czech secret police ultimately compiled a list of 15,000 names, adding that the police “followed people” who visited synagogues, met with Israelis or had relatives in Israel.

Benda’s deputy, Vladimir Bret, said such surveillance was probably due to Soviet concerns about the Arab-Israeli conflicts at the time. The former Soviet Union was a major backer of some of Israel’s Arab foes.

During the investigation into the secret police’s registration of Czech Jews – “Operation Spider” as it was called – it was also discovered that Moscow had ordered all its former satellite Communist states to carry out similar surveillance operations.

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