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Czech seminar focuses on neo-Nazism

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PRAGUE, Jan. 11 (JTA) — The growth of neo-Nazi activities in Europe has come under the spotlight here.

German experts recently visited Prague for a seminar on the topic involving Czech government ministries and Jewish representatives.

Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, praised the seminar, “Against Right-Wing Extremism in Europe.”

“There are of course professional contacts between the German and Czech authorities who are dealing with this issue, but this was the first time that they were prepared to share information with nongovernmental organizations,” he said.

Topics included how extremists have been using the Internet as a propaganda tool.

That issue recently made headlines in the Czech Republic as the country’s press reported that Czech extremists were using U.S.-based servers to operate their Web sites after being shut down at home.

Kraus spoke of the importance of vigilance in combating extremists.

“We are not in the worst situation in this country. The Czech Republic, with its rare incidents, is not in as bad a situation as Germany or some European countries where intolerance and attacks are more frequent.

“But we cannot underestimate the dangers,” he added.

Last month’s event was organized by the Prague office of a German public interest institution, the Ebert Foundation.

The foundation’s director, Heidulf Schmidt, told JTA that he came up with the idea for the seminar after watching a German documentary last May that claimed German neo-Nazis had found new room for their activities in the Czech Republic.

“I was shocked when I saw that documentary, so I thought it would be good to arrange for people from different ministries in the Czech Republic to get together and talk about the problem of neo-Nazism here, ” he said.

Among those who attended the event were representatives from the office of President Vaclav Havel, who has often publicly condemned right-wing extremism.

Schmidt plans a second seminar in Prague later this year.

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