PRAGUE (Apr. 27)
The Czech chapter of a Christian pro-Zionist organization has criticized what it sees as the ineffectiveness of the Czech police against the growing number of neo-Nazi gatherings in the Czech Republic. The Czech chapter of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem sent a letter to the country’s Interior Ministry on April 21, writing that there have been at least 10 neo-Nazi concerts in the country since January.
The group has also organized a parliamentary debate on combating new forms of anti-Semitism, scheduled to take place May 26 in the Chamber of Deputies.
“We consider the activity of the Czech police as absolutely insufficient. We want the police not only to monitor these concerts, but to stop them from taking place,” said the chairman of the chapter, Mojmir Kallus.
He said the police offer several reasons for their inability to break up the gatherings.
“They tell us first that they don’t know what goes on at these events, so how can they know that any laws are broken? But since we are able to get a young man into the concerts who records anti-Semitic and racist slurs, surely they can do the same and even better,” Kallus said. “I find it ironic that we seem to know more about what goes on at these concerts than the police.”
The infamous sieg heil salute was given by the audience and performers during a concert in Jablonec v Podjestedi on March 25 that was attended by about 400 neo-Nazis from the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Slovakia, Kallus said. He added that at a similar concert on April 9 at Hostenice, a band performed a song with the refrain, “I will not give Jews any chance — Bolshevik stench.”
Kallus said speeches and songs at the concerts clearly violated Czech law because they “supported an ideology aimed at suppressing people’s rights and freedoms.”
The Czech Republic has an anti-discrimination law that punishes racial hate speech with fines and jail time.
“Then the police say they can’t do anything because the concerts are private gatherings. Now that’s just ridiculous,” Kallus continued.
He is not alone in his impatience with the police.
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, a member of the Christian Democratic Party, recently was asked at a public forum whether the laws should be changed to prevent the increase in neo-Nazi concerts.
He answered that the laws were sufficient and instead questioned police competence. “These events would never occur to such an extent in Germany. The police would shut them down,” he said.
However, a spokeswoman for the state police, Blanka Kosinova, suggested the police are powerless against the growing number of neo-Nazi gatherings. “We only have the power to intervene if there is a suspicion there has been a crime committed,” she said. She noted that because such events are secret until the last minute, the police usually don’t know about them until they’re over.
Indeed, Kallus says that one of the reasons for the increase in such events is that cell-phone messages and the Internet have made it easier for organizers to communicate with potential concertgoers without having to do so publicly.
He also pointed to the concert’s proceeds, which are used to fund the group’s often-illegal activities.
The estimated number of neo-Nazis in the Czech Republic is tiny when compared to neighboring Germany or Poland, according to the League Against Anti-Semitism in Prague.
But Kallus was troubled by the international nature of the March gathering.
“The neo-Nazis are probably coming here more frequently because the police are much tougher on them in their own countries. This is not the reputation we want,” he said.
He was particularly concerned because of the growth of the extreme right in the bordering German state of Saxony — a neo-Nazi party made sweeping gains in Saxony’s 2004 parliamentary elections.
“Perhaps at the bottom of this is that since we lived in a police state until 1989, the police are now reluctant to flex their muscles,” said Kallus. “They don’t want to look like they are limiting anyone’s right to expression.”
Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, says he’s happy that “it’s not always us Jews speaking out against anti-Semitism. We love ICEJ.”