PRAGUE (Jul. 10)
A teacher’s manual romanticizing the lot of Slovak Jews during World War II will not be withdrawn from Slovakian schools.
Ondrej Nemcok, Slovakia’s deputy minister of education, said this week that “History of Slovakia for Slovaks” would remain in school libraries, though it would not be used as an educational tool.
“If the manual is distributed to schools, why shouldn’t it remain in libraries?” Nemcok said Tuesday. “In Germany, `Mein Kampf’ was distributed and was available in libraries,” said Nemcok, referring to the infamous treatise written by Adolf Hitler.
Slovak Jews have voiced outrage at the government’s decision, and at the perceived support for the manual by the Catholic Church.
“We have protested several times against this open approval of fascism,” said Josef Weiss, director of the Central Federation of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia.
The senior education official’s comments came less than two weeks after Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar criticized the manual at a conference in Amsterdam.
He said the publication “could not be used in the education sector” because segments of the manual are “inaccurate and historically wrong.”
The premier’s comments led many observers to believe the manual would be withdrawn after protests by Jewish groups and other organizations, including the European Union, which had financed the publication and distribution of 90,000 copies of the manual. The EU later explained its decision to fund the manual as an oversight.
The manual, written by Milan Durica, a Slovak priest and Padua University professor, states that during school holidays, children detained in an internment camp near Bratislava “could spend a period outside with Jewish families living in freedom.”
“Dentists were even able to offer gold teeth” to the camp’s residents, “which the great majority of the Slovak population could not afford,” the text states.
Jaroslav Sranek, spokesman for the Jewish federation, said that at a June 30 meeting attended by national religious leaders and Slovak President Michal Kovac, Cardinal Jan Korec and other high-ranking church officials expressed their support of the manual.
Korec was unavailable for comment, but the Slovak Press Agency TASR quoted the archbishop’s office in Trnava as stating that the manual “is a professionally written overview of the history of Slovakia and Slovaks drafted in national spirit.”