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Political Turmoil in Slovakia Spawns Old-time Anti-semitism

March 15, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Political turmoil in Slovakia has spawned an anti-Semitic campaign exploited by racists and used for their own ends by nationalist demagogues who threaten the existence of Czechoslovakia as a federal state of two national republics.

The scapegoat at the moment is Fedor Gal, coordinator of the Public Against Violence, the political arm of Slovakia’s governing coalition.

Slovakian Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar broke with it after the movement’s managing committee refused to merge the post of coordinator with the office of prime minister.

It was a strong vote of confidence in Gal, who was born in the Theresienstadt ghetto in 1945.

Because of his Jewish background, his policies have been attacked as “Zionist” and “cosmopolitan.”

Gal fully supports economic reform in Czechoslovakia and President Vaclav Havel’s democratic ideas.

Meanwhile, Meciar, reputedly the most popular politician in Slovakia, seems to believe he can gain mileage by pitting himself against Gal.

When Gal was confirmed as coordinator of the Public Against Violence movement, Meciar and 12 followers left to found a rival political movement, with a platform stressing Slovakian nationalism.

At the same time, a group of Slovak intellectuals, including a number of former Communists, issued a declaration claiming priority for laws passed by the Slovak National Council over those adopted by the Czechoslovak Federal Assembly.

Slovakian nationalists organize daily meetings in Bratislava, their capital, in support of Slovakian independence. It is at such rallies that leaflets charging a “Zionist conspiracy” are distributed.

The well-organized Voice of the People celebrated on March 14 the 52nd anniversary of the founding of the Nazi puppet state of Slovakia, which proceeded in the next three years to deport virtually all of Slovakia’s Jews to death camps.

Havel, in one of his regular broadcasts to the nation, warned Slovaks to remember that March 14, 1939, brought war and misery, and that the Slovak state then was Hitler’s creation.

The president’s spokesman, Michael Zantovsky, pointed out at a news briefing that a new coalition seems to be forming in Slovakia consisting of old-line Communists, reform Communists of 1968, separatists and those who recall wartime Slovakia as a golden age of the Slovak nation.

Besides nationalist and personal political reasons, the upheaval in Slovakia has economic and social roots.

Nationalist leaders on the right and socialists on the left blame federal authorities for radical reforms aimed at a market economy that are hurting the Slovakian economy.

For example, many factories built in Slovakia under Communist rule to supply Soviet bloc countries and their Arab allies with arms and ammunition no longer have outlets for their products.

At the same time, unemployment is growing in Slovakia faster than in the Czech republic.

Little wonder, then, that the majority of the few Jews remaining in this country stands firmly behind Havel and the forces who want to save democratic Czechoslovakia.

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