Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Slovakia: The tragedy of the Jews of Slovakia

Karl Pfeifer recently interviewed the Slovak historian Prof. Dr. Pavol Mest’an, director of the Jewish Museum in Bratislava.  Via Harry's Place

[...] Is there a glorification of the Slovak state of 1935-1945 and of its anti-Semitic policy as in Hungary, where pro-government historians try to rehabilitate Horthy? They do this by camouflaging the active role of Horthy and his system in the Holocaust of Hungarian Jews and by way of searching for justifications for the anti-Jewish policy of the Horthy regime.
There is a similarity. I have published two books on anti-Semitism in Slovak politics [1989-1999 and 2000-2009] and analyzed two decades of political developments in Slovakia, and controversial publications. I hoped that the number of anti-Semitic and xenophobic books and articles of this kind would decline over time. This did not happen. If we take into account that the Slovak book and print market is not a large and influential one in the European context, these number over the course of twenty years are almost unbelievable, and precisely for this reason, alarming.

Unfortunately it is not only the most radical ultra-nationalists who are openly propogating the antidemocratic direction of the satellite pro-Nazi state, its extreme ethnic nationalism and virulent anti-Semitism in an effort to glorify this state. In addition, some representatives of the Catholic Church, some historians close to Matica Slovenská (Slovak Heritage Trust) do too.

Josef Tiso with Adolf Hitler (Berlin)
Could you give an example of a Catholic author who is doing this?

One example, Milan Stanislav Ďurica, SDB, belonging to the Salesian order, is a Slovak historian and theologian, professor of ecclesiastical history at the Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Divinity of Comenius University, Bratislava.  [...]

Ďurica endeavors to prove that:
[Monsignor Josef] Tiso, the Catholic Church in Slovakia, and the state had nothing to do with fascism and Holocaust;
– Church leders did not partake in the exercise of power;
– Tiso and the church were merely some sort of appendage and victim of the Prime Minister, Dr. Tuka;
– Tiso and the church saved the majority of Jews.  [...]

Can one today – when only about 2,000- 4,000 Jews live here – win votes in an election with anti-Semitism?

Open anti-Semitism is a domain for extremist groups that are marginal elements. No party can gain voters today with anti-Semitic agitation. Extremists use explicit anti-Semitic language mainly on their websites. There is also anti-Zionism present in leftist circles and slogans against Israel come from them, denying the right of the Jewish state to self-defense. Their approach is sometimes quite sophisticated.

Anti-Semitism is not only a problem of the small Jewish community but of one of the Slovak society. Does the Slovak government confront honestly the evil past?

An official statement 70 years after the Slovak uprising started on 29 August 1944 says, “The Slovak armed struggle against Nazism was also a fight for the Slovaks’ own national existence.” The Slovaks demonstrated their national growth and inner self-consciousness through the Uprising, which was triggered by the decision to end their vassal dependency on Nazi Germany. Indeed this day is national holiday in Slovakia and there is no way back to clerical fascism. The government is subsidizing our museum, which is visited by many school classes, and Slovak teachers learn at Yad Vashem how to teach about the Holocaust. Next January the Museum of Holocaust will be opened at the location of former concentration camp in Sered, a project with the help of the Jewish Museum of Bratislava.

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