Czech veterans snipe at growing number of fakes

Foto: CTK

In recent months, there have been increasingly frequent reports of Czechs trying to pass themselves off as veterans of the Second World War. And real veterans are far from impressed - groups such as the Czech Freedom Fighters' Assocation have spoken out against such behaviour, and even raised the question of whether such a practice should be outlawed. Rosie Johnston has the story:

Foto: CTK
Veterans' groups have been up in arms this week about what they insist is an upturn in the number of 'fake veterans'. With old uniforms and medals from the Second World War being easy to find in antique shops, army shops, and over the internet, the Czech Freedom Fighter's Association insists that more and more people are dressing up as ex-soldiers, and misleading the public.

According to Jaroslav Marsak of the Freedom Fighters' Association, this phenomenon is at its worst at commemorative gatherings. He says that it is not at all uncommon to see someone who has never actually fought in a war donning a uniform and laying a wreath. The daily Pravo recently received an anonymous tip-off that during a commemorative gathering in Lezaky, a village which was burnt to the ground in WWII, an aquaintance of the reader, "a policeman and not at all a soldier", was parading as a serviceman. The reader went on to say that at the end of the Second World War, this man was five years old.

Osvobození Plzně, foto: www.usembassy.cz
Various veterans' groups have suggested that the Ministry of Defence should push for a ban on people wearing uniforms that they have not earned the right to through combat. At the moment, the only law that the Ministry of Defence enforces is a ban on people wearing police and other emergency service's uniforms when this is not their job. But according to Stanislav Kokoska from the Institute of Contemporary History, this is not a matter for the Ministry of Defence:

"I don't think that this issue is really something that can be rectified by law. I think it is more an issue of personal conduct, and indeed a question of ethics, because everyone obviously knows within themselves whether they actively fought against whichever regime or not. It is really rather a question of how you see your own worth."

The small number of remaining Czech veterans is both a problem and, in part, a solution to the problem. The circles of veterans here are now pretty small, and so any newcomer is treated with some suspicion. But, as former soldier Ivan Solovka told Pravo, the dwindling number of Czech veterans means that there are less and less people at hand to take charge of the situation.