Jewish Community warns against rise of neo-Nazis

The Federation of Czech Jewish Communities issued a strongly-worded statement on Sunday, warning against what they called the protection of neo-Nazi groups and tolerance of their activities.

The statement was made at the Terezin National Cemetery, at a ceremony in honour of victims of the Nazis. More than 200,000 Jews were dragged off to Terezin during the war. One in five of them died in Terezin itself, another 100,000 perished in extermination camps such as Auschwitz, after being first interned at Terezin. "We wish to express our indignation over the fact that neo-Nazi activities are being tolerated in a country where 80,000 of our nearest of kin were killed during the Nazi regime," read the statement. Olga Szantova spoke to the Federation's secretary, Dr Tomas Kraus, and asked him whether the situation really warranted such fears.

Tomas Kraus: The situation is getting worse gradually. We are witnessing here what we would describe as a tolerant attitude towards these events.

Radio Prague: What makes you feel that the situation is getting worse? Are there more instances of racism?

TK: Yesterday, at the press conference, there was Mr.Sakl, who is monitoring the activities of neo-Nazis. We are working with him on monitoring all these issues and he says that he is witnessing a big growth of neo-Nazi events. Half a year ago they were monitoring one event in a month, now it's at least one a week. And it's not only the Czech neo-Nazi movement. There is a close link with the German neo-Nazi circles and English neo-Nazi circles. They are very well organized through internet and this is alarming.

RP: In his interview published in today's newspaper Rabbi Sidon quotes instances where skinheads, who attacked Roma citizens, received only very lenient punishment. Would you say that this is only anti-Roma or also anti-Semitic?

TK:The neo-Nazi right wing scene was for quite a long time not primarily anti-Semitic. They used words which were traditionally anti-Semitic, but there were no direct verbal attacks or incidents. Of course the main target here is the Roma community. But, if any minority would be under attack, we, as Jews with our experience, we have the duty to warn, to speak up.

RP: Would you say that it's just the case of the police not interfering adequately and the courts being too lenient, or is it the general atmosphere that's getting worse in the country?

TK: I think it's interconnected, it's both. The whole society as such is tolerant towards these acts. What is alarming here is that those young people, according to several studies are being misused for ideological purposes which are tending to become a part of the political scene here and this is alarming. We are only saying that we are the ones who have the unfortunate experience and we have to warn.

Author: Olga Szantová
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