Peroutka’s granddaughter wins apology from president, but fails to clear grandfather’s name

Ferdinand Peroutka, photo: Czech Radio / archive of Slávka Peroutková

The saga of the drawn-out court battle between Czech President Miloš Zeman and the granddaughter of one of the most respected Czech journalists Ferdinand Peroutka has taken a new twist. Terezie Kaslová, who claims the Czech head of state insulted her grandfather’s memory by saying he had written an article called Hitler is a Gentleman received a measure of satisfaction: she won an apology but, surprisingly failed to clear her grandfather’s name.

Ferdinand Peroutka,  photo: Czech Radio / archive of Slávka Peroutková
Ferdinand Peroutka, often referred to as the father of Czech journalism, is one of the most respected Czech journalists of all time. He was active in the interwar years and following the birth of independent Czechoslovakia helped establish a free press in the country. After 1939 he was imprisoned by the Nazi regime, left the country after the 1948 communist coup and later worked for Radio Free Europe. So it came as a shock when President Miloš Zeman, speaking at a conference marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, suggested that, like many intellectuals of the time, Peroutka was fascinated by the Nazi ideology and even wrote an article called Hitler is a Gentleman.

Terezie Kaslová,  photo: CTK
His outraged granddaughter sued the state over the president’s words, insisting that her grandfather had never authored anything of the kind. A futile search followed for the article and in March of this year a court ordered the Office of the President to apologize for his remarks. The president’s office appealed the verdict and a new ruling by an appeals court was expected to swing fully in Terezie Kaslová’s favour. However the verdict came as a shock. The judge ruled that the President’s Office must apologize for the president’s claim that Peroutka was the author of an article called Hitler is a Gentleman, but not for suggesting that he was fascinated by the Nazi ideology. He based the decision on the argument that one of Peroutka’s many articles called Czechs, Germans and Jews was, in his view, openly anti-Semitic. Peroutka’s granddaughter came out of the courtroom in shock.

Miloš Zeman,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“It is hard to describe my feelings. I would say that what I feel above all is amazement, amazement that the court passed judgement, when the judge was to verify whether or not my grandfather had written a certain article and made a certain claim. To say he was anti-Semitic is ridiculous. His daughter, my mother, was a Jew. I feel more pained by this verdict than by the president’s words.”

The Office of the President, which will have to apologize for some of the president’s statements, is treating this as a victory and Peroutka’s granddaughter is considering an appellate review of the verdict.