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May 19, 2022



Czech descendants of WWII resistance fighters demand senator resign over speech at Holocaust memorial

23.5.2019 8:07
President of the Czech Senate Jaroslav Kubera during the commemorative ceremony at Terezín on 19 May 2019. (PHOTO:  Czech Television)
President of the Czech Senate Jaroslav Kubera during the commemorative ceremony at Terezín on 19 May 2019. (PHOTO: Czech Television)

Senators from the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-ČSL), the Senátor 21 party and the STAN party have distanced themselves from a recent speech given by the President of the upper chamber of the Czech Parliament, Senator Jaroslav Kubera (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) in which he alleged that advocacy of multiculturalism or political correctness involves covertly advocating totalitarianism. The senators, including Kubera's rival for the seat of Senate President, Václav Hampl, as well as former presidential candidates Jiří Drahoš and Marek Hilšer, said Kubera's speech on the occasion of Sunday's commemorative ceremony at the Terezín concentration camp memorial was disrespectful, inappropriate and undignified.

Responding to a question from the Czech News Agency, Kubera said he had not meant to insult anybody, but wanted to warn against intolerance. Amnesty International in the Czech Republic, the Czech Women's Lobby, Greenpeace in the Czech Republic, and the Society for a Permanently Sustainable Life issued a joint statement calling on Kubera to publicly apologize. The descendants of the anti-Nazi resistance fighter Evžen Štern have gone even further, deeming the Senate President's remarks scandalous and calling on him not just to apologize, but to resign.

Journalist František Kostlán, whose forebears perished in Auschwitz, has also issued an open letter calling this year's ceremony a desecration of the memory of the victims of Nazism. The Czech Union of Jewish Students protested Kubera's speech immediately on Sunday, saying they considered his comparison of racism and totalitarianism to the fight for environmental protections or in favor of multiculturalism to completely contradict the meaning of the commemoration at Terezín and to have been both offensive and pathetic.

"Any such labeling is the first step towards earmarking a part of the citizenry for exclusion and has no place in a civil, democratic society," their statement said. Kubera claims he never intended to insult any of the victims of totalitarianism.

"The point of my speech was not to insult anybody. It was exactly the opposite. I was warning against intolerance of all kinds," the senator said.

The 17 senators who have issued a joint declaration about Kubera's speech at Terezín said it must be understood as his personal opinion only. "Given the suffering that was experienced by the victims of totalitarian regimes, we consider the words of Jaroslav Kubera highly disrespectful; given the place of reverence where they were delivered, a place where, in the name of the Nazi ideoogy, several thousand of our fellow citizens were murdered, his words were inappropriate; given the absurdity of the analogy he used, they were pathetic; and given that he made those remarks as President of the Senate - the second-highest constitutional officer in the land - they were also undignified," the declaration says.

According to the four descendants of the anti-Nazi resistance fighter Štern, Kubera's "ill-considered statements have disgraced and insulted the memory of all of the Holocaust victims, both those from abroad and those from Czechoslovakia, who passed through Terezín." As for Kostlán, he has called on the director of the Terezín Memorial and the leaders of other institutions and organizations to "unequivocally condemn the speech by Jaroslav Kubera by saying that, while you respect his right to his opinions, a commemorative ceremony is not the place for them. I am also asking that you cease inviting people to that ceremony like [Czech MP] Foldyna or [Czech MP] Okamura."

During his speech at the ceremony, Kubera remembered the victims of Nazi despotism and warned against apathy and the elimination of differences of opinion. "We are indifferent to the recurrence of totalitarian thinking, which involves overtly saying 'Whoever is not with us is against us and must be silenced'. Totalitarianism, intolerance of other races or different opinions can and does take an absolutely different form today. For example, it is veiled by the words ecology, environment, equality of the sexes, political correctness, and multiculturalism," he said.

The descendants of the anti-Nazi resistance fighter Štern said in their statement that environmental protections, equality of the sexes, multiculturalism and political correctness are absolutely common aspects of all democratic countries' laws and programs. Political correctness, they say, arose above all as a defense against the Holocaust repeating so that nobody could ever abuse communications and language again in order to gradually pave the way for genocide and industrial murder.

In their joint statement, Kubera's fellow senators said the Czech constitutional order guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms to all irrespective of their sex, as well as the right of the country's inhabitants to a favorable living environment. According to the sociologist Fedor Gál, who was born in the concentration camp of Terezín and who went on to establish the Public against Violence movement in the late 1980s, Kubera has belittled the suffering of the victims of totalitarianism.

Eliška Kodyšová, president of the Czech Women's Lobby, said Kubera's speech was unacceptable. According to the director of Amnesty International in the Czech Republic, Mark Martin, Kubera's speech could legitimize antipathy for civil society.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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