Czech MP compares French President Macron to Hitler at commemoration of the Nazi occupation, Czech Defense Ministry distances itself
The Czech Defense Ministry has distanced itself from a commemoration held on Tuesday by the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union (Český svazu bojovníků za svobodu - ČSBS) marking the 80th anniversary of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, during which French President Emmanuel Macron's plan for EU reform was compared to the antisemitic book Mein Kampf by the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. In adding to featuring Czech MP Václav Klaus, Jr. (Civic Democratic Party-ODS), who made the remark, representatives of the ČSBS, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) and the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" movement (SPD) also made appearances at the event.
Czech Senator Pavel Fischer said the event constituted an abuse of a military commemoration and asked Czech Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar (for ANO) not to repeat similar events. "I unequivocally distance myself from what was said in some of the speeches. On a day when the highest constitutional officials, the ministry and the Army are also commemorating the anniversary of our joining NATO, such statements are unacceptable," Metnar responded in a press release.
The Defense Ministry went on to say that it was not involved with the event in any way and had merely acceded to the ČSBS request to borrow their hall and Honor Guard for a commemoration of the anniversary of the Nazi occupation. "Because the ČSBS is not just [its chair] Jaroslav Vodička, but is thousands of resistance fighters and veterans whom we appreciate, we are considering what our next steps will be, among which could be our eventually ending our collaboration with this union," Defense Ministry spokesperson Jan Pejšek said.
The commemorative event featured speeches by ČSBS chair Vodička; KSČM chair Vojtěch Filip; Ivan David, the lead candidate of the SPD in the European Parliamentary elections; and Senator Jaroslav Doubrava (North Bohemians - Severočeši), who in the past has made racist remarks about Romani people. The ČSBS originally wanted to hold the event at the Old Town Hall in Prague, but Prague City Hall refused to provide them with space there.
Fischer condemned the fact that the event was held at the House of the Army. "On the anniversary of the [Nazi] occupation the only people from Parliament present at the House of the Army were those who have distinguished themselves by making crude remarks about Jewish people, as well as those who have supported the occupation of Ukraine," he tweeted.
The Senator called on Metnar to prevent such events in the future. "As chair of the Committee for Defense and Security, I ask the Defense Minister to explain what measures he has adopted to make sure political agitprop abusing the armed forces and the historical anniversaries of our country cannot happen again," he said.
The event was also criticized by the author and publisher Jiří Padevět, whose works investigate the history of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. "The event was meant to be a commemoration of the beginning of the Nazi occupation, but in my opinion it was rather a display of the worst the current public sphere has to offer. I do not understand how it is possible that the Honor Guard of the Army of the Czech Republic was present during a speech by Mr Václav Klaus, Jr., in which he compared French President Macron to Adolf Hitler," he wrote in an open letter to Metnar and the Chief of the General Staff, Aleš Opata.
Padevět also criticized Doubrava's participation and reminded officials that the Senator has supported the internationally unrecognized territory in the east of Ukraine that is now under the command of pro-Russian separatists. The author was also bothered by the involvement of the ČSBS, which collaborates with the Alliance of National Forces (Aliance národních sil) and the Club of the Czech Borderland (Klub českého pohraničí).
According to Padevět, both of those groups adore the current regime in Russia. The Czech Senate has recommended its members limit their participation in events organized by the ČSBS.
According to a resolution adopted in February by the upper chamber, the ČSBS is abandoning its original values and inclining toward those of the previous communist regime. Some local authorities, in response to repeated controversies associated with the ČSBS, announced they no longer want to subsidize it.
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