Czech musician minimizes his neo-Nazi past, but there is proof of his present links to right-wing extremists
In a recent interview with radio anchor Zuzana Bubílková, Tomáš Hnídek Ortel downplayed the political significance of his band, Ortel, more than once and was intentionally vague about his own long-ago past and the band's more recent associations. Ortel asserts that he has nothing to do with the neo-Nazi movement today.
When we take a closer look, though, at the people with whom Ortel has stood side by side during recent demonstrations, or at the logo he wears on his baseball cap, or at the demonstrations where he or his bodyguards appear, his connection with the current neo-Nazi, right-wing extremist scene becomes absolutely and unequivocally apparent. Speaking on the "What Do You Think, Zuzana?" program on Radio Impuls, Ortel, who used to perform with the neo-Nazi band Conflict 88, was asked whether he identified with the "Heil Hitler!" greeting that was shouted at that band's concerts (its name includes the neo-Nazi cryptogram for that greeting, 88) and answered that back then he had been the band's drummer.
"I did not identify with that greeting. That was 20 years ago, and I have somehow developed since then. Not just my thinking has developed, but naturally also my positions have developed. At that time I was the drummer of that band, I was with them a year and a half," he said.
In that context it is worth mentioning the fact that last year at the Schenk restaurant in Plzeň, of which he was the owner at the time, it was possible to order "Mr Ortel's Goulash" for the symbolic price of CZK 88. Moreover, Ortel still performs acoustic versions of some of the songs from the repertoire of the Conflict 88 group today, just under another name.
Bubílková mentioned the recently broadcast footage produced by documentary film director Vít Klusák in which he captured Ortel fans giving the Nazi salute at one of his concerts. "On the Czech Television program 168 Hours, the director Vít Klusák has documented the fact that people are still giving the Nazi salute at your concerts. That I saw for myself, so that is happening at them," she said.
"To tell you the truth, I haven't seen that footage, but I was told that it's just a clup from the foyer at the concert where there were some people who needed to draw attention to themselves through that form of behavior.All I'm saying is that I perform each weekend here and at every concert we have police. We are under police surveillance. If anything like that were to happen at our concerts regularly, then they would have not allowed us to get this far already quite some time ago," he answered.
When asked whether he would admonish a fan if he saw one giving the Nazi salute, Ortel answered "Naturally!" However, there is photographic evidence of the fact that at a party for the Serbian branch of the Blood and Honour orgnaization, Conflict 88 performed in concert and the singer did not make any effort to admonish the fans who were giving the Nazi salute there - the backdrop for that performance included banners with the skulls of the neo-Nazi organizations Blood and Honour and Combat 18.
Bubílková also noted that Ortel gave the now-banned neo-Nazi Workers' Party permission to use its song "Rag" (Hadr) as its anthem, but the singer responded with this excuse: "I gave them just an additional agreement because we are not registered with the OSA [music licensing organization]. If somebody takes our song and uses it as their anthem, we can't do anything about it."
If we more thoroughly investigate this claim, through which Ortel is de facto distancing himself from any association with the Workers' Party and neo-Nazis, we arrive at several interesting inconsistencies. In August 2013, for example, Ortel stood side by side with well-known neo-Nazis from the Czech Lions (Čeští lvi) group and attended a demonstration in Plzeň where, as a proper "patriot", he held the Czech state flag upside down.
On that same occasion the singer was also wearing a baseball cap with the logo WPEP (White Power European Patriots), which is an association established by a former Workers' Party member, the neo-Nazi Jaromír Pytel. That association became "famous" through the photos of its August convention in 2011 in the South Bohemian town of Kaplice, where everybody was giving the Nazi salute until the cows came home.
As if that weren't enough, Ortel performed in 2015 repeatedly at the so-called "People's Camps" orgnaized by the right-wing extremist National Democracy party, which espouses the ideas of National Socialism, and whose chair is the antisemite and racist Adam B. Bartoš. It is also worth mentioning Ortel's musical performance at the demonstration on 17 September 2016 on Wenceslas Square in Prague that was organized by Bartoš and by Lucie Hašková of the group "For Our Culture and a Safe Country" (Za naši kulturu a bezpečnou zem).
The Islamophobe Martin Konvička also offered Ortel an opportunity to perform on the same stage as a Romani singer, which the band clearly refused, of course. They had no choice - the closest circle of people around Tomáš Ortel, his private security team, includes an adherent of the "Order of the Nation" (Řád Národa) political movement, Petr Procházka, who frequently shares very hateful, racist posts on his Facebook profile aimed especially against blacks and Romani people, and who frequently expresses open adoration for Adolf Hitler.
In the images that Procházka shares online, Hitler is depicted in a series of memes with texts that read: "You exit at the train station and it's Gypsies everywhere!", "Not enough gas, dude!" or an image of a KKK member in a white hood with the text "WHEN WE EXTERMINATE THE NIGGERS WE WILL DEFEAT RACISM! SAY NO TO RACISM", etc. He has been Ortel's bodyguard and his chauffeur, and he probably contributed to organizing his concert at the House of Culture in Luhačovice that just took place on 3 December 2016.
In the context of such evidence, the probablity that Tomáš Ortel is unaware of what kind of people he is attending demonstrations with, whose logo he has on his baseball cap, who organizes the demonstrations he appears at, who his bodyguard, co-organizer of his events and driver is - well, that probability is practically zero. In the context of such overwhelming evidence, it is impossible to call him anything other than a neo-Nazi and a racist.
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