Czech politicians outraged by Justice Minister's remarks about the Nazi Protectorate
Politicians are outraged by remarks made in an interview for news server Echo24 by Czech Justice Minister Helena Válková (ANO) about the situation of Czechs during the time of the Nazi Protectorate. The minister said that "not that much happened" to Czechs under Nazi occupation.
According to Miroslav Kalousek, vice-chair of the TOP 09 party, the minister has insensitively caused injury to all victims of the occupation. Martin Kupka, vice-chair of the ODS (Civic Democratic) party, said Válková was denying the suffering of thousands of Jewish people.
Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, the head of the ANO movement, has criticized Echo24 for conducting what he called a tendentious interview. Válková later apologized for her remarks.
The Justice Minister stated during the interview that she is partially of German origin but does not hold German citizenship. When asked her opinion of the postwar displacement of the German population from Czechoslovakia, she responded: "The worst. I understand it was a response to what had been done to the Czechs before that, but on the other hand, not that much happened in the Protectorate."
The Justice Minister has since apologized for making an incomplete statement about the Protectorate, as follows: "In that statement in the interview, during which I was primarily focusing on other questions, I did not present the entire context. With respect to the remark that 'not that much happened in the Protectorate', what I meant was that not much happened compared to the situation in other countries such as, for example, Poland or the Soviet Union. I decidedly do not dispute the crimes that were committed against the population of the Protectorate or the suffering caused. I naturally consider what happened during that period to be completely inexcusable. If my statement lacking that context might have been taken by anyone in any other way, then I am very sorry, and I apologize that I did not insist on authorizing the text of the interview prior to its publication."
"This is an insensitive, unbelievable affront to all victims of the Nazi occupation, including the victims of the Holocaust and our soldiers who fell victim while serving in armed forces abroad," Kalousek responded. "I understand that former members of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and former agents of the Communist secret police may have various opinions about that unfree period in our history, but I protest against the public expression of affronts of this type."
Válková is a former Communist Party member. Babiš is suspected of having collaborated with the Communist secret police during the totalitarian era.
"Introducing the displacement of the Germans into that context is historically absurd and unacceptable. At the very least it denies or ignores the suffering of thousands of Jews who were displaced from Czech territory during the war and subsequently murdered, it denies the annihilation of entire Czech villages, it denies the suffering of thousands of courageous inhabitants who were murdered," said Kupka, adding that the ODS believes that while it was important for Czechs to recognize their share of the blame for the violent postwar displacement of Germans, it is unacceptable to link condemnation of that displacement with any kind of minimization of what was done by the Protectorate government.
Babiš has now called Echo24 a "group of so-called journalists who have asset-stripped [the daily] Lidové noviny and are fans of ODS". "According to my information, that remark was taken out of context," the Finance Minister said, adding that Válková had said the entire interview had been conducted in a tendentious way with the aim of harming her.
The ANO chair also emphasized that the Justice Minister is not a member of the ANO movement and that her remarks were her personal opinion. "This was a provocation, and you are doing it for Kalousek and [former ČEZ boss Martin] Roman," Babiš accused a representative of Echo24 during a government press conference.
Válková then issued an official statement apologizing for the incompleteness of her remarks. For his part, Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) has said that neither his government nor any of his ministers disputes the events that occurred during the Nazi occupation and Protectorate rule, nor the postwar events, including the Beneš Decrees.
"I believe there is no reason to stir up discussion in this way," he said. If Válková really spoke in those words, then Sobotka believes it was an "erroneous, factually inaccurate remark", noting that there were more than 300 000 people who fell victim to the Nazi occupation of the Czech lands.
A similar sensation was also caused in the Czech Republic by the recent remarks of Communist MP Marta Semelová. During a Czech Television program, the legislator talked about the totalitarian show trial of politician Milada Horáková and the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Semelová expressed doubt as to whether Horáková's confession had actually been forced (Horáková was sentenced to death during the show trial and then executed). Other members of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia have since distanced themselves from her opinions.
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