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Former prisoners of Nazi concentration camps demand removal of Bátora from Czech EdMin

Prague, 7.8.2011 22:35, (ROMEA)

The Union of Liberated Political Prisoners and their Bereaved – Czech Republic (Svaz osvobozených politických vězňů a pozůstalých ČR), founded in May 1945 by former prisoners of the Nazis, has called on Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Education Minister Josef Dobeš to correct the conditions now prevailing at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. The former prisoners are particularly concerned that persons advocating the values of democracy and tolerance have their positions in the leadership of that institution strengthened. News server Romea.cz prints their statement in full below.

Esteemed Mr Prime Minister,

We are writing to remind you of what you said on 27 January 2011 during a hearing honoring the memory of Holocaust victims in the Senate of the Czech Republic. You told those present that even today we are leading the same struggle for our souls, for the future of our children, for the meaning of human existence, and for the values of our Western civilization. We completely agree with that opinion and believe we are called to defend it with more than words.

As representatives of former prisoners from both the Nazi and the communist eras, we consider it our obligation to preserve democratic values in this country. We are very disturbed that an institution which strongly influences the future of our children has a person such as Mr Ladislav Bátora, who does not meet these basic criteria, in its management.

According to the available information, this person espouses anti-Semitism and fascism. Moreover, in the past he has been involved with neo-Nazis who deny the Holocaust, and he ran as a candidate for nationalists who have disparaged the Romani victims of the Holocaust. At a recent press conference, this man did not distance himself from any of these activities and did not even consider it necessary to express himself openly about them. His continuing engagement at the ministry is a mockery of all the international obligations the Czech Republic has espoused as part of its educational projects commemorating the Nazi genocide of Jews and Roma.

It is sad that Minister Dobeš has been supported in his choice of Mr Bátora by the President of the Republic and others who resort to hateful verbal attacks instead of fairness and tolerance. If Minister Dobeš does not change his style, it will result in an undemocratic method of instruction throughout the entire school system of the Czech Republic. We fought against that during the Second World War and laid down our lives for it. If Minister Dobeš does not change his position, it will be a clear signal to the public that the entire ministry is heading in the wrong direction.

We cannot imagine that here, in the land of Comenius and Masaryk, someone could become the director of the Education Ministry’s human resources department who celebrates such an anti-Semitic, brutal book by Rudolf Vrba as The Adulteration of the Slavs (Zkáza Slovanů). Bátora has maintained contact with the neo-fascist Patriotic Front (Vlastenecká fronta) and has run as a leading candidate for the National Party (Národní strana – NS), which among other things has disparaged those who were victims of the Holocaust at Lety by Písek. The ministry has been criticized for some time for its inappropriate approach to managing the education of youth, especially as far as the recent history of our country is concerned.

Esteemed Mr Prime Minister, we are turning to you as some of the last surviving prisoners of the Nazi concentration camps. It is our contention that we cannot stay silent while Mr Bátora receives such an important position or remains at the Ministry for Education, Youth and Sport. Please concern yourself with these matters as soon as possible so our nation will not have to once again live through another tragic era in its history.

On behalf of the Union of Liberated Political Prisoners and their Bereaved – Czech Republic (Svaz osvobozených politických vězňů a pozůstalých ČR, o.s.),

Oldřich Stránský, chair

Prague, August 2011

Gwendolyn Albert, Union of Liberated Political Prisoners and their Bereaved – Czech Republic (Svaz osvobozených politických vězňů a pozůstalých ČR), translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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