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Member of Czech Freedom Fighters' Union says chair did not speak for her during the Terezín commemoration

17.5.2016 15:02
Gabriela Havlůjová, chair of the Kladno branch of the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union.
Gabriela Havlůjová, chair of the Kladno branch of the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union.

As a member of the Founding Organization of the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union (ČSBS) in Kladno, I must respond to the speech given by the chair of the ČSBS, Jaroslav 
Vodička, on behalf of all the members of the ČSBS during the official speeches at the Terezín commemoration on 15 May 2016. Speaking as a representative of the ČSBS,  

Vodička called for protecting our borders against refugees and for the protection of our culture.

This is not the first time he has abused his position and used us, the members of this organization, as cover for presenting his personal opinions. The first criticism we made of him was when he publicly supported the presidential campaign of Miloš Zeman in the name of the ČSBS without ever allowing the broader membership base of the organization to adopt a position on that issue.

Despite that criticism, he has not learned his lesson. Now he has made an appearance with a speech in which he essentially outlined his personal views with regard to the current international situation and in addition made use of the stereotypical, xenophobic opinions that are so dangerous today.

That speech also gave the impression that it was the shared opinion of everybody whom he represents as chair of the ČSBS. It was not.

I strongly distance myself from the remarks made by Jaroslav Vodička and I have immediately demanded that the Central Committee of the ČSBS review his speech during its meeting today. The Czech Freedom Fighters' Union is not just the successor to what used to be called the Union of Anti-Fascist Fighters, but as its name clearly indicates, it has a broader focus which naturally also includes the fight against racism and xenophobia.

The chair of the ČSBS should be a role model for those of us who are rank and file members, and he should also be aware that he still continues to represent many heroes and survivors of the Second World War, as well as our brothers and sisters who frequently found themselves in conditions similar to those of today's refugees. One of the members of our Kladno branch who is in her 90s and who survived three years in a concentration camp told us recently that she was sorry she wasn't younger and didn't have more strength, because if she were able to do so she would immediately take one of the families fleeing today's war into her own home.

The chair of the ČSBS, however, has once again abused not just his position, but also the Terezín commemoration to make remarks with which I do not identify, and I must emphasize that he does not speak in my name. I would like to thank Chief Rabbi Karol Sidon for his words as well as Michal Frank of the Jewish Museum in Prague, who commentated the Terezín Commemoration on Czech Television and criticized Jaroslav Vodička's speech.

Gabriela Havlůjová is a doctoral candidate and historian at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. While she is also the chair of the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union branch in Kladno, this commentary is her personal opinion only. 

Gabriela Havlůjová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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