Open Letter: Conveners of Holocaust commemoration are too quiet after politician disgraced it
I decided to write an open letter to the convening organizations of the annual commemoration at the memorial to the Terezín concentration camp because the memory of the victims of Nazism has been disgraced there more than once now. This happened most recently on 19 May 2019, when the President of the Senate, Jaroslav Kubera, gave a speech there desecrating their memory.
The organizer who invited the nationalist xenophobe [Czech MP] Jaroslav Foldyna to the ceremony this year did not leave him in the background, but mentioned him as one of the first guests in the welcoming remarks (you can see the welcome he was given at 16:31 in the Czech Television footage of the ceremony here. In addition to other matters, Foldyna has recently belittled Holocaust victims of Romani origin.
After sending this letter, I received an answer from the Federation of Jewish Communities. I have included it here.
Open Letter to the Institutions and Organizations Convening the 2019 Terezín Commemorative Ceremony
To: the Czech Culture Ministry, the Terezín Memorial, the Ústecký Regional Authority, the City of Terezín, the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, the Terezín Initiative
cc: [media outlets, individuals and organizations]
Prague, 22 May 2019
Esteemed representatives of institutions and organizations,
I am the son of a woman who passed through three Nazi concentration camps - Terezín, Auschwitz, Flossenbürg and then, at the end of the war, after surviving a death march, she ended up at Terezín again, where she and her sister were liberated by the Red Army. Her parents, my grandparents, were murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz. Mother was a member of the Jewish Community in Prague.
It is with disgust that I have been following the desecration of the memory of the Jews and Czechs who suffered and were murdered at Terezín, as various speakers, during the Terezín commemoration, have exploited the occasion to engage in xenophobic propaganda or to score political points by making populist, ideological declarations. None of the organizers have responded to these abuses as they should. I recall the Jewish Community of Prague and the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic spoke up in 2016 when this happened, but the representatives of all the other organizations kept quiet at that moment, as if nothing had happened.
The xenophobic speech made by Jaroslav Vodička that year became infamous - he was the then-chair of the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union who attacked refugees across the board by saying these words: "They are fleeing not with a desire to defend their homelands, they are fleeing in order to mine our European socioeconomic system, which was built over the years by the work of the generations before us." Most of the refugees who were arriving in Europe at that time came from Iraq and Syria, countries where armed conflicts and war had already taken the lives of many victims. I am glad that organization is no longer among the organizers of the Terezín commemoration and I am grateful to whomever arranged that.
Of course, back then none of the organizers ever said they were bothered by the presence at the ceremony of [Czech MP] Tomio Okamura, the chair for life of the fascisizing "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) party, or of the nationalist, xenophobic vice-chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), [Czech MP] Jaroslav Foldyna.
At this year's ceremony, the President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Jaroslav Kubera, was not forgiving of speech that is hateful toward different opinions. However, according to him, totalitarianism and intolerance toward other races is taking an absolutely different form today: "For example, it is veiled by the words ecology, environment, equality of the sexes, political correctness, and multiculturalism," he said.
The director of the Terezín Memorial, Jan Roubínek, officially welcomed Foldyna to the ceremony again this year, since somebody must invite him in his capacity as a guest. I would remind you that this member of the ČSSD belittled Holocaust victims of Romani origin. He also enjoys traveling with the Night Wolves, a motorcycle gang of pro-Putin Russians infamous for their violence, including murders, and for their grim nationalism.
Esteemed organizers, I consider ceremonies conducted in this way to be a desecration of the memory of the victims of Nazism, including the memory of those who survived, not ceremonies of reverence paying respect to them. I can assure you that my grievances are shared by many of my acquaintances and friends.
I am asking you, therefore, to unequivocally condemn the speech made by Jaroslav Kubera, by saying that while you respect his right to his opinions, a commemorative ceremony is not the place for them. I am also asking that you stop inviting people like Okamura or Foldyna to this ceremony.
Answer from the Federation of Jewish Communities
Dear Mr Kostlán,
We have received your attachment about the Terezín commemorative ceremony.
As an organizer of that event we were also surprised by the half-sentence in which the President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Mr Kubera, compared certain contemporary phenomena to attempts to establish a new totalitarianism. Nevertheless, that was the only point of contention in his entire speech, which was otherwise of high quality, and for that reason we do not consider it appropriate to condemn it in its entirety. Naturally, we will convey these negative reactions to the senator.
We assume you noted a fundamental change to this year's commemoration ceremony, in that the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union did not appear there as a co-organizer. There were also essential changes made to the protocol of the event.
MP Foldyna attended the ceremony on behalf of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Mr. Vondráček, to whom the invitation was addressed, which is absolutely legitimate from the standpoint of protocol.
This year's ceremony, therefore, took place in a very dignified spirit, from our perspective - with the exception of Senator Kubera's remark - and it was not disrupted by the attendance of the so-called "Domobrana" ("Territorial Militia"), who were removed from the area of the assembly by the appropriate authorities without members of the public noticing their presence.
JUDr. Tomáš Kraus, Secretary, Federation of Jewish Communities
- Czech descendants of WWII resistance fighters demand senator resign over speech at Holocaust memorial
- Czech Senator compares environmental, gender equality, multiculturalism advocacy to racism and totalitarianism at Holocaust site
- Czech lower house decides not to strip MP of immunity over his remarks denying the Holocaust of the Roma
- Czech lower house committee does not recommend stripping MP of immunity over denying the Holocaust of the Roma
- Czech Police propose indicting two men who desecrated memorial to Holocaust victims of Romani origin
- Czech MPs avoid round table about the Holocaust and its Romani victims
- Monika Mihaličková to the Czech Senate: Election laws must not allow the horrors of the Holocaust to repeat
- Czech Police must re-investigate one MP for Holocaust denial, but head of ultranationalist party will not be prosecuted
- VIDEO: Chair of Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust in the Czech Republic on the archaeological findings there
- Commentary: Actual risk now exists that deniers of the Holocaust of the Roma could join the Czech Government
- Holocaust memorial in Czech town will bloom with yellow crocuses in the spring
- Roma Holocaust Memorial Day marks the Nazi murder of Roma and Sinti at Auschwitz on 2-3 August 1944
- Třebíč, Czech Republic commemorates anniversary of Holocaust transports from there
- Miroslav Rác: 21st century classical music teaching the lessons of the Holocaust and its Romani victims
- Public discussion reviews Czech and Slovak policies and practices of commemorating the Holocaust and its Romani victims
- LIVE BROADCAST TONIGHT: Contemporary research of the Holocaust, Romani victims, and their public commemoration
- Czech Senate elections won by "Mayors" party, xenophobic rhetoric scored no votes, owner of disinformation tabloid not reseated
- Czech poll finds 30 % of the public does not want Romani children in mainstream classes and does want them to be segregated
- Czech court upholds suspended sentence for man who called for non-white first-graders to be gassed to death
- Romani candidate for Czech Senate will not advance to the second round, but scores better than his extremist opponents
- YouTube restores Czech politician's channel but deletes two posts that spread hate
- COMMENTARY: Even if the Czech Public Defender of Rights repeats the same lie about Roma a thousand times, that won't make it true
- Holocaust survivors and remembrance organizations object to how younger generation is using TikTok to commemorate victims
- Czech President to decide whether Romani musician to receive state honors as Senate proposes
- Former Czech ombudswoman running for Senate on a platform of justice, in the broadest possible sense
- Czech mayor claims all those number 8's in her event have noooothing to do with neo-Nazis
- In one Czech Senate race, the "private individual vs. bureaucrat" distinction is being drawn
- Czech football hooligans' racism against black player to be addressed by disciplinary commission