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Terezín Initiative considers Bátora at EdMin a mockery of the fight against racism

Prague, 26.9.2011 8:49, (ROMEA)
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The Terezín Initiative (TI), an organization of Jewish people who survived imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps, is demanding the removal of Ladislav Bátora from the Czech Education Ministry. The board of the organization made the announcement last week.

TI considers the continuing employment of Bátora, a former candidate for the ultra-nationalist National Party (Národní strana), in a high position at the ministry to be a mockery of all calls to fight extremism. The former prisoners are also disturbed by the support Bátora has received from Czech President Václav Klaus.

The declaration, signed by TI board members Michaela Vidláková, Anna Hyndráková and Dagmar Lieblová, says Bátora's radical right sympathies include anti-Semitic and racist stances. "In the name of its members, those few people still living who survived the Holocaust, the board of the Terezín Initiative sharply condemns the fact that a person such as Mr Ladislav Bátora has the opportunity to influence not only events in this country, but also the education of Czech youth," the leadership of the initiative write.

TI considers Bátora's continuing employment by the ministry to be a mockery of all of the constantly repeated calls made in the fight against extremism, racism, and xenophobia, as well as the efforts to establish peaceful coexistence between minorities and tolerance. "We emphatically demand not just that Mr Ladislav Bátora be removed from his post at the Czech Education Ministry, but we also reject his reassignment into any other position in the state administration," the declaration reads.

TI members also expressed amazement at the fact that Czech Education Minister Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs - VV) "is so insistent" that a person with such opinions and a checkered past should work for his ministry. "Isn't the effort being made by Minister Dobeš to keep [Bátora] at the ministry at all costs a definite signal that the ministry will be leading the youth in the spirit of [Bátora]'s opinions?" the declaration asks.

The initiative also says it is outraged by the posturing of Czech President Klaus with respect to this scandal, in particular by his article about a "small Czech Hilsner Affair", in which he defends Bátora. "[Klaus] demonstrates a total lack of understanding of the essence of the Hilsner Affair itself and the role President Masaryk played in it," the TI leadership warn.

Bátora has participated in lectures on "Czech anti-Jewishness" organized by the ultra-nationalist Patriotic Front (Vlastenecká fronta). In a publication entitled "Czech Review - My Nation and My Homeland" ("Česká revue - Můj národ a má vlast"), he praised an anti-Semitic tract by Rudolf Vrba entitled "The Adulteration of the Slavs" ("Zkáza Slovanů").

Dobeš hired Bátora as his economic adviser in April over the protests of nonprofits and politicians. During summer vacation, the minister appointed him head of human resources. Under pressure from the TOP 09 party, the minister then transferred Bátora to the position of deputy head of his cabinet, which actually means he was promoted. Dobeš has stood up for Bátora many times in the past, saying his does his job well and is a conscientious Catholic and scholar of the nation. Bátora has also been defended by Klaus and his staffers.

Former Czech President Václav Havel has spoken out against the controversial bureaucrat. A group of Bátora's opponents also demonstrated during a recent visit by Czech PM Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats - ODS) and Education Minister Dobeš to visit the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Jitka Votavová, voj, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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