Terezín Memorial no longer collaborating with controversial head of Czech Freedom Fighters' Union
The Terezín Memorial will no longer be involving the Czech Freedom Fighters' Union (Český svaz bojovníků za svobodu - ČSBS) in the annual commemoration ceremony honoring the victims of the former concentration camp. Neither Czech MP Tomio Okamura nor other members of the extremist "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) party, which he chairs, will be officially invited to the event either.
Jan Roubínek, director of the memorial, announced the decision in an interview for Forum24. "I think that from the perspective of the Terezín Memorial and partners of the commemoration ceremony we can consider the affair of our partnership with the ČSBS to have been dealt with," he said.
"Members of the preparatory committee for the ceremony unanimously did not recommend collaboration with the ČSBS. Not only do I respect their opinion, I share it," the director said.
Rank and file members of the ČSBS who fought Nazism, as well as former fighters and prisoners who are not ČSBS members, will be sincerely welcomed to the memorial, the director said, because their heroism during the war is immeasurably appreciated. The reason the ČSBS is no longer officially involved has to do with the actions of its chair, Jaroslav Vodička, and not just recent ones.
At the close of 2018, Vodička decided to give a medal to Zdeněk Ondráček, a Communist MP who physically intervened against those who disagreed with the communist regime using a truncheon during the demonstrations of "Palach Week" in January 1989. According to news server Echo 24, Vodička is listed as a secret agent (an informer) with communist state security and kept his previous membership in the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia a secret.
Another reason the memorial has ceased collaboration with the ČSBS is Vodička's speech at the commemoration in 2016, which sparked a great deal of controversy. The ČSBS head attacked both the public broadcast media and refugees in his remarks.
"We ask, with concern, the leadership of the public broadcast media, which primarily delivers very biased information: What about the millions of mainly economic migrants fleeing for a more comfortable life who have no desire to defend their own countries? These people are fleeing in order to profit from our years of work and from the European economic and social system built by the generation before us," Vodička literally said.
"They are not here because they are unfree at home, or if they are unfree, they don't want to fight there for change to benefit their people. These are young, healthy men with new mobile phones in their hands, wearing leather coats that cost thousands, and the heart-rending photos of sinking barges on the sea are very often produced by the criminals who smuggle them," the ČSBS head said at the commemoration event for Holocaust victims.
Tomáš Rieger, the head of the external relations department of the Terezín Memorial, had already announced in December that there would be no further collaboration between the memorial and the ČSBS. Vodička is currently also a Regional Assembly Member in the Ústecký Region on behalf of both the Citizens' Rights Party - Zeman and Okamura's SPD party, representatives of which are being investigated in association with Holocaust denial.
"Neither Mr Okamura nor any other SPD member were ever officially invited to the commemoration and they will not be. However, if he decides to visit the National Cemetery at Terezín during the ceremony, I am not able to prevent him from doing so," Roubínek told Forum24.
"His remarks and statements by some members of his movement deny the Holocaust and its Romani victims, and I publicly condemned them in January 2018, but of course I am unable to play the role of a bouncer during the ceremony, nor do I want to play the role of deciding who is and who is not allowed to visit the National Cemetery," the director said. Official invitations will not be sent to Okamura nor to any other member of the SPD, he emphasized.
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