Vice-Mayor of Czech Republic's second-largest city calls xenophobia the national hobby
Brno Vice-Mayor Matěj Hollan (Žít Brno - Live Brno) has engaged in a sharp exchange with South Moravian Governor Michal Hašek over comments Hollan made about xenophobia in Czech society. "[During the Holocaust] there was majority-Czech anti-Semitism, which we love to forget about today, and the anti-Gypsyism of that time, which a big segment of society dismisses today, because to this day verbally sending 'Gypsies' to the gas chambers is the national hobby. These are modes of behavior and thought that are deeply rooted among the Czech public. Reading the debates today about Muslim refugees is essentially absolutely the same as reading the remarks that used to be made about the Jewish refugees. Back then the Jews (and the 'Gypsies') were to blame for everything, and today it's the Muslims (and the 'Gypsies')," Hollan wrote.
When recounting a recent trip to Brussels, where he attended the opening of an exhibition about Brno's famous Tugendhat Villa, Hollan criticized Czech society for its past and for its present behavior within the framework of the "refugee crisis", adding: "Many more nationalities used to live in Brno, some of whom we sent to the gas chambers, some of whom we expelled, and the city suffers from that to this day." Governor Hašek responded: "I would like to emphatically point out that we Czechs actually did not gas anyone in the past. The Vice-Mayor should apologize for his scandalous words."
Hollan did apologize, but also used the opportunity to criticize Czech society even more strongly. The Czech News Agency item reporting on the issue characterized it as follows: "Hollan apologized for his text about sending people to the gas chambers, which outraged a broad segment of the public."
The Vice-Mayor phrased his "apology" as follows: "If we take the sentence at issue literally, it is inaccurate. In the concentration camps, as is known, only people of Aryan origin were permitted to work as guards. I therefore apologize for the oversimplification of my remarks - even the most hard-core Czech anti-Semite could not have worked as a guard in a concentration camp."
In an article called "We're screwed and have no one to blame but ourselves," Hollan writes: "I understand that many people, Governor Hašek above all, don't like to hear this, but that is who we were and that is who we are to this day. This Czech entrenched xenophobic mentality prevents us from being a balanced, conscious society, from being a society that is not afraid of the errors of our own past and that does not fear the challenges of the future - today the issue is solidarity with people of a different confession who are afflicted by war and other hardships, tomorrow it might be something else."
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