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September 19, 2019
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Italian theater cancels neo-Fascist concert co-opting Czechoslovak historical figure, so it moves from Verona to Lazis

18.1.2019 17:09
Jan Palach was the Charles University student who set himself on fire on 16 January 1969 to protest the end of the Prague Spring after the August 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies. A copy of his death mask is now the centerpiece of the Jan Palach memorial on Charles University's Faculty of Arts building on Jan Palach Square in Prague.  (Collage:  Romea.cz)
Jan Palach was the Charles University student who set himself on fire on 16 January 1969 to protest the end of the Prague Spring after the August 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies. A copy of his death mask is now the centerpiece of the Jan Palach memorial on Charles University's Faculty of Arts building on Jan Palach Square in Prague. (Collage: Romea.cz)

Czech Television reports that a theater in the northern Italian city of Verona has cancelled its lease with the neo-Fascist groups who wanted to assemble there on 19 January and hold a concert "honoring" the memory of the Czechoslovak historical figure Jan Palach. The Italian Catholic Church has expressed its dislike of the concert and the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague has also been fighting it.

The concert has now been relocated. The association called "Nomos - Country and Identity", which is holding the event, asked the Teatro Stimate last November for the use of its concert hall, with a capacity of approximately 400.

The Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata, a clerical religious organization established in Verona in 1816, initially approved the lease. After a wave of criticism from both the Czech Republic and Italy, they cancelled it.

"It's absurd that a concert has been denied to us in the year 2019, but it's clear that the Congregation wants to distance itself from this affair," Andrea Bacciga, the organizer of the event and a member of the local assembly in Verona, told the Il Giornale newspaper. His allegation that the Congregation wanted to distance itself from the controversy was confirmed by Silvano Nicoletto, who works for the organization.

Bacciga also said the concert will be a benefit for people affected by last September's floods in Verona. Ciro Mascio of the ultra-right party "Brothers of Italy", was quoted as commenting that "It's important to remember people such as Jan Palach."

"He is a symbol of the fight against all dictatorships," the ultra-right party member said. "It's sad that when one group commemorates somebody, another protests against it."

Paolo Berizzi of La Repubblica reports that at the municipal level, those who voted in favor of the concert this week were the "Onward, Italy" party of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; two right-wing groups, "Brothers of Italy" and "Lega", which is part of the governing coalition nationally; and two local civic initiatives. A petition against the concert drawn up by the Student Council of the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague has been signed by approximately 2 300 people.

The Charles University students demanded the city of Verona withdraw its auspices and distance itself from the concert, but according to the Czech-Italian journalist Andreas Pieralli, Verona has been a bastion of the extreme right for the last 10 years. Pieralli told Czech Radio's Radiožurnál station that it is unacceptable for such a concert to be given auspices by the Italian authorities, i.e., even by the Italian Government.

According to today's reporting, the concert will still be held tomorrow, Saturday, 19 January, in the town of Lazis near Verona. Organizers from the Nomos association have officially announced the change.

Local authorities, both municipal and provincial, have confirmed they are still giving their auspices to the controversial event. The news of the planned concert by neo-Nazi bands dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Palach's self-immolation caused an enormous international controversy already at the end of 2018.

Many Czech politicians and representatives of the Italian left have expressed their outrage at the idea. According to media reports the concert is meant to feature the bands Compagnia dell'Anello, Hobbit, and Topi Neri, as well as the singer-songwriter Gabriele Marconi, and more than 300 tickets to it have already been sold.

The organizers have now arranged for the concert to take place in a hall at the Movieland amusement park in the small town of Lazis on the banks of Lake Garda, about 30 kilometers to the west of Verona. Those who bought tickets will be transported free of charge to Lazis from Verona by bus.

Those involved with the concert all have ties to the ultra-right. Compagnia dell'Anello is one of the first bands ever to be categorized as "Nazi rock".

Hobbit was established and fronted by Emanuele Tesauro, who during his student days was the chair of the neo-Nazi group "Fortress Europe", which is a reference to the Nazi Third Reich. The author and songwriter Marconi was a member of the neo-Fascist "Third Position", which ceased its activity in 1982.

Verona's reputation as a bastion of the ultra-right is because extremists are represented in the local administration there. The memory of Jan Palach is also being honored in the city by two other events that have nothing in common with the ultra-right, however.

Today there will be a commemoration of Jan Palach at the local headquarters of the Movimento Nonviolento, a movement of pacifists. Tomorrow evening there will be a public commemoration of his memory by several Italian student associations in collaboration with the anti-Fascist group ANPO, the Verona Sera newspaper reported online.

SB, fk, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Fascism, Italy, Jan Palach, Neo-Nazism



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