Czech Interior Ministry and Prague City Hall stop leasing properties to publisher who released Nazi calendar, MPs plan to ban the sale of Nazi symbols
Speaking after a meeting Tuesday with the Ambassador of Israel to the Czech Republic, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) said the Czech Interior Ministry has withdrawn from a contract to lease warehouse space to the Naše vojsko ("Our Troops") publishing house because it has released a calendar with portraits of figures from the Nazi Third Reich. The Foreign Minister added that goods of this sort have no business being sold in the Czech Republic.
In April, Prague City Hall withdrew from its lease for the publishing house's retail outlet near the Anděl metro stop. Michal Klíma, chair of the Endowment Fund for Holocaust Victims, has filed a criminal report over the calendar, and another is being prepared by the Federation of Jewish Communities (FŽO).
Petříček said that during their meeting, Meron had asked about the case. "I informed him that a criminal report has already been filed and that the Interior Ministry has withdrawn from its warehouse contract with the publishing house. Items like these have no business being sold in Czech shops, they belittle the atrocities of the Nazi regime, and this must especially be a sad thing for Israel to see," the Foreign Minister wrote to the Czech News Agency (ČTK) in a text message.
In addition to Meron, the Ambassador of Germany to the Czech Republic had also previously criticized the calendar. The Interior Ministry, according to the news server Deník N, had leased warehouse space to the publishing house through one of its contributory organizations.
That lease will end on 30 June. "The termination of the contract was sent by the Service Facility for the Ministry of the Interior to the Naše vojsko publishing house this morning," Deník N quoted Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (ČSSD) as saying on 27 May.
"To use items with the portraits of Nazi leaders to generate profit is, from my persective, in poor taste and immoral. Unfortunately, however, a lack of taste in that direction is not a crime. The criminal justice authorities have repeatedly reviewed this and arrived at that conclusion," the Interior Minister previously told news server iROZHLAS.cz.
Prague City Hall had already withdrawn from a lease with the publishing house prior to this most recent scandal and will no longer lease retail space to the company in the Smíchov quarter. According to Prague City Councilor Jan Chabr (TOP 09), at the end of April the city gave the company six months' notice on the lease.
"Just as we have approached cancelling the leases of dishonest money changing businesses, just as we have cancelled leases of city-owned real estate to retailers who sell matryoshka dolls and the masks of various dictators, we also cancelled the lease of this renter in April. The city does not want to put up with business people using its property whose business activity is decidedly ethically beyond the pale," Chabr said in a statement sent to ČTK.
Federation of Jewish Communities to file criminal report
The Federation of Jewish Communities (FŽO) said it planned to file a criminal report over the calendar on 27 May. The Federation does not just consider the publishing of the calendar itself, but also its graphic design, to be support for Nazism, in other words, a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms, and glorification of its representatives who are mostly Nazi war criminals.
Petr Papoušek, chair of the FŽO, informed ČTK of the news. He said the report of a crime would be filed against both the publisher and its director.
František Bányai, chair of the Jewish Community of Prague, sent an open letter to the owner of the publishing house asking that he immediately stop selling the products and arrange for them to be destroyed. He sent the letter to ČTK as well.
"Your products glorify murderers and have a high potential to negatively influence the young generation, to belittle this horrible past, and to incite hatred and new violence. A commercial plan based on the interest of persons fascinated by evil and violence lacks any feeling for or perception of human dignity, it is the total absence of decent business practices, and I see this as exceptionally foul vulturism," Bányai said in the letter to Emerich Drtina, who owns the publishing house.
The police have previously investigated the publisher for producing and selling coffee mugs and t-shirts with portraits of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich. In the summer of 2018, however, they closed the case and stated it had not risen to the level of a felony.
According to police spokesperson Jan Daněk, speaking at the time, the officers had failed to demonstrate "that the cause or motive for the release of the morally contentious imprints on the mugs and t-shirts was anything other than that of profit within the framework of economic activity." He added that there is no anchoring of a general ban on depicting or publicly presenting figures or symbols of any kind in Czech law.
According to Papoušek, the criminal justice authorities' finding that such a matter could not be prosecuted under applicable law has apparently inspired the publisher to create the calendar with the figures of the Third Reich. "In our opinion, arguments based on freedom of speech can no longer be defended in this case," he said.
"It is paradoxical, in and of itself, that if you do something for free, it is criminal, but if you do the same thing for the purpose of making a profit, then it can no longer be considered a crime," said the chair of the board of the Endowment Fund for Holocaust Victims. MP Jan Bartošek of the Christian Democrats is drafting a bill because of the scandal that will be about items featuring Nazi subject matter.
"This legislation is clear, simple, understandable and uncompromising," he told the Radiožurnál station. As for the director of the publishing house, he does not see these products as the promotion of Nazism.
"We publish all of this for the purposes of making a profit. I don't have anything else to add," the director wrote to news server iROZHLAS.cz.
The publishing house is still advertising mugs and t-shirts with Nazi portraits on its website. The newly-published calendar features images of Hitler, Heydrich, Reich Minister for Bohemia and Moravia Karl Hermann Frank, Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, and Deputy Führer of the Nazi Party Rudolf Hess.
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