Czech ministry endorses textbook on ``Jewish usury'' By Jan Lopatka PRAGUE, April 9 (Reuter) - Fifty years after the Holocaust, the Czech Education Ministry has endorsed a history textbook accusing mediaeval Jews of extraordinary usury, ritual murders and responsibility for mutual hatred with Christians. The ministry is likely to cancel its endorsement but passages in the book which are reminiscent of Nazi Germany's anti-Semitic propaganda have still enraged Prague's tiny Jewish community. ``The passages touching on Jews grossly distort history, contain tendentious half-truths and false claims, and generally testify to the anti-Semitic intentions of the author,'' said Leo Pavlat, the director of Prague's Jewish Museum. The book has stirred a controversy around the Roman Catholic church only weeks before Pope John Paul is due to visit the Czech Republic on May 20 and 21. ``Handbook on Church History'' by Pavel Mracek, a lay member of the Dominican monastic order, contends that Jews were to blame for Christians' hatred which led to progroms. ``It is an irrefutable fact that Jews in the Middle Ages collected extensive assets in all countries, took over the money lending business especially and were extraordinary usurers, charging more than 100 percent interest,'' wrote Mracek. ``Apart from this, they committed ritual murders, crucified Christian boys, and persecuted and murdered Jews who converted to Christianity.'' Mracek attacked those who held the Roman Catholic church responsible for fomenting hatred of Jews and who liked to defend anybody who had been persecuted, while the question of guilt remained of secondary importance. The newly-published book has won a recommendation from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, meaning that pupils at state schools can get it free of charge. A ministry spokesman said that under rules used until the end of 1994, any book which was recommended by two reviewers chosen by the publisher would be approved by the ministry and listed among texts recommended to schools. The ministry has now ordered a new expert review. ``It is most probable that the book will be eliminated from the list (of recommended textbooks),'' said spokesman Arnost Kastner. But ministry views on the book's faults are themselves controversial. ``I think that those are mostly mistakes in formulation,'' said Kastner. A departmental head of the ministry, Jarmila Fucikova, was also quoted by the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes as saying the dispute was over only 10 lines in a 170-page book. Such comments do not go down well with the Czech Jewish population, which numbers just 15,000, a fraction of its size before Nazi Germany transported much of the community to its extermination camps in Poland. ``Their argument is that (the book) is not well formulated, and not that it is historically untrue and nonsense,'' Pavlat told Reuters. The Jewish Museum and the Federation of Jewish Communities are considering taking legal action over the book, saying that the passage incites racial and religious intolerance. Withdrawal of ministry recognition was not enough, said Pavlat. ``If a book contains such a slanderous passage, then does it get any better when a recommendation is taken away from it?'' he said, adding: ``This is a case for a court.'' Mracek was on a trip outside the Czech Republic and unavailable for comment on the book, which is produced by the Krystal publishing house. Krystal is partly owned by the Dominicans but a spokesman for the order, Odilo Stampach, said it had no editorial control over the publishing house. ``The probable reason why the author, who is not an expert in church history, wrote it is that he was drawing upon old, inappropriate sources and he could not judge the quality of their expertise and ethics,'' he told Reuters. ``Those were sources from the last century,'' he said. However, he did not explain why a non-expert in the field of church history had written a book about it.
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