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Shofar FTP Archive File: people/t/tiso.jozef/press/jozef-tiso


Archive/File: fascism/slovakia reuter.032695s
Last-Modified: 1995/04/02
 
 Slovak Jews fear campaign to make fascism respectable
    By Chris Sulavik
    BRATISLAVA, March 27 (Reuter) - As Slovakia enters its third
 year of independence, the tiny remnant of its Jewish community
 fears a campaign is under way to rehabilitate fascists who aided
 the Nazis in their near-annihilation.
    Jewish leaders are alarmed by praise lavished on Jozef Tiso,
 a Roman Catholic priest who proclaimed the first nominally
 independent Slovak state but collaborated in mass deportations
 of Jews to Hitler's death camps.
    In an open letter to leading politicians, the Slovak Jewish
 Community Union said: ``Despite declared support for democratic
 traditions, our concern is growing over the campaign to
 rehabilitate exponents of fascism.''
    Tiso led a Nazi puppet state from 1939 to 1945. Under his
 rule, the Nazi-trained Hlinka Guard brigade was formed and
 helped Hitler's plan to wipe out European Jewry.
    About 60,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz camp alone and
 a national uprising in 1944 was brutally put down by German
 forces. Slovakia's Jewish community has shrunk to just 3,000
 members today from 120,000 before World War Two.
    Prominent among Tiso's admirers is Jan Slota, leader of the
 far-right Slovak National Party (SNS) which is a junior partner
 in Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's coalition.
    ``We bow before Jozef Tiso, and we are glad that he lives
 and will continue to live in the Slovak nation for a long
 time,'' the Czech news agency CTK quoted Slota as telling a
 rally commemorating the birth of the first Slovak state.
    ``If it had not been for this great achievement, we would
 have been eradicated,'' he said.
    Tiso was executed as a war criminal in 1947 but some Slovaks
 say his cooperation with Nazi Germany was motivated by a desire
 to ensure the survival of the Slovak state rather than by
 allegiance to the Third Reich.
    Many Slovaks believe that their country was a victim of
 foreign domination for too long. For centuries it was ruled by
 the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and when that empire collapsed in
 1918, Slovakia became part of new-born Czechoslovakia.
    Slovaks believe they were again dominated, this time by the
 more advanced and prosperous Czechs. Apart from the brief
 nominal independence under Tiso, Slovakia became a sovereign
 state only when Czechoslovakia split up at the start of 1993.
    This willingness to give Tiso at least the benefit of the
 doubt is what troubles the Jewish Community Union.
    ``There are some groups here which want to rehabilitate
 Jozef Tiso, whose rehabilitation is impossible to separate from
 the rehabilitation of Slovak fascism ... This campaign is
 organised, enduring and aggressive,'' it said in the letter sent
 to Slota, Meciar, President Michal Kovac and other leaders.
    The letter has yet to prompt a response but Slota stands by
 his comments.
    ``I deeply believe that the first Slovak president, Father
 Jozef Tiso, did everything possible to put out the fires of the
 war and to enable Slovakia to survive them,'' he told Reuters.
    ``Slovakia was surrounded by fascists, and one has to put
 himself in the position of those who saved this nation.''
    Not all Slovaks supported Tiso during the war. Some hid Jews
 in their homes and joined the unsuccessful uprising. Last year,
 Israel honoured 23 Slovaks who saved Jewish lives.
    Nor is admiration of Tiso shared by all Slovaks. Kovac has
 spoken out against atttempts to rehabilitate fascism.
    Overt expressions of anti-Semitism and neo-fascism were rare
 under communism but since 1989 there have been at least 10
 incidents of vandalism at Slovak Jewish cemeteries.
    Last year an American rabbi was assaulted in Bratislava and
 skinheads have attacked gypsies.
    The question remains whether nostalgia for the Tiso days is
 confined to an extremist fringe.
    ``It's hard to say if this is a marginal trend or one that
 is reaching into the mainstream in Slovakia,'' said Frantisek
 Alexander, a Jewish leader.
    ``The best we can do is just emphasise our concerns,'' he
 told Reuters. ``That's all we can do.''


 Slovak MP extolls Slovakia's Nazi past in house
    BRATISLAVA, April 5 (Reuter) - Slovakia's wartime past as a
 Nazi puppet state resurfaced on Wednesday when a parliamentary
 deputy from an extreme-right party praised the president of the
 so-called First Republic.
    ``I'm proud that we have had such a president as Jozef Tiso
 was,'' Vitazoslav Moric told parliament, the Slovak state news
 agency TASR reported.
    Jozef Tiso, a Roman Catholic priest, proclaimed the first
 nominally independent Slovak state in 1939 but collaborated in
 mass deportations of Jews to Hitler's death camps. He was
 executed as a war criminal in 1947.
    Moric spoke in defence of his Slovak National Party (SNS) --
 a partner of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's ruling coalition
 -- after an opposition deputy asked the house to discuss a
 decision by SNS leaders to attend an art exhibition opening
 which the deputy said ``glorified'' Tiso.
    Moric added that if there had not been a wartime state, then
 Slovakia could not have gained the independence it won in 1992,
 TASR said.
    Tiso led a Nazi puppet state from 1939 to 1945. Under his
 rule, the Nazi-trained Hlinka Guard brigade was formed and
 helped Hitler's plan to wipe out European Jewry.
    About 60,000 Slovak Jews were deported to the Auschwitz camp
 alone and a national uprising in 1944 was brutally put down by
 German forces.
    Slovakia's Jewish community has shrunk to just 3,000 members
 today from 120,000 before World War Two.
    Fears of rising neo-Fascism in Slovakia recently prompted
 Jewish leaders to speak out.
    In an open letter to leading politicians, the Slovak Jewish
 Community Union said: ``There are some groups here which want to
 rehabilitate Jozef Tiso, whose rehabilitation is impossible to
 separate from the rehabilitation of Slovak fascism.''
    ``This campaign is organised, enduring and aggressive,''
 said the letter sent to Slota, Meciar, President Michal Kovac
 and other leaders.
    Not all Slovaks supported Tiso during the war. Some hid Jews
 in their homes and joined the unsuccessful uprising. Last year,
 Israel honoured 23 Slovaks who saved Jewish lives.
    Overt expressions of anti-Semitism and neo-fascism were rare
 under communism but since 1989 there have been at least 10
 incidents of vandalism at Slovak Jewish cemeteries.
    Last year an American rabbi was assaulted in Bratislava and
 skinhead attacks against gypsies have been reported.

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