slovak republic 2006
The far right
Slovak National Party joined the new coalition government after it won almost
12 percent of the vote in the June 2006 elections. The country recorded a low
level of antisemitic activity in 2006, although the trend of desecrating Jewish
sites continued. Right-wing extremists maintained their active campaign to
rehabilitate the wartime Tiso regime.
the Jewish community
Slovakia has some 3,000
Jews out of a total population of 5.35 million. The largest Jewish community is
in the capital Bratislava; smaller communities exist in Kosice, Presov, Komarno
and Dunajska Sreda.
Central Union of Jewish Religious Communities in the Slovak Republic is the main communal organization. In general, the Jewish community is an aging one;
however, there are signs of a revival of interest in Jewish roots among many of
the younger generation. In recent years local branches of B’nai Brith and
Maccabi have been established, and the Lauder Foundation and the American
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee promote activities for Jewish youth.
Museum of Jewish Culture has an impressive collection displaying the rich
Jewish heritage of the country. It organizes cultural and educational
activities, as well as seminars for teachers, and prepares documentary films
featuring Holocaust survivors. It also issues a variety of publications and
books on Jewish topics, and takes a leading role in Holocaust-related education
and activities in Slovakia.
POLITICAL organizations and antisemitic activity
Slovakia’s entry into
the EU in May 2004 changed the internal and external status of the country,
which in several years has advanced rapidly from what was considered a “second
rate” state of the former Communist bloc to the elite club of the first eight
former Communist states to join the EU.
Slovakia’s new standing
has hardened the position of extremist parties toward the Union as well as
toward other European structures of integration. The small extreme left and the
more vocal extreme right, as well as some populist groups, have warned against
the “march of globalization.” The Roma became a major issue after social
benefit cuts in early 2004 provoked violent clashes between them and the
authorities, especially in eastern Slovakia. Sporadic disturbances occurred in
2006 and the media was active in the public debates on the situation of the
Roma and their fate during the Tiso regime. The government held discussions
with representatives of the Roma community, following complaints of
discrimination against them.
the June 2006 general elections, the first since the country joined the EU, the
Slovak National Party (SNS), long branded an “ultra-nationalist, right-wing
extremist” organization, won 11.73 percent of the vote and joined the new
coalition government led by Robert Fico’s Smer Party. After the elections, a BBC
News analysis labeled the SNS a “far right” party (BBC World Service, 18 June),
and in October, Smer, which considers itself a “center-left” party was
suspended from membership of the Party of European Socialists (PES), on the
grounds that that its coalition partner, the SNS, “incites or attempts to stir
up racial or ethnic prejudices and racial hatred.” It should be noted, however,
that the SNS has no record of antisemitic pronouncements by its members. Relations
with Hungary also became more strained after the Hungarian minority claimed that
the government had adopted a more nationalist line toward it.
Matica Slovenska group has been behind the campaign to rehabilitate Jozef Tiso,
head of the wartime fascist regime, which was responsible for the deportation
of the country’s Jews to the death camps (see US State Department, “Report on Global Antisemitism
− Slovak Republic, 2004”). Other ultra-nationalist organizations
include the fringe Slovak People’s Party (SLS), which spreads xenophobic hate
messages, and the Slovenska Pospolitost (Slovak Community), formed in 1996 by
skinheads and other right-wing extremists. Like other similar organizations,
Slovenska Pospolitost publishes bulletins of its activities on the website of
the International Third Position, based in the UK.
organizational structure and modus operandi of Slovenska Pospolitost bring to
mind the wartime fascist Hlinka Guard. For instance, it has adopted the anthem
of the Tiso-led state. On 14
March the movement organized a rally in Bratislava, with some 150-200
participants, to commemorate the 67th anniversary of that state. The aim of the movement is to “rid ourselves once and for all of
enemies and parasites” and its motto is “For the good of the Slovak family, as
Jozef Tiso wanted.”
Pospolitost registered as a political party in January 2005, prompting calls
from liberal segments of Slovak society for it to be outlawed. The movement’s
ideology is clearly pro-Tiso: its bulletin praises the wartime state and uses
its symbols openly. It opposes the EU and accuses the Jews of harming Slovakia's interests, warning, “Do not let Slovakia be circumcised.” In March, the Supreme Court of
Slovakia banned the group, ruling that the existence of such a political party
contradicted the state’s constitution. However, it remained registered as an
NGO, whose exact status was in dispute (US State Department, International
Religious Freedom Report 2006 – Slovakia).
recorded a low level of antisemitic activity in 2006; however the trend of
desecrating Jewish sites continued.
April posters of Hitler, adorned with eagles and swastikas, were placed on a
monument to Jewish Holocaust victims in Rimavska Sobota; the site was also
vandalized in July 2005. Also in April, five tombstones were vandalized in
Rimavska Sec. There were no suspects in either investigation.
to the US State Department religious freedom report, some 500−800
neo-Nazis and 3000-5000 sympathizers were active in Slovakia.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
extremists (including neo-fascists, antisemites and populists) maintained their
active campaign to rehabilitate the wartime Tiso regime. Their attempts to
rewrite history took place in a variety of forums, such as “scientific”
meetings and various publications. The works of leading revisionists, such as
Milan S. Durica and Jozef M. Rydlo, who wrote positive appraisals of the regime,
were especially praised in the bi-weekly Kultura which identifies with
the Slovak fascist state and its Christian ideals. Its pseudo-intellectual
discourse is described by the editors as a forum “dedicated to ethics.” Kultura
serialized the memoirs of Alexander Mach, the wartime interior minister and one
of those blamed for the tragic fate of the Jewish community. While denying
there was antisemitism during the Tiso years, Kultura considered the “curtailing
of the Jews’ rights” an act of “heroism by Tiso and officials of the Slovak Republic” (2/2006). Likewise, Kultura paid respects to Tiso “on the
anniversary of the violent death of our president” (7/2006) (Tiso was executed
as a war criminal in 1946). According to Kultura, the youth of today had
fallen “easy prey to refined goal-manipulation by the enemies of Slovak
Narodny Noviny (Slovak National News), the weekly of Matica
Slovenska also openly supported commemoration of the war-time
state (on the paper's connection with Matica, see “Matica Slovenska Working
with Extreme Right Group,” Slovak Spectator, 5 Feb. 2007). In March, it
attacked those who perceive Tiso as a war
criminal. The paper also inferred that the arming of Nazi Germany in the 1930s
was supported by American Jewish capital. Moreover, it called for 14 March (the
establishment of the pro-Nazi puppet state in 1939) to be instituted as a “memorial day for
Slovaks.” (Slovenske Narodne Noviny, 6/2006).
addition, Slovenske Narodne Noviny took sides on the frequently debated
question as to whether there is antisemitism in present-day Slovakia. Like other pro-Tiso publications, it not only denied there was antisemitism in Slovakia but reiterated that, in any event, the Jews in Slovakia were not “Semitic in origin but
Khazar” (6/2006. For further material on the pro-Tiso literature, see Stephen Roth Institute
RESPONSES TO ANTISEMITISM
Members of the
Jewish community, together with liberal and democratic forces, have been
actively involved in the campaign against rehabilitating the Tiso regime.
events commemorating the beginning of the transport of Slovakian Jews to the death camps, in March 1942, took place in 2006. Traditional memorial services were held in Nitra and Kosice, as well as in Poprad, from where the first transport of unmarried girls
left on 25 March 1942. Such public events are usually covered by the media, and
institutions such as the Museum of Jewish Culture and organs of the Jewish
community also publicize them.
2006 general election triggered a marked rise in political extremism around the
issues of racism, intolerance and xenophobia. In this connection, numerous
activities took place which attempted to highlight the importance of the
struggle against antisemitism and the legacy of the war-time fascist regime.
Among them, were four exhibits organized by the Museum of Jewish Culture in
September, on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Jewish Codex – the antisemitic
legislation of the Tiso regime. Director of the Museum of Jewish Culture Pavol
Mestan spoke on “remembering the Holocaust, which is the first step of
[assuming] responsibility [for the past].” Another event was the awarding of a
certificate and the prestigious commemorative Hatam Sofer Medal, to Prime
Minister Robert Fico for his years of activity on Holocaust issues and for the
protection of the Jewish cultural heritage (Bojovnik, vol. 22, 2006).
on the Holocaust denial conference held in Tehran in December, the daily SME
noted that members of the Slovak National Council (parliament) had condemned it,
declaring that “we reject the attempts to doubt the facts of Nazi crimes
against the Jews and other ethnic groups as well as dissidents against the Nazi
regime… rather than helping clarify the historical truth, the Tehran conference
[serves to boost] the propaganda campaign against the State of Israel” (SME,
12 and 15 Dec.).
relations between Israel and Slovakia contribute to the development of joint
plans for programs in both countries to assist educators from Slovakia teach the subject of the Holocaust. Despite apprehensions following the formation of the
new government, there were no visible effects on cooperation between the two
states, including on those areas relating to antisemitism and Holocaust
closer cooperation between Slovak educational and cultural institutions with
their Israeli and Jewish counterparts, as well as with Yad Vashem, Slovakia became a member of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education,
Remembrance and Research in late 2005. As a result Holocaust education and the
training of Slovak educators are expected to be stepped up. The Jewish
newspaper Delet noted that several Slovak citizens were granted the
title of Righteous Among Nations by Yad Vashem in 2006 (11/2006).