US Ambassador to Slovakia Carl Spielvogel recently returned from a visit to the United States with a senior Slovak government delegation.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Prime Minister Dzurinda recently met with the Jewish leadership of the United States on his January 31 to February 2 trip to New York. Why?
Carl Spielvogel (CS): There were certain issues they wanted to discuss, particularly the issue of restitution as it related to the fact that when the Jews were taken from this city [Bratislava during World War II] they literally had to pay money to the German government at that time for 'being taken on holiday'. Of course, the holiday was a death holiday. So the Jewish community is seeking restitution from Germany.
TSS: Do you consider yourself of Jewish descent?
CS: Oh yes. I worship the high holy days; we're not orthodox, we're reformed Jews. I've never hidden my Jewish heritage, and I'm very proud of the fact.
TSS: Do you have mixed feelings about serving in a part of the world where so many Jews died?
CS: No. I have very strong feelings about the Soviets and the Nazis, because of what they did to this country and other countries, and what they did to Jews. But while there may be latent anti-Semitism here, we haven't run into it. People have been incredibly warm to us.
TSS: Even though as an ambassador you can't comment specifically on politics, how do you feel about nationalist Slovak parties such as the opposition SNS?
CS: I'd rather talk conceptually than specifically. There are always people in every country who want to bring back 'the good old days'. You saw what happened in Austria recently with Haider, which was very disturbing to any freedom-loving person. In any country around the world there is latent Nazism, anti-Semitism, hatred, anti-Catholicism... What free-thinking people have to do is make it clear we're not going to stand for it. The skinhead problem, whenever it crops up - people expect the leadership of this country to war against it. Any Roma problems, and minority problems, deserve very, very serious attention.
TSS: Do you feel the Slovak givernment has given these issues sufficient attention?
CS: I really can't comment specifically. The only time I read about the skinheads is in your publication. All I can say is that any freedom-loving democracy, particularly a country like this which has lived through some of the darkest tyranny of any, if they're not motivated to stamp these things out, I don't know who will be.
12. Feb 2001 at 0:00