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GUEST COLUMN

It's good that we haven't forgotten

Many Slovaks have forgotten about their Nazi history. The attempt of the communist regime to deal with the fascist history of the Slovak state during World War II did nothing to resolve matters, and eventually replaced the Nazi regime with something just as vital.
After November 1989, we didn't know how to deal with our past so we just forgot about it. The logical consequence of this was the Mečiarism that came afterwards.
Guess what? It looks as if we haven't yet forgotten about Mečiarism, and what's more, we don't want to forget. If this is the first real attempt of Slovaks to deal with their unpleasant history, then hooray!

Many Slovaks have forgotten about their Nazi history. The attempt of the communist regime to deal with the fascist history of the Slovak state during World War II did nothing to resolve matters, and eventually replaced the Nazi regime with something just as vital.

After November 1989, we didn't know how to deal with our past so we just forgot about it. The logical consequence of this was the Mečiarism that came afterwards.

Guess what? It looks as if we haven't yet forgotten about Mečiarism, and what's more, we don't want to forget. If this is the first real attempt of Slovaks to deal with their unpleasant history, then hooray!

The current development of the political scene has incalculable meaning for this country and its citizens. It's very important for the healthy development of the democratic conscience of citizens that they see formerly untouchable thieves, gangsters and criminals shaking before the law, being put behind bars or fearing for the property they stole.

Ruling elites have pilfered and cheated the Slovak nation throughout its entire history, and has always tried to smooth things out with the line "It doesn't matter what happened between us, the important thing is that we all are Slovaks." But the nation now desires justice. The momentum to punish the deceits and crimes of the Mečiar era comes from ordinary citizens.

A pessimist may say that the masses which are now baying for blood collaborated for years with their own oppressors and are now just looking for a someone to blame. But a optimist would say that the need for justice is a sign that real feelings of citizenship and national pride have been awoken. So, let's be optimists.

But what was it that finally woke Slovaks up? The simple answer is that TV brought home the real horrors of Mečiarism.

The American television station CNN broadcast a live transmission from the Gulf War just a few years ago. The Persian Gulf - do you remember? Death and destruction live on TV. Horror. Since 1992, several Slovak media have succeeded in doing something similar and with gradually increasing intensity.

Eventually, these media were no longer a powerless minority but a committed and weighty majority. The former ruling parties were oblivious to this event and continued to behave like untouchables. They robbed property, kidnapped people and plundered the country like a bunch of conquerors.

Crucially, however, they forgot about the power of the "live transmission." If they had been on the ball they would have arrested their opponents and critics. But they didn't, and lived to learn the truth of former Culture Minister Ivan Hudec's words: "He who jumps on a tiger's back won't get off alive."

By Karol Wolf, author of For the Second and Last Time ("Po druhý a naposled") This article originally ran in the daily Sme on February 6.

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