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EDITORIAL

History marches on at SNP ceremonies - How will officials respond to neo-Nazi tendencies?

THIS YEAR, the local media gave considerable space to the August 29 state holiday commemorating the Slovak National Uprising (SNP), the day when Slovaks turned against the pro-Nazi regime of Jozef Tiso.

THIS YEAR, the local media gave considerable space to the August 29 state holiday commemorating the Slovak National Uprising (SNP), the day when Slovaks turned against the pro-Nazi regime of Jozef Tiso.

However, the media lavished most of its attention not on the significance of the event, but rather on an extremist group using the anniversary to promote its xenophobic and racist attitudes.

There are differing opinions on whether the nation should continue celebrating the SNP. For example, the Communist Party has co-opted the SNP for its own purposes, recasting it as an armed rebellion by anti-fascist party members.

In fact historians point out that many of those involved in the anti-fascist resistance movement suffered greatly under the Communist regime because they refused to yield to another flavour of totalitarian regime.

The gathering of about 300 people in Bratislava to commemorate the SNP's 61st anniversary apparently offered few tasty sound bites to Slovakia's media. Coverage of the various meetings and speeches given by celebratory participants was meagre. Obviously, in the center of attention was the Slovenská pospolitosť, an extreme right-wing group, now registered with the Interior Ministry as a valid political party.

Pospolitosť marched through the streets of Banská Bystrica and Zvolen carrying torches and dressed in dark blue uniforms decorated with symbols resembling those of the wartime fascist Slovak state. About 50 members of the so-called "skinhead" movement joined the group's procession.

Pospolitosť made no effort to hide its sympathy for Slovakia's wartime state and Tiso's Nazi puppet government. Some party members presented the opinion that German forces entered Slovakia in 1944 to clean the country of criminals and partisans.

Though the group rejects being described as sympathetic to fascism, they call the boss of the group "leader" (essentially "fuhrer" in Slovak) and shout slogans typical for Hlinka's guards, the anti-Semitic militia that enforced the policies of Tiso's government.

The "leader", Marian Kotleba, said that the SNP initiated the end of the Slovak Republic (1939-45).

"This is the responsibility of several renegades who organised this putsch. The president of the Slovak Republic, Dr Jozef Tiso, has been the only Slovak president," Kotleba added.

The group imprinted itself in the minds of the public earlier this year when, dressed in the same uniforms, celebrated the anniversary of the rise of the fascist wartime state. Precisely at this time, the world was grieving over the victims of the Holocaust on the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz.

As leader of the wartime state, Roman Catholic priest Jozef Tiso and his government largely excluded Jews from public life, basing his decision on the Nuremberg Decrees of 1935. Slovakia was the only Nazi collaboration state that covered the deportation costs of its own Jews.

While Pospolitosť toasted the rise of the Slovak fascist state, debate opened up on whether these young people could be criminally prosecuted for dressing in uniforms resembling Hlinka's guards. The police's answer was no; the uniforms were not exact matches to those worn by the Hlinka militia. Activists with the People Against Racism filed a complaint with the Interior Ministry and called for the dissolution of the group based on the torch marches in Banská Bystrica and Zvolen.

Some historians and political analysts say that registering the party was a mistake on the ministry's part, as Pospolitosť conducts activities based on the oppression of human rights and freedoms.

The ministry says it registered the party on January 18 as it met requirements set by the law.

However, based on the appeal of the People Against Racism, the Prosecutor General is taking a look at the party's registration file.

Some state officials expressed disappointment that the party is registered, but they have not done anything concrete about it.

So far no political party has been banned in Slovakia. Parties have filed complaints against other parties in an attempt to ban them, but to no end. For example, the Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS) has tried several times to ban the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK).

Slovak law states that the Interior Ministry must reject the registration of any political party that could potentially restrict personal, political or other freedoms of citizens. It must also reject a party involved in illegal activities.

Pospolitosť's programme could hardly be called democratic or peace loving. It calls for the dissolution of parliamentary democracy, the ban of churches and the reduction of the influence of minorities. The party even supports the acquisition of a "weapon system of high destructive power with the possibility of liquidating the enemy on its own territory," the daily SME reported.

What many find shocking is that the "leader" is a high school teacher. His colleagues told the press that they had no idea what Marian Kotleba was advocating, even though he taught at the school for four years. After the latest pospolitosť march the director of the school said he was shocked. He added that the "leader" did not demonstrate discrimination against the Roma, Jews or Hungarians at the school.

Though pospolitosť is a small group with limited influence, many say authorities need to take a closer look at the activities of the group. According to historian Ivan Kamenec, Pospolitosť is "an extreme right-wing nationalistic movement with an ideologically clear fascist tendency". The group openly declares its sympathies towards the wartime fascist Slovak state and its representatives.

Yet Kamenec touches on one of the sorest parts of Slovak history and highlights Slovakia's refusal to take full responsibility for that segment of its history.

All that is fine for the young party members. They seem to care little about history and truth telling. The march is an opportunity for them to demonstrate their hate and aggression towards anyone who they neither know nor comprehend.


By Beata Balogová

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