Tiso fund-raising approved

THE INTERIOR Ministry has given its approval to the Association for the Preservation of Traditions (SPZT) to organise a public fund-raising effort to allow reconstruction of the house where Jozef Tiso was born. Tiso was the president of the wartime Slovak State, a satellite of Nazi Germany.

THE INTERIOR Ministry has given its approval to the Association for the Preservation of Traditions (SPZT) to organise a public fund-raising effort to allow reconstruction of the house where Jozef Tiso was born. Tiso was the president of the wartime Slovak State, a satellite of Nazi Germany.

During Tiso’s presidential term, which lasted from 1939 to 1945, about 70,000 Jews were deported from Slovakia to Nazi concentration camps. Only a small minority survived.

Ľudmila Staňová from the Interior Ministry confirmed that the ministry had given its consent to the fund–raising.

“The Interior Ministry had no reason not to allow the association, which fulfilled all the duties stemming from the [relevant] law, to begin a public fund-raising effort,” Staňová told The Slovak Spectator.

The SPZT is led by controversial nationalist Stanislav Pánis, who is also the chairman of a nationalist political grouping, Slovak National Unity. Pánis, along with his supporters, has organised celebrations to commemorate Jozef Tiso on many occasions.

The SPZT linked its application for the Tiso birthplace fund-raising effort to a simultaneous collection of funds to erect a statue of Prince Rastislav, ruler of the ninth-century Great Moravian Empire.

The public fund-raising will take place between June 7, 2008 and June 7, 2009.

“We call on all nationally inclined people, even if they can make only a symbolic contribution to this aim, to help in this noble work,” says a statement published by the SPZT on a nationalist website, Beo.sk. “You all deserve a hearty May God Reward You!” it adds.

Pánis intends to run for president in the forthcoming elections. By mid June, he had started collecting signatures for his candidacy, of which he needs 15,000 in order to become a candidate. The house where Tiso was born is located in Bytča, in central Slovakia. Pánis plans to establish a museum there, which would contain items related to Tiso’s life, as well as a permanent display providing ‘true’ information about Tiso’s personality, according to a SITA newswire report on June 16.

“We can be happy that his birthplace still stands and that even the communists did not pull it down,” Pánis was quoted as saying by SITA.

The house is presently co-owned: half by the SPZT, and half by the municipality of Bytča.

The official website of the Interior Ministry contains the SPZT’s application to organise a public fund-raising effort. As well as erection of the Prince Rastislav statue, its stated purpose is “the renewal of the birthplace of Jozef Tiso”.

The published application does not include any estimate of costs despite the website stating clearly in its instructions on how to organise a public fund-raising effort that applications must include the “estimated costs connected with realisation of public fund-raising”.

Lawyer Marek Benedik told The Slovak Spectator that according to the law, public fund-raising can only take place for a purpose beneficial to the public.

“The reconstruction itself does not fulfil the condition of a purpose beneficial to the public,” Benedik said. “I do not see how this can be beneficial to the public.”

He said the ministry could have allowed public fund-raising for the reconstruction of Tiso’s house if the intention was to use to distribute food for the poor in the future, adding that he assumes the Association for Preservation of Traditions does not plan any such humanitarian activities in the house.

When asked by The Slovak Spectator in what way the fund-raising is beneficial to the public, the Interior Ministry's Alena Koišová conceded that Tiso "is a controversial personality in our history" but said the application did not threaten public order and fulfilled all legal conditions.

Martin Bútora, a former Slovak ambassador to the USA, said that the act of public fund-raising, launched with the consent of the Interior Ministry, amounts to promotion of a person who headed a fascist state.

“It is an unfortunate decision,” Bútora said.

He added that the proposed fund-raising completely lacks any publicly beneficial purpose.

“This is a connection to the most cruel tradition of Slovak history, related to the crimes that happened at that time: the murders of Jews,” Bútora said.

Jozef Weiss, head of the Office of the Central Union of the Jewish Religious Communities, told The Slovak Spectator that fund-raising to restore of Tiso’s birthplace would not only glorify Tiso himself, but was an attempt to rehabilitate the totalitarian regime he led as president.

“These attempts show that some representatives of the state do not know the basic facts about the wartime Slovak State; or that they do not want to know them,” Weiss added.

According to Bútora, approval for the fund-raising to a certain extent reflects the changed atmosphere in Slovakia in the past two to three years. “It is as if a bigger space for this kind of historical glorification, or historical rehabilitation, has opened. And I consider this phenomenon dangerous,” he said.

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