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Slovakia remembers Holocaust victims

SLOVAKIA’s highest state officials, political leaders, and representatives of civil society and the Jewish community gathered to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day on September 9. The country’s three highest state representatives, a delegation from parliament, cabinet members, diplomats and some Holocaust survivors laid wreaths at the Holocaust memorial in Rybné Square in Bratislava, the SITA newswire reported.

SLOVAKIA’s highest state officials, political leaders, and representatives of civil society and the Jewish community gathered to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day on September 9. The country’s three highest state representatives, a delegation from parliament, cabinet members, diplomats and some Holocaust survivors laid wreaths at the Holocaust memorial in Rybné Square in Bratislava, the SITA newswire reported.

September 9 marks the anniversary of the day when the so-called Jewish Code was adopted by the wartime Slovak state in 1941. The code stripped Slovak Jews of all their rights and excluded them from the social and economic life of the country. The first deportations of Jews to Nazi concentration camps followed soon after, in March 1942.

Israel’s ambassador to Slovakia, Zeev Boker, and representatives of the Jewish community in Bratislava also attended the event. Representatives of the Jewish community and President Ivan Gašparovič spoke mainly about the importance of remembering the dark side of history in order to prevent similar events being repeated in future. Prime Minister Robert Fico focused on the younger generation in his speech, saying that today’s relatively peaceful central Europe was now importing extremism in uniforms. He called the extremists “confused and lured”, adding that “neither Jobbik nor Kotleba’s [followers] nor other extremists will pass”, SITA reported.

On September 7, prior to Holocaust Remembrance Day, Fico met a delegation from the American Jewish Committee led by Rabbi Andrew Baker, who also is the Personal Representative for Combating Anti-Semitism of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), SITA wrote.

During his visit to Slovakia, Baker was accompanied by the executive vice president of US-based Jewish organisation B'nai B'rith, Daniel S. Mariaschin, and Norbert Hinterleitner, his adviser on anti-Semitism issues. The guests were told of Slovak plans to set up a Holocaust museum at the site of a former labour 'camp for Jews' at Sereď.

Baker voiced his appreciation for the present government's approach to remembering the Holocaust and Slovakia's Holocaust Remembrance Day on September 9, and also thanked the government for having legislation against holocaust deniers in Slovakia, which he said attests to the strong political will in this respect, according to SITA.

On September 8 the visitors attended the unveiling of a Monument to Gallant Souls in Zvolen, devoted to those killed during WWII while trying to save persecuted Jews. Fico said that he thinks it is regrettable that young people know little about the killing of Jews during WWII. To change this, the PM proposed building memorials near schools devoted to victims of the Holocaust and to people who helped Jews to survive, SITA wrote.

Among other events held to remember the Holocaust was a reading of Jewish names from the Book of the Dead, an annual tradition in the Jewish community. The event, initiated by Slovak journalist and writer Ľuba Lesná, took place in the Slovak National Theatre.

Bratislava also saw a meeting of children from a famous photo taken by Alexander Voroncov in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp just after its liberation by the Red Army in 1945. Seven of the 13 children in the photograph were from Slovakia. They met in Bratislava for the first time in 50 years.


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