Czech Jewish community calls Terezin memorial addresses anti-German, nationalist, xenophobic

PRAGUE (JTA) – The Czech Republic’s Jewish community has condemned some of the addresses delivered at a memorial ceremony at the former Nazi concentration camp in Terezin as anti-German, nationalist and xenophobic.

In a statement released Sunday, the Federation of the Czech Jewish communities denounced the keynote address delivered earlier that day by the head of the Czech Senate, Milan Stech, who said Nazi crimes could not be compared to violence committed by Czechs against Germans after World War II.

“Crimes [during the forced expulsion of Germans from postwar Czechoslovakia] were committed by individuals, whereas Nazi crimes during the occupation of the Czech territory were part of the official and carefully designed political campaign of the German state,” Stech said in his speech.

Describing the address as anti-German and nationalist, Czech Jewish groups said it did not belong at such a memorial event.

Some 3 million ethnic Germans were forcibly expelled from Czechoslovakia after the war in a move that remains a sensitive issue in Czech-German relations.

The Jewish groups also criticized Jaroslav Vodicka, the head of the Czech Freedom Fighters’ Union, an association of WWII resistance fighters and their relatives, who “resorted to grave xenophobic stereotypes,” according to the statement.

In his speech, Vodicka said Europe was endangered by the ongoing migration crisis in which “millions of mostly economic migrants were seeking more comfortable lives,” wanting “to exploit Europe’s welfare and economic system that took generations to build.”

In his impromptu address in Terezin on Sunday, the Czech chief rabbi, Karol Sidon, also criticized Vodicka’s remarks, saying Jews had “a different experience.”

The memorial ceremony in Terezín is held each year to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp that occurred on May 8, 1945, and to commemorate its 35,000 victims.

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