Slovak Jews charge government with Nazi sympathies

PRAGUE — Slovak Jewish leaders have accused their government of being sympathetic to the Nazi puppet regime that governed during World War II.

The state's sympathies are evident in its support of a teachers' manual that romanticizes the fate of the country's Jews during the war, said B'nai B'rith and the Association of Jewish Religious Communities in Slovakia in a joint statement issued June 19.

The organizations expressed "deep indignation and concern" over the recent comments of Vladimir Hagara, spokesman of the governing Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, who said that the manual is a "scholarly work that deserves the admiration and respect of all Slovaks."

Hagara's statement was a response to the controversy that erupted earlier over the distribution of the manual in Slovak schools.

The manual, "History of Slovakia for Slovaks," was written by Padua University Professor Milan Durica.

It states that during school holidays, children detained in an internment camp near Bratislava "could spend a period outside with Jewish families living in freedom" and "Jewish doctors cared for the health of the camp's residents."

"Dentists were even able to offer gold teeth," the text states, "which the great majority of the Slovak population could not afford."

Frantisek Alexander, executive director of the Association of Slovak Jewish Communities, called the manual "offensive" and said it "contains a completely outrageous proposition — that the Jews actually enjoyed themselves during World War II."

Some 70,000 Slovak Jews were killed during the war with the assistance of the Nazi puppet regime.

The European Union, which financed the publication and distribution of 90,000 copies of the manual, and the Slovak Ministry of Education, which included the manual on a list of publications for which it sought funding, have accused each other of being responsible for the undertaking.