Czechs to probe Holocaust during October conference

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Participants will include representatives of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and Poland's State Museum at Auschwitz. Historians Yehuda Bauer and Raul Hilberg will be joined by Yad Vashem's Avner Shalev; Miles Lerman, the chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council; and academics, teachers and other Holocaust specialists.

Under communism, the Holocaust was discussed only as an adjunct to the suffering of Communists at the hands of fascists during the war, Jelinek said.

"And there was total silence regarding the Romani [Gypsy] Holocaust," he added. "Havel wanted to emphasize the history of the victims."

The conference is also an effort to refocus discussion of the Holocaust, Jelinek said. "It's not only about American Jewish organizations claiming property. We're talking about what happened to people here."

Another conference participant, David Singer, the director of research for the American Jewish Committee, welcomed the conference's goals.

"Of late, there has been too much focus on money issues," he said. "Havel and others want to bring the discussion back to issues of memory, education and the lessons of the Holocaust."

Jelinek said he was pleased at the attention the Czech cabinet, which is distinct from the president's office, is paying to the conference.

"The cabinet is giving half a million crowns [just over $14,000] to support publications based on the conference, and the Ministry of Education has been instructed to find ways to teach the Holocaust," he said.