We are very skilled at finding excuses

Prague, Czech RepublicDecember 6, 1993
Karol SidonChief Rabbi of Bohemia and Moravia
I think it is dangerous to say that we are in a completely different situation, that because we have fifty years of totalitarianism behind us, we cannot be compared to anybody else. This is typical Czech thinking: we are very skilled in finding excuses. You are overlooking something very important: both under the Germans and under the Communists, there were large numbers of Czech citizens who supported the regime. And when we are speaking about Communistanti-Semitism, remember that the Party was not only made up of Russians: there were also Czech communists and Czech secret police and secret agents.
After the coup, if you want to call it that, these people found themselves in a completely new situation. They left their paid positions, but they kept their ideas — and they will always have their followers, people who agree with what they stood for. Today we see this kind of person coming to the fore again. This is something very natural: it has always been a part of this nation.
I am a pessimist myself. I don’t think much can be done in such conditions. But if we are to do anything, then I think we should start with the people who represent power these days, the people who make decisions.
These people should realize that the responsibility is theirs. They should realize that they have the responsibility to establish a legal framework that would prevent publications like the Politika list. The same would apply to media coverage of Romany issues. Such a legal framework should not guarantee preferential treatment for anybody living here in this country, and, correspondingly, there should be no groups put at a disadvantage.
But unfortunately there is not enough political will coming from the bottom, so how can we expect it to come from the top? People do not really want to hear about this.
On the other hand, the media should provide truthful information: this is their duty. They should do everything possible to change the current situation: now Czech television and newspapers support and legitimize intolerance. Most people follow their family traditions; for them a Jew will always be a Jew, and a Gypsy will always be a Gypsy. This kind of thinking has been passed down for generations. And if people get support for these attitudes from television and newspapers, then they feel that things should be kept as they are. That is why it is so dangerous when periodicals like Politika emerge.
In this country we have a fairly large group of skinheads. This is a mass organization these days, and they get ideological input from the media. We cannot afford to ignore the fact that racism is encouraged by the use of racist terminology in the media.
Intolerance has been with us for along time, and will probably never go away. But intelligent people should realize their responsibility for those who are perhaps less intelligent. They should realize that they are responsible for the future development of this country.
I am used to hearing about the Jewish question, and now we hear about the Romany question. This is silly. It’s the Czech question, really.
That is how it should be understood, and that is how the media should understand it. So the Roma can do what they want, but there should be a state with real laws and real police so that no one could force anyone to be Czech or to live like a Czech. We should not try to perform miracles, and those who have problems should deal with these problems themselves.
MEDIA AGAINST INTOLERANCEA Conference Organized by The Fund for New Performance/Video
Franz Kafka CenterPragueDecember 6, 1993