Slovak Neo-Nazis Demonstrate

Hundreds of neo-Nazis gathered in Bratislava to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Slovakia’s Nazi-led puppet government.

Avraham Zuroff , | updated: 2:53 PM

Israel News Photo: (file)

A large neo-Nazi gathering and a counter-protest was held this past Saturday in the town where the famed yeshiva of the "Chatam Sofer" once stood.

Several hundred neo-Nazi supporters gathered at a main square in Bratislava to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Slovakia’s Nazi-led puppet government. In reaction to the neo-Nazi rally, Slovakia, dozens of young people counter protested, the Slovak Spectator reported.

Most of the protestors were youths sporting shaved heads, and dressed in the black uniforms of fascist regimes. The members of the Czech National Resistance and a group of older protestors listened to speeches and shouted nationalistic slogans.

Ivan Sykora, the leader of the ultra-right Slovenska Pospolitost (SP), a group that was disbanded by Slovakia’s Interior Ministry in November, was the first to address the crowd. He praised Nazi-led Slovakia, saying that it was founded democratically.

The former leader of the SP, Marian Kotleba, greeted the crowd with the ‘Heil, Hitler’ salute, before being taken away by police, who arrested and detained him.

SP’s Sykora clarified that Kotleba was not taken away for his salute, but for his criticism of the government. However, Police Vice President Stanislav Jankovic told the TA3 television news network that the police decided to end the rally after demonstrators used the Nazi salute.

Riot police used force to disperse the crowds, and arrested six of the protestors. After the crowds cleared, remaining participants marched under police escort towards the symbolic grave of Jozef Tiso, the president of wartime Slovakia, who was an ally of Hitler.

While the neo-Nazi event was taking place, an anti-fascist event was staged by a grassroots group, “Bratislava Residents Say ‘No’ to Neo-Nazis.” A representative of the counter-demonstrators, Robert Mihaly, stated that the aim of their protest was to tell people that open supporters of fascism and neo-Nazi ideology are not welcome in Bratislava.

Mihaly urged Slovakia’s interior minister and its government to change the national legislation that allows neo-Nazi marches to take place.

After departing from the square, several protestors dedicated a Holocaust memorial by installing 40 stones that feature Hebrew inscriptions and portraits of those who died in concentration camps.

Illustrious Jewish Past
Bratislava, known as Pressburg under the reign of the Austrian Empire, was famous for its Pressburg Yeshiva. The Talmudic institute, which was established in 1807 by Rabbi Moshe Sofer (known as the Chatam Sofer), was the largest and most influential yeshiva in Central Europe. This yeshiva produced hundreds of future leaders of Austro-Hungarian Jewry. Upon Rabbi Moshe Sofer's death in 1839, his son, Rabbi Shmuel Binyamin Sofer (known as the Ktav Sofer) succeeded him as its dean.

The Nazi-led Slovak Republic was established March 14, 1939, and lasted until May 8, 1945. Tiso, a priest, led the puppet government until his execution after the war for collaboration and war crimes. Under Tiso, about 70,000 Slovak Jews were sent to concentration camps in 1942 and 1944.

The Pressburg Yeshiva relocated to Jerusalem after World War II under the leadership of the Chatam Sofer’s great-grandson, Rabbi Akiva Sofer (known as the Da’at Sofer).