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President Zeman has to apologise to Ferdinand Peroutka’s granddaughter over “Hitler gentleman” claim: court rules

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Prague, Sept 1 (CTK) – The Presidential Office must apologise to late journalist Ferdinand Peroutka’s granddaughter for the claim made by President Milos Zeman that Peroutka wrote an article headlined Hitler is a Gentleman, the Prague Municipal Court decided yesterday and its verdict has taken effect.
Court panel chairman Tomas Novosad said Peroutka never considered Hitler to be a person who behaved like a gentleman and he did not write such an article. In the articles that the Presidential Office presented as evidence, Peroutka does not indicate that Hitler’s actions were noble, correct or decent, Novosad said.
“It is unfair to claim that Peroutka wrote such an article or that he said such things about Hitler,” he said.
The Presidential Office must send its written apology to Peroutka’s granddaughter, Terezie Kaslova, within seven days from the day on which the verdict takes effect. Within 30 days, Zeman’s office must post the apology on its website.
As Zeman did not make the statements in private but when he fulfilled his duties of head of state, Kaslova will receive the apology from the Czech state through the Presidential Office.
However, the Presidential Office need not apologise for the statement that indicated that Peroutka was one of the intellectuals fascinated by Nazism.
Zeman also claimed that Peroutka said “If one cannot sing with the angels, one must howl with the wolves,” which is not true, but need not apologise for insisting on this either because Peroutka made similar statements elsewhere, Novosad said.
The author of the above quotation was lawmaker and journalist Jan Stransky (1913-1988).
Novosad said Peroutka’s article Czechs, Germans and Jews was anti-Semitic. He said Peroutka used racist terms and the stereotype that rich Jews destroyed Germany and Austria in this article that was published shortly after the Kristallnacht, a pogrom against Jews carried out throughout Germany in late 1938.
Kaslova opposed this. She said she is considering seeking an appellate review of the verdict.
“Labelling my grandfather an anti-Semite has offended me, maybe even more than the statements made by President Zeman,” Kaslova said.
She said half of her family died in the concentration camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz).
Novosad said Peroutka’s articles can be interpreted in various ways and not only historians but also common citizens may have their own opinions on them that are based on facts.
At a conference marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Oswiecim concentration camp in January 2015, Zeman spoke about the failure of intellectuals in the period of rising Nazism. In his address, among others, he said that Peroutka wrote an article “Hitler is a Gentleman” for the prestigious Pritomnost (Present) magazine.
Czech historians pointed out that this is not true. Zeman refused to apologise and he insisted that he read the article. Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek was searching for the article for a long time, but in vain.
Kaslova sued the Czech state, namely the Presidential Office. A Prague district court sided with her complaint in the spring, concluding that the Presidential Office has not produced any evidence to prove its claims. Zeman’s office appealed this verdict.
Peroutka (1895-1978) was a prominent democratic journalist during the interwar period. He was imprisoned by the Nazi regime in 1939-1945. He left the country after the 1948 communist coup and later worked for Radio Free Europe. He died in the USA.

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