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Reflex: Far-right Kotleba succeeds in village massacred by Nazis

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Prague, March 27 (CTK) – The People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) of far-right radical Marian Kotleba won one fourth of the vote in the recent election in the Slovak village Ostry Grun which was massacred by the Nazis in 1945, the Czech weekly magazine Reflex has written in its latest issue.
“I was shocked. I would have never imagined that a party that claims allegiance to the wartime Slovak state would succeed in our village,” Ostry Grun Mayor Jana Angletova said.
The LSNS won over 8 percent of the vote in the general election held on March 5 and it entered parliament.
In January 1945, the Nazi Germans claimed that the locals supported resistance fighters, they burnt the village down and shot dead 64 civilians, including 26 women and 12 children. The descendants of the victims call the massacre the Bloody Sunday.
The locals who did not vote for the LSNS cannot understand why somebody would support Kotleba who can be labelled a neo-Nazi.
“It took me by surprise. But it seems that people don’t connect Kotleba with fascism. He changed his behaviour and his vocabulary. The people do not take into account that he has fascist tendencies. Even though he had people who support Adolf Hitler among the candidates,” Ostry Grun Deputy Mayor Miroslav Seget said.
Seget said the election result in the village was a warning. He said the annual remembrance events need to be done in a different way. “We don’t appeal to the young generation. It seems that we must change the way in which we remember the events from the end of the war. A mass and laying of wreaths are not enough,” he told Reflex.
It is practically impossible to find anybody who voted for Kotleba in the small village. People refuse to talk about it. The locals watch one another with suspicion and speculate who could have supported a party with such a radical and extremist programme, the weekly writes.
“We don’t have any Romanies in the village, no skinheads march here and none of our citizens is a member of Kotleba’s party. But people still voted for him. I think it was out of defiance. They wanted to show their protest,” Seget said.
Available analyses indicate that up to 35 percent of Kotleba’s voters supported him because of the “anti-corruption” and “social” programme of his party. However, the LSNS has no such programme, Reflex writes.
The 38-year-old Kotleba won over many voters because of his hatred for Brussels and NATO, because he preferred Slovak products to foreign ones and because he promised to force out thieves from parliament and parasites from “gypsy” settlements, the magazine writes.
Kotleba has been the governor of the Banska Bystrica Region since 2013. But if his voters watched his actions, they would see that he does the things that he criticises in other politicians. He turned the governor’s office into a family business and the headquarters of his party, Reflex writes.
The Slovak branch of the Transparency International NGO documented that Kotleba’s office placed public orders to LSNS members and affiliated entrepreneurs, Reflex writes.
But his voters do not mind this. They mind neither Holocaust denial, nor the celebration of the Slovak puppet state, nor conspiracy theories about the influence of Jews, the weekly says.
“These people have their everyday troubles and they don’t know how to deal with them. They are often strongly troubled by the Romany issue. Kotleba is not exclusively supported by right-wing extremists,” Focus polling agency director Martin Slosiarik said.
The last eye witness of the 1945 massacre is Anna Novakova who does not talk to people anymore, due to her serious illness. “I preferred not to tell her the election resulted here…The Bloody Sunday is the trauma of her life,” her daughter-in-law said.
When remembering the tragedy some time ago, Novakova said: “The still bodies of my parents, my sister and brother were lying on me. Their bodies saved my life. I was shot in the leg and when the Nazi commando left, I clawed my way from under the corpses and survived.”
Angletova is a descendent of the massacre. Her father was one year old then and he survived because his parents hid him under the sheets before they were both shot dead by the Germans.
“Elderly people, the survivors, feel it was an evil that keeps concerning us. An evil that we have survived. They consider Kotleba a neo-Nazi,” Angletova said.
But the young generation has a different view. And support from young people was crucial for Kotleba. When the Slovak Institute for Public Affairs organised test elections at secondary schools last year, Kotleba ended in the second position and won support from 16 percent of 12,000 students.
As a former IT teacher, Kotleba realised that young people do not read newspapers, listen to the radio or watch TV, but that they seek information on Internet and social networking websites. The LSNS Facebook profile has 70,000 supporters, which makes it the second most popular party in the country. Kotleba’s personal Facebook profile has 60,000 fans and it presents no information about the fascist past of Slovakia, Reflex writes.
“War history is slowly moving out of the knowledge of young people. This is why it does not seem odd to them to vote for Kotleba,” Angletova said.
Three years ago, more than a half of surveyed Slovak secondary school students did not know who were the leaders of the wartime Slovak state and how many Jews they sent to concentration camps, Reflex writes.
“Historical memory should be clear in case of Ostry Grun, but it is not. Something is wrong. People do not feel the threat that something similar might be repeated,” said Stanislav Micev, director of the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising.
The stone memorial in Ostry Grun has a sign telling “The path is sprayed with our blood – do not abandon it!” Those who gave their votes to Kotleba have abandoned it, Reflex writes.

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