Slovak bishop praises Nazi regime


Jan 4, 2007

There has been uproar in Slovakia after the archbishop of Bratislava described life in the fascist wartime Slovak state as "a time of well-being".

Tens of thousands of Jews, Roma Gypsies and communists were deported by the Slovak government during the war.

Most of them ended up at the Auschwitz death camp.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Jan Sokol refused to withdraw the comments, but issued a statement distancing himself from wartime human rights violations.

But angry debate has erupted after the archbishop's interview with the Slovak news channel TA3.

Asked for his recollections of wartime Slovakia - a Nazi puppet state led by Roman Catholic priest Jozef Tiso - he said it was a time of well-being.

"I highly esteem President Tiso because I remember him from my childhood. We used to be very poor, and under his rule, the situation greatly improved," he said.

"We had everything we wanted. Even during a time of war."

Deal with Nazis

His remarks were roundly condemned by Slovakia's small Jewish community, who said they were an offence to the victims of the Holocaust.

Groups representing the Roma minority also reacted angrily.

An estimated 70,000 Slovak Jews were deported, under a deal in which the Slovak government paid Nazi Germany to take them.

Ostensibly they were sent as forced labourers, but almost all the deportees later died at Auschwitz and other death camps in eastern Europe.

Thousands of Slovak Roma and communists were also killed.