Groups of neo-nazis plan on marching through the old Jewish Quarter of Prague on November 10 exactly 69 years after the massive pogroms of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, swept through Hitler´s Germany in a gloomy prelude to the Holocaust. Between November 9th and 10th of 1938, over 30,000 Jewish men were hauled off to concentration camps throughout the Reich, almost 1,700 synagogues were ransacked, and over 260 of them razed to smithereens.
The march is organized by Erik Sedláček as a march against Czech military involvement in Iraq. Experts and anti-fascism activists however consider this a mere cover-up. The 26-year-old Sedláček is known to have connections to neo-nazi groups, including the most radical Národní Odpor (National Resistance). The police detained Sedlacek at a neo-Nazi May Day protest this year, and he had also been charged with hate crimes involving his anti-Semitic texts, the police said.
The march announcement on neo-nazi web sites and related online discussions also suggest the march is about something other than Iraq.
One, for example, invited protesters to bring flags in Third Reich colours of black, white and red.
The neo-nazis allegedly plan to bring outside reinforcements on the day of the march, including from Hungary, Germany and Slovakia.
"It is a provocation ... Why would anyone who wishes to protest war walk twice around the synagogues?" Prague Jewish Community president Frantisek Banyai told DPA. "It is a message for the Jewish community."
On Tuesday, October 23rd according to Czech media sources, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged the Czech president Václav Klaus to prevent the neo-nazi march.
"To do otherwise would taint the Czech Republic's history of courage and fortitude in the face of Nazism and its proud commemoration of its Jewish past," read an appeal signed by Shimon Samuels, Simon Wiesenthal Center's Director for International Relations.
Various groups of Czech citizens are getting ready for a showdown.
"Take buckets of water and get ready to put out the fire," the Czech weekly Reflex invites their readers to come to the Jewish Quarter on the date of the march and form emergency fire fighter groups.
"When a Nazi comes with his torch close to a synagogue, it can hardly be expected that he just uses it for light." says Jiří X. Doležal, a Czech journalist who has written extensively about the right-wing extremists in the Czech Republic.
The Prague Jewish community has announced plans to organize a gathering nearby which would commemorate all victims of the Night of Broken Glass on the same day.
The Jewish community is more than ready to move beyond a mere vigil. "We will not attack the neo-nazi groups, but we intend to prevent them from entering the Jewish Quarter's streets at the cost of physical clashes," the Jewish Liberal Union says. "We are not afraid of them," Jewish Liberal Union deputy chairwoman Jirina Novakova adds.
Anarchist and other anti-fascists in Prague are among the groups organizing against the nazis and the cops would like to portray the whole thing as a potential battle of extremists.
In fact, one Prague paper parroted that line and wrote, "The right-wing extremists and anarchists allegedly want to stir up a conflict. The police are prepared for all alternatives.
Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) in the Czech Republic in a statement released recently said in part:
"We have already stood up against such an attempt in the past when the local neo-Nazis tried to march through the Jewish neighbourhood in 2003. They did not pass. And now we are prepared to stop them again. The authorities, the police and the populist gestures of politicians will never curtail the activities of the neo-nazis. We believe that only day-to-day active resistance by all those who oppose neo-nazism and any other totalitarian ideology can stop their followers.
Let’s confront the neo-nazis together and show we aren’t indifferent to what’s happening on our streets.
The blockade of the neo-nazi march starts on Saturday November 10, 2007 at 2:30pm at Náměstí Republiky in Prague."
AFA describes the organizers of the nazi march as,
"...well known activists of the prominent "National Resistance - Narodni Odpor" organisation, a loose structure of the most active neo-nazis responsible for organising dozens of marches and public actions in the last 10 years. These Combat 18 wannabes showed their strength last time on May Day 2007 when 600 of them attempted to march through the city of Brno. This time they have come with this carefully planned provocation."
1:30pm: Jewish Liberal Union-organized assembly outside the Old-New Synagogue, Červená 2, Prague 1
Jewish Liberal Union March Route: Červená — Kaprová — Old Town Square
Pařížskou (včetně spojnice vedle parku za Staronovou synagogou) a dále ulice Červenou, Kaprovu a celé Staroměstské náměstí.
2pm: Prague Jewish community meeting at Old-New Synagogue and the nearby Jewish Town Hall.
2:30pm: Anti-Fascist Action-organized march begins on Náměstí Republiky square, Prague 1
3pm-4pm: Illegal neo-nazi march begins on Břehová street, Prague 1
Neo-Nazi March Route: Břehová — Maiselova — U Starého hřbitova — Břehová — Maiselova — Široká — Žatecká — Platnéřská — náměstí Franze Kafky
3pm: Jewish Liberal Union-organized rally on Old Town Square
5pm: Tolerance and Civic Society-organized rally outside Old-New Synagogue
• Given the unpredictable nature of tomorrow’s events, this schedule should only be used as a guide
The following is from CeskeNoviny.CZ (Prague)
Police patrolling Prague streets over planned extremists' march
Prague- The police are on alert in Prague streets, railway stations and roads to Prague due to the planned Saturday march of rightist extremists through Prague, police spokeswoman Eva Brozova told.
On Saturday, over 1,000 police will ensure law and order at a number of sites, Brozova said.
The right-wing radicals, the Young National Democrats association, want to march through Prague's former Jewish Town on November 10 in spite of the official ban on the march. They will meet in Brehova street at 15:00.
Anarchists have reported a march in the centre starting at 14:30 that will end in the Jewish district in Bilkova street. They call for blocking the "neo-Nazi march" on their website.
Members and followers of the Jewish Liberal Union and other organisations will hold their rallies from 13:30 on Saturday in the Jewish district at the crossing of Maiselova, Parizska and Brehova streets. They announced on their website that the venue may change "according to the neo-Nazis' location."
There will be 1100 members of the Prague city police and 300 members of the national police in the streets.
Some police from outside Prague will be in reserve in the event of major clashes between the protesters.
The Prague City Hall said it wanted to establish a free phone line 800 100 991 over the security measures.
The police will also watch further alternative routes of the marches the City Hall has banned. City Hall officials will be ready to dissolve any illegal rallies right on the scene.
Border police have reinforced patrols on the border crossings since this morning. The police said on Thursday the arrival of "undesirable persons" to the Czech Republic would be prevented.
So far, no one had to be returned as there is quiet and normal traffic on the border, police spokeswoman Katerina Jirgesova said.
"The foreigner police are collaborating with their counterparts in the neighbouring countries," Jirgesova said, adding that they supplied the information on the extremists who would like to go to the Czech Republic.
The police today again called on Praguers and visitors to Prague not to go uselessly to the streets in question.
It is on the Kristallnacht anniversary, November 10, that Czech right-wing extremists want to hold a march through Prague's historical Jewish Quarter.
The organisers maintain, however, that the march is to be held in protest against the Czech military presence in Iraq, but Czech authorities still have banned it.