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Sunday, March 9, 2003  

Czech Jews pleased as state readies ficial list of Communist collaborators

By Magnus Bennett

PRAGUE, March 9 (JTA) -- Czech Jewish leaders welcomed news that the state is poised to name all citizens who it says collaborated with the secret police under communism.

The Interior Ministry said March 6 that it would post a list of names on the Internet on March 20, [2003]. The list will include the names of past and current members of the Czech Jewish community, which was subjected to intimidation by the state during the Communist era in an operation known as Spider.

The news was welcomed by Tomas Jelinek, chairman of the Prague's Jewish community, who had been planning to research the issue in an effort to find out what happened during Spider.

"The list is useful because the Jewish community has to deal with these things," he said. "The question of who is on the list is not the issue. We need to find out what the role was of the Jewish community, how it was supervised, who was responsible" for the operation "and why the state wanted to register all Jews in the country."

He added that he would ask senior representatives of the Jewish community at the end of the month how they "intend to deal with the issue."

Leo Pavlat, director of Prague's Jewish Museum, also welcomed the publication of names, but said he was against a witch hunt.

"People should not be automatically attacked as collaborators of the secret police," Pavlat said. "There were some cases in the past when people put on an unofficial list of collaborators proved their innocence in the law courts."

The issue must be taken very seriously because the reputation of the Czech Jewish community could be at stake, Pavlat argued. If someone in a high official Jewish post were found to have "caused harm" to the community or individuals within it, that person's position would become untenable, he said.

Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities, said the Jewish community had dealt with cases which arose from an unofficial list of collaborators published 10 years ago, but that the current move would allow "a chapter of the past to be closed."

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