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Czech President allegedly nixed award for Holocaust survivor after his nephew-minister met the Dalai Lama

Minister of Culture Daniel Herman escorting His Holiness the Dalai Lama through the Ministry of Culture in Prague, Czech Republic on October 18, 2016. (Photo courtesy/Ondrej Besperat)
Minister of Culture Daniel Herman escorting His Holiness the Dalai Lama through the Ministry of Culture in Prague, Czech Republic on October 18, 2016. (Photo courtesy/Ondrej Besperat)

(TibetanReview.net, Oct25, 2016) – The unabashedly pro-China President of the Czech Republic, Mr Milos Zeman, has landed himself in a major controversy with both political allies and rivals criticizing him severely for his decision to nix a state decoration to a Holocaust survivor after the man’s nephew, Minister of Culture Daniel Herman, met with the visiting Dalai Lama, said Czech news reports as well as timesofisrael.com and others Oct 23.

Czech-born Auschwitz survivor and academic Jiri Brady, 88, has said Prague Castle had originally informed him on phone that he will be decorated with the TG Masaryk Order on Oct 28, the national holiday to remember the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918. Brady was to be honoured for his lifelong campaign for Holocaust remembrance, for which he already has decorations from countries such as Canada, Britain and Germany.

Brady’s nephew, Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL), has said President Zeman had informed him his uncle will be decorated if he cancelled his planned meeting with the Dalai Lama of Tibet, which he did not.

“My uncle informed me he had been contacted by the president’s office with information that his award was being prepared. Now there is news that this has been postponed for this year,” Reuters Oct 23 quoted Herman as saying. “The president directly told me that if I meet the Dalai Lama, my uncle will be taken out of the list (for awards), and that is what happened,” the minister was quoted as having told Czech public television.

“At the Slovak embassy on Sep 8 afternoon, the president told me that he has already approved my nomination (of Brady), but if I meet the Dalai Lama, he will cancel it. This is what he directly told me. Two ministers of our government, one ambassador and I think the servicing personnel were present,” Czech news agency CTK Oct 23 quoted Herman as saying.

Zeman himself has also denied the allegations, reported intellinews.com Oct 23, admitting, however, that he was clearly furious about Herman’s meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka had urged Zeman to “act like a statesman” and honour Brady, the report said. It cited Radio Prague as reporting the Prime Minister had warned, in his Twitter account, that otherwise the Oct 28 celebrations would turn into a festival of pettiness and disagreements. Also, the heads of both houses of Parliament had invited Zeman to explain the matter, reported timesofisrael.com Oct 23.

A growing number of politicians, academics and cultural figures have announced that they will not attend the event in order to express solidarity with George Brady, while an alternative “Independence” ceremony was now being planned. They included leaders of the opposition and several public figures, including renowned Catholic priest Tomas Halik.

Brady has expressed regret over the developments surrounding the award, but said he would visit his homeland as planned, even though he was no longer up for a state award. Brady had moved to Canada after the war.

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