2 far-right Czech politicians charged with supporting century-old blood libel

Marcy Oster

PRAGUE (JTA) — Two far-right Czech politicians have been charged with incitement to hatred and defamation over a note they wrote supporting a 19th century blood libel.

The police launched criminal proceedings against the men on December 20, and the charges were confirmed to JTA on Tuesday.

Adam Bartos, chairman of National Democracy, a far-right Czech political party, and Ladislav Zemanek, a party official, left the signed note last Easter at a memorial to Anezka Hruzova, a 19-year-old woman who was murdered in 1899. Bartos does not deny leaving the note.

Leopold Hilsner was sentenced to death for the crime, which attorneys suggested was part of a Jewish ritual. The case received a great deal of attention and became one of Europe’s most notorious blood libel trials. Hilsner was pardoned after 18 years in prison but never acquitted.

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The note, signed by Bartos and Zemanek on behalf of the National Democracy party, said the murder “united the Czech nation and showed the urgent need to solve the Jewish question. The Jewish question has not been satisfactorily dealt with to this day.”

Police from the southeastern Czech town of Jihlava said the men left the note at a memorial to the murdered young woman in Polna, a nearby town. Both men later posted a photograph of the note on social media.

Dana Cirtkova, a spokeswoman for the Jihlava police, on Tuesday detailed the charges to JTA but said the men could not be identified until official notices are delivered to them. Bartos confirmed that he and his party colleague had been charged with the crimes.

“I think the accusations are unsubstantiated, and I stand by the remarks,” Bartos told JTA in an email.  The men could be sentenced to up to three years in prison if convicted.

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