Sir Nicholas Winton, a British man who saved the lives of almost 700 Czechoslovak Jewish children on the eve of World War II, celebrated his 100th birthday in London on Saturday, in the company of some of those whose lives he had saved. Mr Winton organized transport out of Czechoslovakia and UK visas for 669 mostly Jewish children shortly before Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Nazis in 1938. Today, ‘Winton’s children’ have around 5,000 descendents.
At a commemorative service at the former Terezín concentration camp in central Bohemia on Sunday, speakers warned against the rise in far-right extremism in the Czech Republic. Around 1,500 gathered in the National Cemetery at Terezín on Sunday to commemorate victims of Nazism. After a laying of wreathes, head of the Terezín memorial, Jan Munk warned against the rising number of far-right gatherings and marches taking place across the Czech Republic. He said that ‘as a Czech and a Jew’ he felt threatened by this trend. Head of the Czech Senate Přemysl Sobotka said that he was unhappy with the amount of media coverage far-right extremists enjoyed in the Czech Republic, and said that more should be done to clamp down on neo-Nazis in this country. This Sunday’s ceremony was the 63rd annual commemorative service at Terezín concentration camp, where over 2600 people died, and from which many thousands more were transported, during the Second World War.
A plane belonging to German carrier Lufthansa made an emergency landing at Prague’s Ruzyně Airport on Sunday after smoke was detected in the hold of the aircraft. The plane, flying from Duesseldorf to Budapest in Hungary, touched down at Ruzyně at around 14:00 CET, a spokesperson for the Prague airport told press. The landing went smoothly and all 35 passengers on board the plane were taken to the airport to await replacement transport.
Saturday’s ‘Museum Night’ in the Czech Republic’s second city, Brno, was a record success, according to organizers. Some 16 institutions took part in the event, opening up more than 30 buildings on Saturday night and into Sunday morning. Staff registered more than 151,000 visitors, a figure up by more than 23,000 on last year. The most visited institutions were the Moravian Gallery and Brno Municipal Museum, according to Lenka Němcová, a spokesperson for the event. Several special events were put on as part of the evening, Špílberk Castle in the centre of the city played host to a firework display and special performances. The Museum of Romany Culture also put on a special concert of Romany music. Museum Night was held in the run up to International Museum Day, which falls on May 18.
In the same interview, Interior Minister Martin Pecina said that budget cuts being discussed in the Czech Interior Ministry would not affect the country’s police force. Speaking on Czech Television’s Vaclav Moravec show on Sunday, Mr Pecina said that if cuts had to happen, they would not affect the country’s police force, fire brigade or projects being co-financed by the European Union. Mr Pecina said he would reevaluate the sale of some ministry properties proposed by his predecessor at the ministry Ivan Langer. Mr Pecina stressed that he was for the sale of ‘redundant property’ to raise ministry funds, but added that he would review the proposed sale of a number of ministry properties and cancel the sale of others altogether.
The Finance Ministry has rejected the appeals of three unsuccessful candidates for the so-called ‘tender of the century’. The tender to clean up past environmental damage is thought to be worth 115 billion crowns (5.8 billion USD). The announcement was made by senior ministry official Tomáš Uvíra on Czech Television on Sunday. Mr Uvíra added that if the unsuccessful candidates wanted to appeal this decision then they could, at the country’s Office for the Protection of Competition.
Prague Archbishop Miloslav Vlk is celebrating his 77th birthday this Sunday, in what is thought to be his last year in the function. The head of the Czech Catholic Church told media at Easter that he planned on retiring from his post before the end of the year, though, he said, he would not retire before Pope Benedict XVI visits the Czech Republic at the end of September. According to press, a successor to Cardinal Vlk is already being sought. In 2007, the head of the Czech Catholic Church underwent heart surgery and after collapsing from exhaustion in 2008, he said he planned to retire by 2010.
The Civic Society of Home Owners has called upon Czech President Václav Klaus not to sign a law which would postpone the deregulation of rents in some parts of the Czech Republic until 2012. Last week, the Senate approved a draft law which would see the process of rent deregulation slowed in some regions by several years. The proposal not to raise rents in some homes around the country was mooted as part of the government’s anti-crisis package. But, on Sunday, the Civic Society of Home Owners said that the crisis was affecting everyone, including them, and that the decision to pass off the burden on home owners especially was unfair. As well as asking President Václav Klaus to veto the bill, the association has asked the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to look at their case.
The Czech government will again attempt to outlaw the far-right Workers’ Party, Interior Minister Martin Pecina said in an interview with Czech Television on Sunday. Mr Pecina said that his ministry would file a complaint against the party as soon as it legally could. After an unsuccessful attempt to have the party outlawed brought by Mr Pecina’s predecessor, Ivan Langer, and thrown out in March, the government must wait for six months until they can try again. Mr Langer’s case for the banning of the party was thrown out by the Supreme Administrative Court in Brno. After the verdict, court officials working on the case said that the government’s arguments for outlawing the party had not been sufficiently prepared.
On Sunday, the Czech presidency of the European Union condemned discrimination against gays and lesbians, marking International Day against Homophobia, which was celebrated in more than 50 countries. In a statement, the EU’s Czech presidency said that it rejected and condemned any manifestation of homophobia, calling the phenomenon a ‘blatant violation of human dignity’. The presidency said it was deeply concerned by the use of the death penalty in parts of the world to punish those found guilty of being homosexual. The EU urged authorities to ensure that ‘sexual orientation and gender identity may under no circumstance be the basis for criminal penalties’.
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