Czech President Miloš Zeman has called on the world to deal with Islamic radicalism the same way it ultimately had to deal with Nazism in the 1940s. The comments were made at Prague Castle before dozens of European leaders as part of events marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
“We have to ask ourselves if a repeat of the Holocaust could happen. This time it would not comprise 6 million Jews, but rather members of countless faiths as well as atheists – and even Muslims. Which is why I would like to welcome the fact that moderate Arab countries recently joined in the battle against Islamic State.”
The Czech president’s speech was delivered Tuesday morning at Prague Castle’s Spanish Hall. The event formed the closing part of The Third International Holocaust Forum, entitled “Let My People Live!” organized by the European Jewish Congress with the backing of the Czech Government. Several hundred dignitaries, including around thirty European heads of government or state attended the event – though, notably, both the leaders of Russia and Ukraine were absent. In the wake of the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, Zeman took a characteristically tough line against Islamic fundamentalism, suggesting the Nazi past held lessons for today’s struggle against terrorism:
“I don’t know who among you has seen a map of a proposed Islamic Caliphate to be achieved by 2020. It is a map that covers half of Europe, half of Africa and a large part of Asia. If you say that it is a map authored by a madman, then you will be right. But Adolf Hitler too was a madman. But despite this, his vision of an enslaved and Jew-free Europe almost became a reality.”
Following a trip to the Czech former Nazi concentration camp at Terezín, President Zeman had already signaled a day earlier that he intended to deliver a “very radical” speech at Prague Castle the next day. That same evening, he told roughly 500 guests assembled at Prague’s Municipal House, that radical Islam and anti-Semitism could not be defeated by public demonstrations and appeasement. Nor were legislative means sufficient, he added. His speech would be, Zeman declared, a gesture akin to President Kennedy’s June 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner” expression of solidarity to the people of West Berlin.
Ultimately, Zeman’s address recalled Europe’s initial appeasement of the Nazis in the 1930s, before arguing that a tough line was needed to prevent Islamist radicals perpetrating another Holocaust. The solution, he argued, included pushing for the UN Security Council to create a new international rapid reaction force to stamp out terrorists:
“We remain of the belief that terrorists can still somehow be educated. Yes, Hitler educated us with gas chambers. But I fear that before we are truly ready to create a joint rapid response force, several more terrorist attacks will have to occur before the public realizes that the terrorists cannot be negotiated with, but must be battled against; and this battle cannot merely be undertaken via shallow legislative changes, but with the kind of force that might have been [offered against Hitler] in 1936 in the Rhineland.”
Should such warnings not be heeded, the president added, the world risked a new “Superholocaust” in which as many as 500 million people could die.