Two Czech commanders from the elite Fourth Brigade of the Rapid Reaction Forces who have just returned from Afghanistan wore the shield designs of Nazi SS brigades and divisions on their helmets for almost their entire tour of duty in Logar province, according to a Nov. 9 report in the Prague daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD). The report notes that these same commanders were decorated days earlier in a ceremony in Žatec for their model fulfillment of the Afghan mission by Czech Defense Minister Martin Barták and Chief of General Staff Vlastimil Picek. MfD reports there is no evidence that Barták and Picek were aware of the two elite soldiers’ Nazi sympathies. The helmets of company lieutenant Jan Čermák and warrant officer Hynek Matonoha were “decorated” with the shields of the SS Hohenstaufen and Dirlewanger brigades.
The daily reports that Czech soldiers serving in Afghanistan had already informed their superiors of the display of Nazi insignia. But the commander of the Czech units in Logar province, Col. Petr Procházka, merely ordered the incineration of the helmet covers—along with photographic evidence. However, a few images taken by fellow members of the brigade survived, and were leaked to MfD. They are displayed on the paper’s website. “I put it there just for kicks,” Čermák said when contacted by MfD, blaming “youthful recklessness.”
Michal Mazel, an Interior Ministry pointman on right-wing extremism, does not buy the excuse that this was a youthful indiscretion. “These are college-educated, elite soldiers, not adolescents,” he said. “The SS shields on their helmets testify to a world view that is the complete opposite of that which should be held by the elite soldiers of a NATO army.”
Defense Minister Barták said Čermák and Matonoha would be suspended. “There is no place in the army for people who think this way,” he said in a statement. There was no word on whether any action would be taken against Col. Procházka for apparently trying to hush up the affair. (AFP, Nov. 10; Romea, MfD, Prague, Nov. 9)
Days before the Czech scandal broke, the New York Times reported that German soldiers are engaged in a ground offensive for the first time since World War II, fighting Taliban insurgents in northern Kunduz province. (NYT, Oct. 27) Germany‘s Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg recently backed up the findings of an internal NATO investigation into deadly air-strikes on two fuel trucks called in by German troops in Kunduz in September. “Given the overall threat assessment, the air strike was militarily appropriate,” Guttenberg said. (Reuters, Nov, 6)
The Wikipedia entry for the Dirlewanger brigade recalls that the unit was used against anti-Nazi partisans in Slovakia in 1944. So we ask once again: However much Czech ultra-rightists may hate Jews and Roma, why on earth do they identify with the Nazis, who occupied, dismantled and humiliated their country in World War II? We really don’t get it. If any Czech neo-Nazis are reading this, maybe they can explain it to us…
See our last posts on Afghanistan, the Czech Republic and the radical right resurgence in Central Europe.
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Czech Nazi nostalgist served in Kosova?
One of the Czech soldiers who wore an SS unit symbol on his helmet in Afghanistan may be a deserter from the French Foreign Legion. Moreover, he may have worn the Nazi symbols during his previous service in Kosova. Speaking on Czech Television today, Czech Deputy Defense Minister Jan Fulík did not directly confirm the allegations about Hynek Matonoha, but said investigations so far indicate the reports are probable. Investigations are ongoing. “Indications are that is actually the case,” Fulík said, adding that the ministry will complete its investigation within 14 days. “Then we plan to make a clear decision on the future of these high-ranking officers.” (Romea, Nov. 15)
German heads roll in Afghan aristrike fallout
Gaermany’s labor minister Franz Josef Jung announced his resignation Nov. 27, the third official to step down since the defense ministry admitted withholding details about a controversial NATO air-strike in Afghanistan in September. Leaked ministry reports prepared after the Sept. 4 bombing of two petrol tankers supposedly hijacked by the Taliban made clear there had been civilian casualties, now believed to number up to 40. As defense minister at the time, however, Jung said in public there had been no civilian casualties. Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Germany’s highest-ranking officer, and Peter Wichert, a senior defense ministry official, have also resigned over the incident. (AlJazeera, Nov, 27; Irish Times, Nov, 28)
Merkel apologizes for Afghan air strike
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed regret Dec. 1 for the deadly September air-strike in Afghanistan, as demands grow for a probe into what members of her government knew about the attack. Both Merkel’s conservatives and her new coalition partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), have signaled their support for a parliamentary investigation into the German-ordered strike. (Reuters, Dec. 1)
See our last post on US/NATO atrocities in Afghanistan.
Two Czech commanders leave military after Afghan scandal
Two deputy chiefs-of-staff, generals Jiří Halaška and Josef Prokš, are leaving the Czech military after recent scandals—including that concerning Czech soldiers wearing Nazi regalia while on duty in Afghanistan. Although the general staff said they are leaving at their own request at the end-year, their departure is widely viewed as a response to scandals. (Prague Daily Monitor, Dec. 17)