Jiří Brady, a Czech-born survivor of the Auschwitz death camp, has been taken off the list of nominees for a state award by President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic. The Order of T.G. Masaryk was meant to be awarded to Brady at the Prague Castle on October 28 on the country’s Independence Day to show recognition for his life-long work for human rights and democracy. Brady was said to have been crossed off the list because his nephew Daniel Herman, the Culture Minister, met with the Dalai Lama angering both President Zeman and China. The president denies that there is any connection between the two events which has led to a political scandal.
Not many people in the Czech Republic knew about Brady before this incident, but now politicians, academics, and cultural institutions alike are rushing in to show their respects and to honour him with awards. In 1948, after surviving the death camp and the death march towards Germany, Brady moved to Canada and started a plumbing business while also devoting his life to Holocaust remembrance.
Everyone seems to be outraged by the news and blame Zeman for a blatant snub from the award. Zeman ordered Culture Minister Herman not to meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader as it would interfere with his efforts to strengthen economic ties with China. Herman told Czech public television,“The president directly told me that if I meet the Dalai Lama, my uncle will be taken out of the list [of honourees].” So whether or not the president admits it, it’s pretty obvious that almost everyone believes the two events are linked. Does that make it true though? Well, who knows?
The truth is very difficult to come by when observing politics and news media. Take the disagreement between privately-owned TV Prima and producer of a popular talk show with host Jan Kraus, for example. TV Prima failed to air the advertised episode of the show which included guests Jiří Brady and Daniel Herman talking about the award snub. TV Prima claims that the producers didn’t send the episode to them on time, whereas producer Simona Matásková disagreed, saying to news server Seznam Zprávy, “We delivered the program to Prima the same way we always have in the past.”
The episode aired the following week and in it, Jan Ruml (former Interior Minister) urged lawmakers to file a vote on Zeman’s capability of performing his post. Pop singer, Dan Barta, joked that Zeman is fulfilling his promise to unify the people by unifying them against himself. All in all, the whole thing has seemingly backfired on Zeman. He may be popular on Chinese soil, but he sure as hell isn’t on any other soil around the world, least of all on his own. Brady, on the other hand, is experiencing the opposite effect, pretty much becoming a celebrity.
This is, of course, great news for Brady and everyone seems to have united against this ceremonial injustice. But not many people are talking about the fact that so many politicians and institutions rushed in to give him awards simply because he was denied the state honour. Jaroslav Miller, the rector of Palacky University in Olomouc, wrote on his FB page, “If the [president] really removed him from the honors list for meaningless reasons, Palacky University Olomouc would be honored to have Mr. Jiri [George] Brady accept our academic award.“ Prague Mayor Adriana Krnacova said she was ashamed of the situation and that’s why she’s using her authority to give him the official key to Prague to express her gratitude. Such examples are numerous.
Would Brady have received so many awards and medals if he wasn’t snubbed, thus creating a media scandal? The sad thing is, no one can be certain that he would have. He probably would not have become such a household name, despite his incredible story, and his life’s work probably would not have had so much attention drawn to it as it has now. Is this an unnecessarily grim reflection on society? Perhaps, but ask yourself this – would you remember him if the headline simply wrote, “Holocaust Survivor Receives State-Award”?
I’m not sure I would…
This article was written by Milan Sokolovski.