Police in the Czech Republic have opened an investigation into the sale by several online retailers of antisemitic children’s books, such as The Poisonous Mushroom, which critics describe as a “classic antisemitic work of German National Socialist education.” Chapter titles include: “How To Identify a Jew,” “How Two Women Were Tricked By Jewish Lawyers,” “How Jews Torment Animals,” and “Without Solving The Jewish Question No Salvation For Mankind.”
The book, written in 1938 by Ernst Hiemer, tells the story of a mother explaining to her child that just as there are poisonous and edible mushrooms, there are bad and good people. She then goes on to advise that you can identify Jews by their “louse-infested beards. The filthy, protruding ears.” Hiemer was also the founder of the notorious antisemitic newspaper, Der Stürmer.
Czech TV journalist Jakub Szántó brought attention to the problem, by calling for police to open an investigation into the matter, writing on Twitter that “some shops are unable to distinguish between selling and breaking the law,” a reference to the Czech Republic’s law criminalization of neo-Nazi messages.
Following the announcement of the investigation, all online stores except for one stopped selling the The Poisonous Mushroom, as well other antisemitic books. The store that continues to sell the book, One Direction, also sells bookmarks with Nazi symbols which feature the Nazi slogan, “Gott mit uns,” meaning, God with us.
The chairman of the WJC-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, Petr Papousek, condemned the sale of the book saying it taunts the victims of the Holocaust. Papousek also called on authorities to prevent the further spread of “gross and racist hate speech”.
Antisemitism has been on the rise across Europe, and in the Czech Republic. According to a report by the Federation of the Jewish Communities there were 347 antisemitic incidents in 2018, a sharp increase compared to the 221 antisemitic incidents in 2015, when the last equivalent report was published. Despite the rise, the report concluded that Czech Republic remains a safe country for Jews.
The Czech government has taken steps to address the rise of antisemitism. In January 2019, the lower house of the Czech Parliament adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. WJC President Ronald S. Lauder praised the decision, calling it, “a principled and important step in recognizing that antisemitism is a prevailing problem that must be tackled head-on and in a universal fashion.”
In November, the World Jewish Congress met with Interior Minister Jan Hamáček as a follow-up to methodology provided by the WJC to the Czech government for protecting vulnerable targets in the country. The report included guidelines for protecting sites such as malls, stadiums, concert halls, and other crowd-drawing locations often targeted by terrorists and other violent offenders. The report also included recommendations for an immediate response to successfully executed terrorist attacks, as well as a guide to minimize long term damages.