A Prague store selling rubber masks with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s face has had its lease terminated by the Prague 1 district authorities. According to the Prague 1 Town Hall, the sale of such items violated the terms of the lease.
German Ambassador Christoph Israng had complained over social media that the display of the mask on Karmelitská 30 in Malá Strana was inappropriate, and the police confirmed that they were dealing with the matter.
While the sale of the masks had been pointed out as early as January by intent reporter Janek Rubeš, little notice was taken until the ambassador raised the issue.
“Based on a suggestion from citizens and an opposition colleague, I checked the shop assortment at the weekend and compared the findings with the lease agreement and all documents related to the lease. On the basis of these findings, I submitted a proposal to terminate the contract in order to have a new selection procedure for the lease. Existing tenants may also apply for the new selection procedure,” Prague 1 Town Councilor David Bodeček (Pirates) said in a statement.
The Prague 1 council approved the proposal, and the lease will end at the beginning of next year. Details for applying for the lease will be posted soon on the Prague 1 website.
The lease specified that the store would sell items from protected workshops, and items representing traditional Prague and Czech culture such as historical pictures or various souvenirs on Prague. The store should also offer magazines, tobacco products, maps, postcards, non-alcoholic and to a minimum extent alcoholic beverages, and public transport tickets. The rubber masks of Hitler did not fall into any of these categories.
The operators of the souvenir shop also had been asked by the city in the past to modify the blatant advertising shield, which was unsuitable for the Prague conservation area. The operators agreed to change it.
Prague City Hall and Prague 1 intend to require more moderate advertising presentation in lease contracts for municipal non-residential premises, similar to other Czech and European cities. The exact procedure and rules are now under preparation.
“Let’s face it, some shops are a disgrace for the Prague Conservation Area — and we are finally trying to solve it. I would definitely like the [quality] level of souvenirs offered to tourists to be much higher than what we see in some stores today. On the other hand, I am pleased by the first arrivals of shops that really offer beautiful Czech products and design goods, and thus support Czech artists and local creative industry. I would like to see more of them in the center,” Prague 1 Mayor Pavel Čižinský (Prague 1 sobě) said.
Bodeček said last week on Facebook that during September and October, Prague 1 carried out a check of district-owned commercial premises on the so-called Royal Route leading to Prague Castle. According to the Bodeček, most leases state that military memorabilia, and objects with Nazi and communist themes must not be offered and sold.
“Of the 15 shops inspected, three are jewelry and stone shops, including a Czech garnet, the authenticity of which should be verified. The overall impression of the assortment offered is positive except for one store, where many kinds of souvenirs and art products from specific designers or firms are in a relatively small space, which can mislead the tourist to thiking that everything they buy here is artistic,” Bodeček said.
Prague 1 is preparing, in cooperation with City Hall, new rules for the lease of non-residential premises so that not only the price is decisive, but so that local authorities can give more weight to the purpose of the lease.
Prague City Jan Chabr (United Forces for Prague) previously said it is undignified for Prague to have Russian stacking dolls in the city center, and called them a part of the visual smog that the city is trying to rid itself of.
The store in Karmelitská Street is hardly an exception. Souvenirs featuring Soviet dictators and communist imagery can also be found. Nazi Germany occupied what is now the Czech Republic during World War II, and Czechoslovakia was dominated by the Soviet union from 1948 to the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
Warsaw Pact troops led by the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968. Both the Nazis and communists were responsible for numerous deaths and atrocities.