Sokolov, West Bohemia, May 9 (CTK) – Sokolov Town Hall removed a U.S. flag from a WWII memorial during a May 7 ceremony to commemorate Soviet prisoners of war, though it was U.S. soldiers who had liberated the town and the prisoner camp in 1945.
Mayor Renata Oulehlová (ANO) admitted it was a mistake, she told CTK today.
There were no malicious intentions behind it, she stressed.
Senator Miroslav Balatka (Mayors and Independents, STAN) pointed out the removal of the flag by the town hall, headed by a coalition of ANO, the Social Democrats (CSSD) and Civic Democrats (ODS).
When he laid flowers at the memorial to the Soviet prisoners of war in Sokolov on May 7, all three flags, the Russian, Czech and American ones, were there.
“An hour later, during the commemorative act of the Sokolov leadership, the U.S. flag was removed from the flag stand. It was not there during the entire ceremony and was returned afterwards. I do not understand this at all,” Balatka wrote on Facebook.
“I do not understand that 31 years of the revolution [the 1989 fall of the Communist regime], an American flag is being removed in our town. The flag of the army that liberated our town, including the camp where they [U.S. soldiers] found dead prisoners of war and secured their dignified burial.”
Oulehlová told CTK that she and other officials had decided to remove the U.S. flag from the stand as the particular ceremony was in honor of the Soviet victims from the camp and that this was no expression of disrespect.
She explained that the Czech flag had been kept at the stand because the camp was in the Czech territory.
Sokolov’s official website contains a lengthy article by historian Vladimir Bruzenak describing the liberation of the town by the U.S. troops.
The Sokolov assembly members expressed astonishment at the mayor’s step. A number of people criticized the removal of the U.S. flag at the ceremony in their comments on social media.
Oulehlová told CTK today that she was considering issuing an official reaction to the whole case, which had stirred up a wave of discussions on social media.