According to local server Aktuálně.cz, 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Jiří Brady was notified on October 14 that he would be receiving a Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk award on October 28 for his life’s achievements.
Brady survived Terezín and Auschwitz, where both of his parents and his sister were exterminated, and emigrated to Canada years after the war. His sister’s suitcase has been exhibited in Tokyo since 2000, and her story recounted in the book Hana’s Suitcase and subsequent theater and film adaptations.
“I survived the Holocaust and decided that I would live and go on, without bitterness and with my head held high,” he told Aktuálně.cz in a written statement. “A big part of my life has been living in Canada, but Czech roots are an important part of my being.”
“I perceived [the award] as a great honor and recognition of my life’s work.”
Brady even travelled to the Czech Republic in advance of the ceremony, arriving in Prague last night. But before could be awarded, some controversy occurred following the Dalai Lama’s visit to Prague during last week’s Forum 2000 conference.
Brady’s nephew, Czech minister Daniel Herman, was one of the few representatives of the Czech state to meet with the Dalai Lama.
And according to Herman, because of that meeting, the award for his uncle has been rescinded. He was informed of such by no less than Czech president Miloš Zeman.
“Mr. President told me directly that if we meet with the Dalai Lama, my uncle would be removed from the list [of award recipients],” Herman told Česká televize.
“And that’s exactly what happened.”
Prague Castle has denied the allegations through spokesperson Jiří Ovčáček, who has stated that the list of award recipients is only known by the President and Prime Minister.
Zeman confirmed that he had asked Herman not to meet with the Dalai Lama, according to Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, reports iDnes.cz. But he denies using the award to his uncle as leverage.
Still, both Babiš and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka have written via Twitter that the President should award Brady if that was the original intention.
‘The president should maintain himself as a statesman and grant Brady the decoration,” writes Sobotka.
“It would be inhuman to disappoint him given his age and what is behind him,” tweeted Babiš.
News of the accusation has quickly spread through international media via a Reuters story that has been picked up by The New York Times. Brady has been honored for his achievements in other countries throughout the world, including Canada, Germany, and the UK.
“Getting appreciation from my home country would have been a golden point,” Brady said in the statement to Aktuálně.cz.
“I’m disappointed, but I’ve been through worse things.”