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September 27, 2022



Čeněk Růžička: Okamura and those like him speak the language of criminals

Prague, 4.8.2014 21:17, (ROMEA)
Čeněk Růžička
Čeněk Růžička

To tell you the truth, we traditional Czech Romani and Sinti people are no longer surprised by the remarks made by the Okamuras, Klauses, Čuněks, Doubravas, Řápkovás or Janáčkovás. During the time we have been living in the Czech lands, we have gotten used to quite a lot.  

These people are "only" speaking the language of criminals, and more than enough criminals have been hanging around Romani people here since time immemorial. What happened to Romani people during the Protectorate, what was perpetrated against them by the Czech citizens of the Protectorate, was so absurd that a large part of this society is reluctant to believe it, which does not surprise me.

These people do not have the relevant information, unlike Mr Okamura, who by virtue of his position could acquire such information if he would only remember to do so. Right now this MP is just cunningly saying what a large proportion of the public wants to hear.  

He knows very well that an officially racialized point of view was applied to the Romani prisoners in the concentration camps, including the camps at Hodonín and Lety, from the moment of the so-called "gypsy census", and he also knows very well that what lay behind the repressive policies enacted against Romani people in Czechoslovakia both before WWII and up until 1942 was a racialized perspective. Right now he is enjoying his parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

We will, of course, not be filing charges against him as long as he is immune. Should Mr Okamura decide to publicly stand up for what he has said, to be such a hotshot as to voluntarily give up his parliamentary immunity in this matter, the surviving relatives of the victims would welcome it and would consider him to be a real man.    

For the time being Okamura has just been a talker. I personally offer him the opportunity to prove otherwise.

There is yet another option, a more moral one, and that is that Mr Okamura would be stripped of his parliamentary immunity by his fellow MPs. That would be an unprecedented signal that would affect this country's international standing, showing that it does not pay in our country to manipulate facts about the Holocaust of the Jews and Roma.  

A court would then decide whether the MP has been telling the truth and we, the surviving relatives of the victims, would respect its decision. Mr Okamura, you don't have to take us seriously (as we are, after all, just mere "gypsies"), but perhaps you will take seriously a person whose feet you are not even fit to touch.

That person is the eminent Czechoslovak microbiologist, Professor František Patočka, who wrote the following after completing his investigation into whether what was going on in the Lety camp was actually spotted typhus in a book by Milan Labuda called The Living against the Living (Živý proti živým, 1979):  

Gypsy children, with the exception of newborns and youth capable of work, were separated from their parents into two large divided barracks, where most were left to their fate on pallets covered with putrefied straw. 

About three times a day a gypsy woman would bring them a pot of some sort of food and divvy it up along the edges of the pallets. The “meals” for the gypsy brood were rather reminiscent of a very poor feeding of animals in a zoo. Most of the children wore just a threadbare shirt, some were completely naked. The only covering provided this herd of children was a large canvas sheet which did not even cover them all. They pulled it back and forth across one another, not just with their hands, but even with their teeth. 

In order to determine the actual state of hygiene beneath the canvas, I pulled it entirely back. The first thing that I was horrified to realize was that there were dozens of corpses beneath it. The second and possibly even more horrible thing was to see that some children remained alive there in agony, some of them with high fevers. To this day, I can very clearly remember the moment when that sight was revealed to me, a most terrible horror that exceeded any description of hell.

Čeněk Růžička, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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