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Activists lament Czech Police response to MP's denial of Romani genocide

Prague, 14.11.2014 18:46, (ROMEA)
Čeněk Růžička speaks on the occasion of the commemorative ceremony at Lety u Písku, May 2014. (Photo: Archive)
Čeněk Růžička speaks on the occasion of the commemorative ceremony at Lety u Písku, May 2014. (Photo: Archive)

All of the people involved in filing a criminal report against Czech MP Tomio Okamura, chair of the "Dawn of Direct Democracy" (Úsvit) movement, over his lying remarks about the Romani genocide have spoken with news server about the response to their criminal report from the Police of the Czech Republic. Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust in the Czech Republic, disagrees with the police findings, as do the others who reported Okamura's wrongdoing, and considers the brief argument presented by the police to be absurd.  

Růžička understands the fact that the police see no reason to initiate criminal prosecution of this matter as a signal to other citizens that it is permissible to publicly lie about the Romani Holocaust and make light of it. "I view the procedure undertaken by the police with respect to such a crucial, sensitive matter as the Romani Holocaust to be a completely inadequate response. This is a clear signal from the police to everyone else that making light of a genocide and publicly lying about the course of that genocide is acceptable," Růžička told news server    

"What's more, the police have swept our criminal report under the carpet with an argument that makes no sense. In their argument, they are responding to something that has nothing to with the content of our criminal report. The excuse they give regarding the previous similar behavior on the part of Mr Ransdorf is, from a legal point of view, absurd," Růžička said.  

Růžička sees political pressure as behind the police's behavior and also believes that if Okamura had made similar remarks about the Jewish Holocaust, police would have done much more work on their investigation of the submitted evidence. "It is the fault of the police that this case will not come before the courts, and I have been denied the opportunity to refute Tomio Okamura's lies and to speak about who was really responsible for perpetrating the crimes that took place at Lety in a court of law," he said.

Equal Opportunities Party chair Miroslav Kováč, who also reported the crime, said he too is amazed at how the police justified their decision not to find Okamura's remarks criminal. "In their justification, the police do not at all address the content of the criminal report itself. I see this decision as highly dangerous, because the police have arbitrarily reduced the question of  Romani Holocaust denial solely to the point of whether the camp at Lety by Písek was or was not a concentration camp. That has nothing to do with the content of our criminal report," Kováč told news server  

Michal Miko of the Slovo 21 organizatoin, who also joined the criminal report, makes no secret of his outrage at the police decision. "If a politician made such remarks in any advanced Western state, that politician would be forced to resign. There is still no political will here to address anything connected with the Romani Holocaust on the territory of the Czech state. The police's approach to this scandal is irresponsible, they have just absurdly copied the result of the case of another remark made by communist leader Miroslav Ransdorf. In my view this statement by the Police of the Czech Republic is itself a denial of the Romani genocide during WWII," Miko told news server  

Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of the ROMEA organization, also disagrees with the results of the investigation. "The police have failed. It is an indisputable fact that through his remarks, Okamura has spit on the victims of the Romani Holocaust. The fact that this society, through its police, is unable to adequately handle hateful remarks against Romani people is a testament to the increasing tolerance for hatred here. We must push our politicians and various organizations to make sure Okamura and his obscure movement are isolated personally and politically. People like Okamura should have no place in public life," Ryšavý said.    

In the meantime, Okamura has now published a commentary on his Facebook profile claiming that the police said his statement that "According to the information available, this myth that [Lety] was a Romani concentration camp is a lie" was actually true. "Okamura is continuing in his lies. The police did not at all find his remarks were true, as he is trying to convince his voters. The police merely said that his populist statement, which is worthless with respect to its historical accuracy, is not criminal," Ryšavý said.  

The history of the concentration camp at Lety

The original space at Lety served in 1940 as an accommodation facility for construction workers. Subsequently, a disciplinary labor camp was created there on the orders of the Interior Minister of the Protectorate Government, Josef Ježek, on 15 July 1940, issued on the basis of Government Decree No. 72 on disciplinary labor camps dated 2 March 1939.  

That particular decree had been issued prior to the country being occupied by the Nazis. According to the decree, "wandering gypsies and other vagrants living in the same way who are capable of work, beggars by trade and those who make a living from begging (children, etc.), gamblers by trade, inveterate idlers, loafers and persons making a living from dishonest earnings (prostitution, etc.), whether their own or those of others" were to be rounded up and concentrated in particular facilities.  

The first 12 prisoners arrived at Lety on 17 July 1940. On 1 August 1942 the camp was changed into a "Gypsy camp" and subsequently entire Romani families were transported there.

The concentration camp began running on 1 August 1942 and was closed on 4 May 1943. Its capacity was increased to accommodate up to 600 prisoners, but that number was soon exceeded, as during the course of August 1942 more than 1 100 children, men and women were interned in the camp.  

The camp was not equipped with the necessary hygienic or any other facilities for such a large number of people. The prisoners often had no choice but to bathe in a nearby fishpond.  

Until August 1942, only men were imprisoned at Lety. After that, children and women were also brought there to rot in completely unsatisfactory conditions.

After the big influx of August 1942, whole families were mostly brought to the camp, as well as individuals. A total of 326 people died directly in the Lety camp, 241 of whom were children.

A temporary burial ground near the camp was used to inter 120 victims. Another 540 prisoners from Lety perished while being transported to Auschwitz.

A total of two mass transports were undertaken. The first one departed on 3 December 1942 as a transport of so-called asocials (16 men and 78 women) to the Auschwitz I concentration camp.  

The second transport practically meant the liquidation of the Lety camp, as it included 417 prisoners who went to the Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp. While the first transport took place on the basis of a decree about crime prevention, the second took place on the basis of Himmler's decree of 16 December 1942, which ordered the transport of all Romani people to the Auschwitz concentration camp.  

The remaining 198 prisoners at Lety were then relocated to the "gypsy camp" at Hodonín near Kunštát (the so-called Žalov camp) or were interned in camps in Pardubice and Prague. On 13 May 1995, at the site of the mass grave next to the former camp, a memorial was unveiled with the inscription "To the victims of the gypsy camp at Lety 1942-1943. Never forget. Ma bisteren."

On 13 May 2010 the Lety Memorial was officially opened there. A government decision has entrusted the Lidice Memorial with its management.    

voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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