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Activists want to compensate more Czech Romany Holocaust victims

Prague, 4.3.2007 19:26, (CTK)

Ten Romany activists want to re-open the issue of compensation to Czech Romanies who were persecuted during WW2 on racial grounds and had to hide, since the state has not compensated all of them, Cenek Ruzicka, head of the Committee for Compensating the Romany Holocaust Victims, told CTK today.

The Romanies have sent their statement to Czech PM Mirek Topolanek, the chairmen of the parliamentary parties and the Government Council for Romany Issues.

Ten renowned Romany activists, who met in Karlovy Vary, west Bohemia, on Saturday, say in their statement that the government does not promote Romany integration, and that Romanies themselves want to help improve the situation of their minority.

The text was signed, among others, by Ruzicka, Karel Holomek from the Romanies' Association in Moravia, Ladislav Bily from the Board of Romany Regional Representatives and Ondrej Gina who represents Czech Romanies in the European Roma Forum.

The statement also mentions the pig farm on the premises of the wartime internment camps for Czech Romanies in Lety, south Bohemia.

According to historical documents, some 1,308 Romanies were deported to Lety during WW2, while 326 people perished there and more than 500 of its inmates ended up in the extermination camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

A similar internment was also in Hodonin u Kunstatu, south Moravia, where 207 prisoners died and 800 were sent to Auschwitz. At present there is a recreational facility at the same place.

"The Romany Holocaust is unfortunately not perceived properly in society, the state and governmental institutions, and consequently concrete steps to redress the wrongs have not been taken," says the statement.

According to activists, the law enabling compensation to Romany Holocaust victims determines too strict criteria. Romanies must for instance prove that they were in hiding for at least three months during WW2, Ruzicka said, adding that the law does not reckon with the fact that a number of elderly Romanies are illiterate.

A couple of years ago some 8,000 Romanies asked for compensation for wartime sufferings, but only some 300 received it, Ruzicka recalled.

"If the proceedings were just, some 30 percent of the applicants should have been compensated," Ruzicka claims.

Romany activists have also agreed on concrete steps to improve the situation of the Romany community in the Czech Republic. They insist of Romany representatives working in a new agency to prevent the existence of Romany ghettos.

According to an analysis, there are some 300 such deprived localities with predominant Romany population where up to 80,000 people live in the Czech Republic.

According to official estimates, there are 200,000 Romanies in the 10-million Czech Republic, however Czech Romanies put the total number of Romanies in the country at about 300,000. Nevertheless during the latest census in 2001, only 11,746 inhabitants claimed to have Romany nationality.

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