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Cardinal Duka leads prayers for Romani victims of Lety

Lety u Písku, 13.5.2013 23:15, (ROMEA)
Cardinal Duka leading prayers, 13 May 2013. On his left is Czech Senator Miluše Horská, who is calling for the pig farm at the Holocaust site to be removed. Photos:  František Kostlán and Bernie Higgins
Cardinal Duka leading prayers, 13 May 2013. On his left is Czech Senator Miluše Horská, who is calling for the pig farm at the Holocaust site to be removed. Photos: František Kostlán and Bernie Higgins

Cardinal Dominik Duka and approximately 100 other people commemorated the Romani victims of Nazism today at Lety by Písek. US Ambassador Norman Eisen, Equal Opportunities Party (Strana rovných příležitostí) chair Štefan Tišer, Miroslav Kováč of the FORUM association, Green Party (Strana Zelených) chair Ondřej Liška, Czech Pirate Party (Česká pirátská strana) chair Ivan Bartoš, and activists Imrich Horvát of Ostrava, Ivanka Mariposa Čonková and Ondřej Slačálek of Prague, Míra Brož of Ústí nad Labem, and Emil Voráč of the Khamoro association in Chodov all paid their respects to the memory of the Romani people who perished during the Second World War in the concentration camp at Lety.   

The ceremony was not attended by any Czech political leaders. As is now traditional, the event was organized by Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust (Výbor pro odškodnění obětí romského holocaust). Flowers and wreaths were laid at the monument by representatives of the embassies of France, Germany and Great Britain, as well as by representatives of the Czech Defense Ministry.

Cardinal Duka led a prayer for the Holocaust victims at the Lety monument. "We pray to God for the souls of the dead, for recognition of the dignity of each and every human being, and for one another,” he said.

Cardinal Duka said the former concentration camp for Romani people at Lety is evidence of what human hatred, irresponsibility and rancor are capable of. "We are all here to say ‘no’ to those who believe it is possible to trample on the dignity and rights of others,” he said.

Czech Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková represented the Czech Government at the ceremony and reminded those assembled of the onerous housing situation faced by impoverished Romani people today. Like other participants, she also expressed the wish that the pig farm be removed from the site of the former concentration camp.  

Speeches about the dismal situation for Romani people in the Czech Republic today were made by Green Party chair Ondřej Liška, Míra Brož of the Konexe association, and František Kostlán, vice-chair of the Czech Helsinki Committee and a member of the ROMEA association. News server Romea.cz will publish some of those speeches later this week.

The facility at Lety was opened in August 1940 as a disciplinary labor camp. As of May 1943 a total of 1 308 Romani people had been interned there, 327 of whom died in the camp. More than 500 of the inmates were transported to Auschwitz.  

After the war, less than 600 Romani prisoners returned to the territory of the Czech Republic from the various concentration camps where they had been imprisoned. It is estimated that the Nazis murdered 90 % of the Czech Roma during the war.

The Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust (Výbor pro odškodnění romského holocaust), which convened today’s ceremony, has been trying for years to get the pig farm at the site removed. "We would be glad if the site could become a little more dignified,” said Čeněk Růžička.

Last year Czech Prime Minister Nečas said the government does not have the money to purchase the pig farm at Lety and close it. The total cost of such a move would allegedly be in the hundreds of millions of crowns.

"I think it is really necessary to realize the value of such human sacrifice and to demonstrate in such a case that human dignity belongs to every person irrespective of their nationality, their political affiliation, or their religion. At a time when we can see that the question of human dignity is often disputed and even insulted, this event is an important one,” Cardinal Duka told news server Romea.cz. 

ČTK, bau, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Dominik Duka, Lety u Písku, Pietní akce, romský holocaust, Strana rovných příležitostí, USA, Ústí nad Labem, vládní zmocněnkyně pro lidská práva, Czech republic, Čeněk Růžička, Events, Extremism, Facism, genocide, Germany, History, Konexe, o. s., memorial, Racism, Roma, UK



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