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Čeněk Růžička: Politicians publicly compensate for weakness by crudely defaming Romani people

Lety by Písek, 14.5.2012 19:30, (ROMEA)
Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust in the Czech Republic.

Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust in the Czech Republic (Výbor pro odškodnění romského holocaustu v ČR) and the organizer of the annual commemoration ceremony at Lety by Písek, criticized politicians during his speech there this year for worsening the atmosphere in society with their populism. He expressed great concern for the future. News server Romea.cz publishes his speech in full translation below.

Your Excellencies, precious guests, I bid you all good day.

This Sunday we have gorgeous weather and you certainly could all have chosen to spend time with your loved ones today instead of coming here. Please permit me to welcome you here all the more sincerely on behalf of the bereaved of the Romani victims of Nazism and to thank you for coming.

Romani and Sinti people, just like Jewish people, were all but completely slaughtered during the Second World War, and we are standing right now at one of the places where this happened. In Moravia, at Hodonín u Kunštátu, and right here, the government of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia began running the so-called "collecting camps" 70 years ago. That is what the jailers called them. Those who survived them don't call them anything but concentration camps. These are Romani people who survived Auschwitz, Ravensbrűck, and other concentration camps - so they know what they are talking about. In both of the camps run here during Nazism, hundreds of our people died solely because they were hated for their membership in the Romani nation.

Dear listeners, I believe you will agree with me when I say we are here to thoroughly reject the opinions of extremists and Holocaust deniers. Let's remember the names of the victims of the most recent racist murders here as well. The suffering of the Romani people has not ended.

Ladies and gentlemen, we, the bereaved of the victims, come here year after year to call for the removal of the pig farm from this place where the members of our families perished. This year, it's no different. I call on the politicians of this country, and those citizens who are not indifferent to its reputation: Commit yourselves to getting rid of the national shame that is a pig farm on the site of a former concentration camp. We will never release you from your responsibility in this matter. Return the victims their dignity. Make sure the Czechs do not have to be ashamed of themselves. Get rid of this shame for us. I think our country, and indirectly, Europe, really deserves this, given the facts of history.

Dear listeners, the lives of Romani people in this country are permanently threatened by neo-Nazi groups, and recently, ever-larger numbers of ordinary citizens have been joining them. They are joining them because some candidates and politicians publicly compensate for their own weaknesses by crudely defaming Romani people, with the aim of winning as many sympathizers and voters to their side as they can. Shucks, why shouldn't they? After all, they know what works for a significant portion of the Czech electorate. They have tested this innumerable times, it's all the same to them that they are fomenting anti-Romani hysteria in society.

In this context, we might object that there are, after all, laws to address discrimination and racially motivated attacks against Romani people. However, it is also true that those committing the discrimination and hate attacks take no notice of these laws.

The bereaved of the victims of Nazism - and I think part of the nation as well - were just as shocked as I was by the television clips broadcast online by Romea.tv showing a crowd of ordinary citizens in a town in the Šluknov foothills singing the Czech national anthem and then setting out to attack Romani families. What are we to make of this?

If it were not for the police intervention that time, there could have been fatal results. Is this how the Czech national anthem is to be treated? What am I to make of the people turned fanatics in Rotava? I was personally present for the march by the citizens of Rotava together with followers of DSSS leader Vandas and German neo-Nazis in an anti-Romani parade, where the mayor and local teachers led that march with them. How are we to raise our children in such an atmosphere?

There are more and more frustrated Romani people, and the frustration of the majority is also dangerously increasing. What might come of this? We are aware how easily the events we are commemorating here can occur.

In that context, I must recall the following: Responsibility for Romani integration, which is to say, for improving Romani lives, rests with the state and the regional authorities. They should cooperate closely, for example, by releasing EU funds for special programs. The Czech Republic is drawing several billion crowns from EU Structural Funds for addressing this area, but somehow I do not have the feeling that anything has changed for the better. I recently saw a news report that two towns had financed projects through those EU funds that have nothing whatsoever to do with the issue they are supposed to address. Who is monitoring and overseeing how that money is really spent? The EU funds' coffers are not bottomless, after all. The problem of the coexistence of the majority with Romani people deserves the greatest attention.

Dear listeners, the chair of our newly-created Equal Opportunities Party, Mr Štefan Tišer, is here - and my colleagues and I know what will happen in relation to the Romani minority on the political scene during the upcoming elections. Because we are aware of our co-responsibility for the future development of the relationship between the majority and Romani people, I will give the floor to Mr Tišer next. Mr Tišer will take the opportunity of your presence here to publicize the party's call to action.

Dear, precious guests, we sincerely thank you for your participation and for the beautiful flowers and we believe we will see you here again next year. After this we will go to the parish cemetery in Mirovice, where the child victims of Lety, mostly, were buried, and where the memorial has been designed to our specifications. Thank you for your patience.

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán contributed to this reporting. Translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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