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October 22, 2020

 

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Czech ceremony commemorating Romani prisoners sent to Auschwitz on 20 August attended by more than 150 people

22.8.2020 7:14
The memorial at the Žalov mass burial site is part of the memorial to the WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people at Hodonín u Kunštátu, Czech Republic. (PHOTO: František Kostlán)
The memorial at the Žalov mass burial site is part of the memorial to the WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people at Hodonín u Kunštátu, Czech Republic. (PHOTO: František Kostlán)

Roughly 150 people attended the commemorative ceremony on Thursday in the Blansko area at Hodonín u Kunštátu to honor the memory of the Holocaust and its Romani and Sinti victims, according to Alica Sigmund Heráková, spokesperson for the Museum of Romani Culture, which convened the event. Those attending commemorated the mass transport during the Second World War that forced 749 Romani and Sinti children, men and women into the Auschwitz concentration camp.

During the war, what was called a Zigeunerlager was set up at Hodonín u Kunštátu. Last year the museum officially opened its Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti in Moravia at the site of the former camp.

According to the director of the museum, Jana Horváthová, this year the event was held as originally scheduled, and given that it took place outdoors, the number of those attending was not limited and face masks were not required. This year marks the 77th anniversary of the transport to Auschwitz.

Those attending laid flowers and wreaths at the site of the mass graves where the camp victims were buried, which is called Žalov. The event featured a performance by violin virtuoso Marek Balog, clarinetist Mario Krajčovič and singer Pavlína Matiová.

The commemoration was also attended by the Jesuit priest and former political prisoner František Lízna, who focuses his pastoral work, among other matters, on Romani people and who said he calls himself Roma as a gesture of solidarity. "It is necessary to pay attention to the poorest of the poor, and the Roma are among them," Father Lízna said as he expressed his own appreciation for the commemorative ceremony gaining importance.

"This is my 10th time coming here overall, but I haven't been here for five years," Father Lízna said. "If we do not remember these horrible acts, it could happen that we would return to such a path."

During the Second World War, the camp had a capacity for 300 people. About 1 200 prisoners were crowded into it at that time, which created bad conditions for hygiene.

As a consequence, an epidemic of typhus broke out there. In the early morning hours of 22 August 1943 a mass transport of 749 Romani people to the Auschwitz extermination camp from Hodonín was orchestrated by the Nazis.

Amost 90 % of the Czech and Moravian Roma were murdered during the Second World War by the genocidal machinery of Nazi Germany. There were approximately 6 500 Romani people in what was then the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, 4 870 of whom were forced into the Auschwitz extermination camp, from which just 583 people returned.

At the site of the former camp in Hodonín a memorial has been built to commemorate this history. Construction of the memorial was entrusted to the J. A. Comenius National Pedagogical Museum and Library in Prague and took five years.

The Museum of Romani Culture took over management of the site in 2018 and has continued working on various adjustments to it. An exhibition commemorating the fate of the Roma during the Holocaust will also be installed at the memorial permanently.

ČTK, fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Hodonín u Kunštátu, Holocaust, Pietní akce, Roma



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