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Czech Culture Minister: Govt, stockholders of pig farm negotiating to remove it from Romani Holocaust site

23.5.2016 17:06
Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman on 1 August 2014 during the Government's commemorative ceremony at Lety by Písek, where Romani people were imprisoned during WWII prior to being sent to Auschwitz.  Today an industrial pig farm occupies the site of the former concentration camp.
Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman on 1 August 2014 during the Government's commemorative ceremony at Lety by Písek, where Romani people were imprisoned during WWII prior to being sent to Auschwitz. Today an industrial pig farm occupies the site of the former concentration camp.

The Czech weekly RESPEKT has published an interview by Kateřina Šafaříková with Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman today. The former Catholic priest, MP for the Christian Democrats and director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes discusses the topic of the pig farm on the site of the WWII-era camp for Romani prisoners at Lety by Písek, the issue of refugees, and his long personal friendships with military official Jiří Komorous and musician Daniel Landa.

Immediately at the outset of the interview the reporter reminds the minister that he was the first member of the Czech Government to ever attend the Sudeten Germans' congress. "It is high time that some such gesture come from the Czech Government after [the Sudeten German organization] made the concession of removing all of their property claims in relationship to the Czech Republic from their statutes," explained Herman, adding that he generally follows the motto of not deviating in the direction of populist steps in politics.

In the next question the reporter reminds Herman that despite the Government's promise to attempt to resolve the question of the pig farm located on places where Romani people were imprisoned during the Second World War, that situation is apparently unchanged, but the minister responded by saying intensive negotiations and the Government's purchase of the farm remain on the agenda. According to Herman, there the Government and the pig farm's stockholders are negotiating in good faith.

The minister indicated that the main obstacle is the price of the complex and that "the ideas [of that price] differ by orders of magnitude right now". A specific amount has not yet been proposed.

When asked whether he has raised the question of the pig farm with Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, the Herman answered that he has. The Deputy PM reportedly "expressed preliminary comprehension of the necessity to close the pig farm at that location."

In addition to the option of buying the farm, the Government is also considering the possibility of building a replacement farm for the owners. However, as Herman said, he cannot be any more specific given the ongoing nature of the negotiations.

When asked about the time horizon for this decision, the minister answered that he hopes the solution of the entire question will be achieved by the time the current cabinet ends its allotted term in office. He called the fact of the existence of the pig farm "an enormous failure in our coming to terms with our past post-1989."

In the rest of the interview the reporter also asked him about the radically different approaches taken by Pope Francis on the question of the so-called refugee crisis and by Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka. The Culture Minister expressed comprehension for both sides in his answer.

"In my opinion it is necessary to honor the principle of solidarity and to practice it. If people are willing to risk sacrificing their own lives and those of their loved ones to escape a situation, then that situation must be so terrible that the frightening alternative of traveling across the sea must seem less horrifying than the situation they are leaving," he said.

In the second half of the interview the topic turns to Herman's many years of friendship with the controversial musician/performer Daniel Landa and with Brigadier Genreral Jiří Komorous, head of the Department for the Protection of Constitutional Officials, who is notorious for his former contact with the Czechoslovak Communist State Security Services (StB). "Each one of us is a human being who is constantly developing. We are each on our own path, and I have known many people who have had to reassess certain attitudes during their lives, myself included. I actually appreciate people who are able to admit that, which both of those men have done," the minister said.

The reporter reminded him of the lyrics Landa wrote for his band Orlík during the 1990s, which primitively rail against black people, as well as the band's "famous" song "White Rider". The Culture Minister argued that such lyrics were allegedly a form of Landa's protest against the communist regime, even though the communist regime was no longer in power when that music was released.    

Adéla Gálová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Daniel Landa, Lety u Písku, Ministerstvo kultury, Monitoring



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