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September 18, 2020

 

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Czech demolition of pig farm on former WWII-era concentration camp for Roma delayed one year, future new memorial said to be unaffected

13.9.2020 14:25
The now-defunct industrial pig farm that was built over the site of the former concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku. (2019) (PHOTO:  Museum of Romani Culture, Czech Republic)
The now-defunct industrial pig farm that was built over the site of the former concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku. (2019) (PHOTO: Museum of Romani Culture, Czech Republic)

The demolition of the former industrial pig farm in Lety u Písku, Czech Republic that stands on the site of a Protectorate-era concentration camp for Romani people has been delayed by one year. The work will begin next September.

The deadline for completing the new Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti that is meant to be created at the site will not, however, be affected by the delay, The ceremonial opening of that new memorial will still be held in May 2023.

The director of the Museum of Romani Culture, Jana Horváthová, informed the Czech News Agency of the news. The museum is administering the building of the new memorial.

"The delay is happening especially with respect to the demolition of the pig farm buildings, which was meant to begin now, this September. The quarantine earlier this year delayed the completion of the architectural competition for the new memorial, so we have had to postpone the demolition in order to correctly secure the buildings that are part of the farm and that are meant to be components of the memorial," the museum head said.

The form of the future Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti was determined by competition. The jury assessed 41 entries and chose seven finalists.

The winning design was by Atelier terra florida and Atelier Světlík. A forest will be planted at the site and a new exhibition will open there, while part of the existing industrial pig farm will be preserved.

The construction work of the new memorial should cost CZK 31.5 million [EUR 1,185,330]. Of that, Norway Grants should pay CZK 25.5 million [EUR 959,553].

Another CZK 13.5 million [EUR 508 000] from abroad will be invested in equipment and exhibitions. "We are going ahead with the predefined project. It should be submitted for approval by the close of this year," the director clarified.

The camp at Lety was first opened in the August of 1940 by Protectorate authorities as a disciplinary labor (penal) camp. The camp at Hodonín u Kunštátu in Moravia was opened at the same time for the same purpose.

Such disciplinary labor camps were designated for so-called "work-shy" persons who were unable to document that they were making a living in a lawful way. Above all, however, the facility was just for adult males who were in 100 % good health and capable of a 100 % work output.

The numbers of Romani men among those who were being punished in this way during this phase of the camp at Lety were between 10 and 20 % of the total population. In January of 1942, both camps were changed into internment camps, and in August both locations became Zigeunerlager, camps for persons designated as cikáni.

At that moment, the camps were no longer just meant for able-bodied men, but entire Romani families were concentrated in them, including children and women. From that point until May 1943, 1 308 Romani adults and children passed through the camp at Lety.

Of those people, 327 died at Lety, while more than 500 ended up in the Auschwitz death camp. After the war, fewer than 600 Romani concentration camp prisoners returned to their homes in Bohemia and Moravia.

According to estimates, the Nazis murdered 90 % of the Bohemian and Moravian Roma. During the communist regime, an industrial pig farm was then cultivated on the site of the former camp at Lety during the 1970s.

The relatives of the victims, Czech organizations, and international institutions spent decades demanding the farm be removed from this place of reverence. In 2018 the Czech state bought the facility from the AGPI company for CZK 372 million [EUR 14 million] (before VAT) and should give CZK 110 million [EUR 4 million] to the demolition effort.

The demolition should now begin next September. It should be completed by the close of 2021.

In the interim, the documentation will be prepared for the project, which will be expanded to include some of the buildings from the now-defunct farm and other details resulting from the competition for the design of the memorial. "The schedule for the project of building the memorial will not be altered by this, it remains the same," the museum director said.

The ceremonial opening of the new memorial should be undertaken in 2023 during the annual commemoration held at Lety in May. The museum is currently working on several projects related to commemorating the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti.

In addition to the Lety Memorial, the museum is also administering the grounds of the Hodonín u Kunštátu Memorial and building its Center for the Roma and Sinti in the Dejvice neighborhood of Prague. Because of the quarantine earlier this year, the Museum of Romani Culture, which is based in Brno, has not been open to visitors.

The director said people have begun to slowly return to the facility. There is also a distance-access program available.

"We have learned more about how to share our events online. We have also bought the technology required. A large part of our events are being livestreamed, as are all the concerts we produce. We have good online attendance for those events. People are following us. This is an innovation that we have managed to bring to life thanks to the coronavirus. Something at least a bit positive has come from this," the director said.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Holokaust Romů po Česku, Lety u Písku, memorial, Muzeum romské kultury



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