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Czech Government to build memorial, not conference center, in Hodonín by Kunštát

Prague/Hodonín by Kunštát, 2.3.2011 20:56, (ROMEA)

Today the Czech Government approved a Czech Education Ministry proposal to build a Roma Holocaust Memorial in Hodonín by Kunštát. The previous government allocated CZK 70 million for the project. Half of that budget will be used to build the memorial, while the remaining funds will be used to manage the site. The original project submitted two years ago to build an International Educational and Conference Center at the site was financially more demanding and will not be implemented.

Two years ago the government decided to purchase and reconstruct the Žalov recreation center, located on the site of the former WWII-era concentration camp for Roma people. The grounds were purchased for CZK 21 million.

The aim of building a Roma Holocaust Memorial is mainly to honor the memory of the victims of the Roma Holocaust at the site of the former Protectorate camp. "We want this educational facility to serve not just as a commemoration of the victims of the Roma Holocaust, especially the large number of Roma children who perished there over a very short time, but also to raise awareness about the Roma Holocaust. I am glad a dignified memorial will be erected to forever commemorate these tragic events related to the history of the Roma people," Czech Education Minister Josef Dobeš says in a press release.

The approved project, unlike the original proposal, does not count on building accommodations or on holding conferences. "In its original form, the project would not have paid for itself and would have required money annually for its operations," Václav Koukolíček, spokesperson for the Education Ministry, told news server ČT24.

The grounds of the camp include an original, preserved Protectorate-era building which will be reconstructed and will offer a space for further familiarizing visitors with the living conditions for Roma people in the camp. A permanent exhibition about the camp should be installed in the reconstructed so-called "barracks".

Administration of the memorial will be provided by the Prague-based J. A. Komenský Pedagogical Museum. Originally, operations of the memorial were to have been conducted in collaboration with the Museum of Roma Culture, which helped design the original proposal for a center. "We have the know-how, we also have lecturers who are the only people in the Czech Republic trained to give instruction on the topic of the Roma Holocaust. We have been offering all of these services for a long time. Now we must wait until the ministry, as owner of this facility, contacts us," Jana Horváthová, director of the Museum of Roma Culture in Brno, told news server ČT24 last November.

The Museum of Roma Culture has devoted itself to the locality for years. In 1997, through a public collection, the museum erected its own memorial at the site, an iron crucifix designed by Roma artist Eduard Oláh. The museum maintains the memorial and organizes a memorial service at the site annually.

During WWII, 1 300 Roma people, including children, the elderly, and women, passed through the concentration camp at Hodonín by Kunštát. Due to the catastrophic housing and dietary conditions there, 207 people died of a typhus epidemic during a single year. The others were transported to the extermination camp at Auschwitz. In 1945 only about 580 of the 6 000 Czech and Moravian Roma interned in concentration camps returned to Czechoslovakia.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, zk, Czech Education Ministry, Czech Press Agency, ČT24, Museum of Roma Culture Brno, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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