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Czech Govt Roma Council recommends analyzing interwar assets of Roma and Sinti confiscated during the war, a still-unresolved matter

4.12.2019 7:38
The Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs (23 October 2014 session). (PHOTO:  František Bikár)
The Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs (23 October 2014 session). (PHOTO: František Bikár)

An analysis may be undertaken in the Czech Republic to map the assets owned by Czech Roma during the interwar period that were confiscated between 1938 and 1945 to address any eventual compensation claims. Producing such an analysis was recommended by the Council of the Government on Romani Minority Affairs, which reviewed the question of compensation during its 21 October session.

The Council asked Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (Association of Dissatisfied Citizens - ANO) to allocate funds for such research. All resolutions from the session are published on the Government's news server, www.vlada.cz as part of the minutes.

Authorities of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia deported more than 5 500 Romani people indigenous to Bohemia and Moravia from the Czech lands to the death camp at Auschwitz. After the war, about 500 returned, which means about 800 Romani inhabitants total were left in Bohemia and Moravia at that time.

The Council, in its resolution, recommends analyzing the property relations of Roma and Sinti in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia between 1938 and 1945. According to the Council, the PM, who chairs the advisory body, should arrange for "resources for the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes to begin research activity as soon as possible."

The PM did not attend the most recent session of the Council in person, but delegated his duty to a vice-chair. Roma civil society Council member Čeněk Růžička, who introduced the agenda item at that session, says the issue has never been researched in any relevant way and is a matter that remains unresolved since the close of the Second World War, unlike, for example, the property relations of Holocaust victims who were Jewish.

"That inactivity could be perceived by the Romani minority as a consequence of continuously-biased behavior of the majority society toward the Romani minority. The analysis could facilitate proposing how to resolve this long-ignored matter," Olga Jeřábková of the Human Rights Section at the Office of the Government said of the Council session.

Růžička also said that while Roma were not affluent at the time, they did have certain assets that were confiscated from them, as did other persons who were considered undesirable during the Second World War. According to the secretary of the Council, Klára Jůnová, during the first half of this year the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes was contacted with a request for information as to whether it is capable of creating such an analysis.

The assumed costs to produce the analysis are estimated at between CZK 500 000 - 800 000 [EUR 20 000 - 30 000]. It is estimated to need between a year and 18 months to be completed.

According to the census conducted during the first half of the 1920s, roughly 56 300 Romani inhabitants lived in what was then Czechoslovakia. Of that number, 579 lived in Bohemia and 2 139 in Moravia and Silesia, with most living in Slovakia.

The Moravian Roma predominantly lived in settlements in Southeastern Moravia and the Bohemian Roma practiced a traditional travelling lifestyle. In 1927 Czechoslovakia adopted the "Law on the Wandering Gypsies" to limit their travelling, according to the website Holocaust.cz.

The authors of that project include the information that in the 1930s a Romani man from a settlement in the Kyjov area graduated from law school in Czechoslovakia. Romani people made their living most frequently as craftspeople and musicians, but also as handymen and occasional laborers.

The October Council session also reviewed other proposals by representatives of the Romani community, measures that they want to see implemented by 2024. Establishing the post of Romani Affairs Commissioner or addressing problems in the so-called excluded localities are among those measures.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Holocaust, odškodnění, Rada vlády pro záležitosti romské menšiny, Vláda



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