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Czech Human Rights Minister wants Lety concentration camp memorial administered by Museum of Romani Culture, relative of victims disagrees

11.3.2017 8:03
Čeněk Růžička
Čeněk Růžička

Czech Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation Jan Chvojka declared on the occasion of a ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Romani Holocaust held on Tuesday, 7 March at the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno that he intends for that particular Museum to administer the memorial to the victims of the Romani Holocaust at Lety u Písku instead of the current administrator, the Lidice Memorial. "The minister will advocate for administration of the memorial at Lety to fall under the Museum of Romani Culture," the minister's press spokesperson, Michal Kačírek, confirmed to news server on 9 March.

"The minister is convinced that a Romani remembrance site should be administered by organizations that focus on Romani history. The Czech Culture Ministry is of the same opinion and has promised maximum assistance," the spokesperson said.

Previously the Government had decided to transfer the administration of the Romani Holocaust Memorial at Hodonín u Kunštátu to the Museum of Romani Culture as well. "Agreement has been reached about that, so the minister will submit to the Government, by the end of May, material proposing transferring administration of the Romani Holocaust Memorial at Hodonín u Kunštátu to the Museum of Romani Culture," Kačírek said.

The memorial at Lety u Písku will be handled the same way. "The ministry will take all the necessary steps to facilitate the building of a dignified memorial there that will then be administered by the Museum of Romani Culture," the spokesperson said.

Since it was first established in 1991, the Museum of Romani Culture, which is now a state-funded organization, has been involved in documenting and researching the concentration camps. Jana Horváthová, the director, said she did not have any more information about the Government's intentions.

"Our establisher, the Culture Ministry, sent us a brief written report at the end of last year about the planned transfer of the Lety Cultural Monument to our institution during this year. We have not yet been informed that any actual steps have been taken to transfer it," she told news server

Čeněk Růžička disagrees with the transfer of the administration of the memorial at Lety to the museum

The chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust (VPORH), Čeněk Růžička, disagrees with the administration of the Lety Memorial being transferred from its current administrator, the Lidice Memorial, to the Museum of Romani Culture. "I disagree in principle with how the Culture Ministry has decided to facilitate the transfer of the memorial at Lety for administration by the Museum of Romani Culture," he told news server

"Naturally I have known about that decision for quite some time and I have personally appealed, more than once, for the administration of the memorial to be assigned elsewhere," Růžička said. One reason he is opposed to the transfer is a statement made by Horváthová in which she expressed the idea that the money it would cost to buy the industrial pig farm currently located on the site of the former camp at Lety in order to close it down and remove it would be better spent on educating Romani children.

Růžička observed to news server that when the director of the Museum of Romani Culture expressed that opinion, it negatively influenced politicians' attitudes about taking action to remove the industrial pig farm from the genocide site. He also told that he is (and always has been) convinced that "both the problem of educating Romani children and the removal of the pig farm from Lety deserve the state's utmost attention and should be addressed independently of each other, which, thank God, is already tentatively underway."

The camp at Lety was originally established as a disciplinary labor camp. It was transformed by the Nazi Protectorate administration in August 1942 into a "Gypsy" camp.

As of May 1943 a total of 1 308 Romani people had passed through the camp at Lety, 327 of whom perished there, and more than 500 of whom were sent to Auschwitz, where most were murdered. Less than 600 Romani prisoners from the territory of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia survived the concentration camps to return after the war.

The Nazis murdered an estimated 90 % of the Romani people living in Bohemia and Moravia. The current remembrance site at Lety is located adjacent to the industrial pig farm that still stands on the site of the former camp.

jal, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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