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September 24, 2018
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Czech memorial to Romani genocide desecrated with pig's head

2.3.2018 8:00
Czech Regional Development Minister Karla Šlechtová (at the memorial) and Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman (in the background) attended a commemorative ceremony to honor the victims of the Roma Holocaust and the concentration camp for Romani people at Lety by Písek on 2 August 2016. (PHOTO:  ČTK)
Czech Regional Development Minister Karla Šlechtová (at the memorial) and Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman (in the background) attended a commemorative ceremony to honor the victims of the Roma Holocaust and the concentration camp for Romani people at Lety by Písek on 2 August 2016. (PHOTO: ČTK)

Last weekend somebody put a pig's head at the memorial to the Holocaust victims of Romani origin at the former concentration camp in Lety u Písku. News server Aktuálně.cz reported the news yesterday.

The Museum of Romani Culture, which administers the remembrance site, has announced that it will not be responding to the provocation. A pig farm is located on the site of the former camp and was bought by the Government last year.

The farm is now being cleared out and a new memorial is meant to be created there instead. "We don't want to make a scandal out of this and we will not respond to such provocation. Apparently somebody wants to provoke us," Luděk Strašák, the person in charge of the Museum's remembrance sites, told the news server.

The Museum has not yet contacted police. "We may do that if it happens again," Strašák said.

"This is a disgusting racist attack and desecration of the remembrance site. Such attacks should not happen in a civilized country. This is a consequence of the atmosphere in Czech society. Even when the Holocaust of the Roma is not directly denied it has been doubted or minimized at the very least, which is a widespread phenomenon in the Czech Republic and a mainstream opinion here overall. We encounter this opinion during discussions in the pubs, from the mouths of leading politicians, and on many Internet servers and online discussions. It is high time that this malignant phenomenon be faced down. History must not be allowed to repeat itself," said Miroslav Brož, spokesperson for the Konexe organization to news server

"This scandalous, racist attack targets the Holocaust, its Romani victims, and Romani people generally. It did not happen randomly, but as a consequence of hateful remarks made by the Czech President and by the leader of the Czech ultra-right, who should both be held accountable for their actions. I say clearly: Let's change Lety from a symbol of humiliation to a symbol of dignity," said Benjamin Abtan, president of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM).

The incident has also been condemned by politicians. "To desecrate the memory of thousands of tortured and murdered people in this way is repugnant," said Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán (ANO), who is also in charge of the human rights agenda.

Similar remarks were made by Czech MP Helena Langšádlová (TOP 09) and Czech MP Jan Bartošek (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL). Jan Čech, vice-chair of the board of the AGPI firm, the operator of the pig farm, said that laying the pig's head at the memorial was not, in his opinion, something any workers at the farm had done.

"Nothing else occurs to me but that somebody wants to send someone a message in association with the farm leaving the grounds. I consider it a provocation," he said.

The Government, according to its contract with AGPI, will pay CZK 450 800 000 [EUR 17.7 million] for the buildings and grounds. One of the minority shareholders has filed a lawsuit with the Regional Court in České Budějovice against the firm's general meeting at which it was decided to sell the farm to the state.

In January the Constitutional Court also received a complaint against the previous Government's decree on the purchase of the farm. Recently controversial remarks have also been made in public by "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) MPs questioning the history of the concentration camp at Lety

The chair of the SPD, Czech MP Tomio Okamura, said in January that the camp at Lety had not been fenced and that people had been free to come and go from it. Czech MP Miloslav Rozner (SPD) called Lety a "non-existent pseudo-concentration camp".

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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