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September 26, 2022



Czech MP belittles Holocaust victims who are Romani, asking "What's to respect?"

25.1.2019 9:56

Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna, the vice-chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), belittled and insulted Holocaust victims who are Romani more than once during a debate last week on the "You Have the Floor" television program. The episode was meant to debate the issue of whether to arrange for free lunches for children in primary schools.

During the discussion the MP also ridiculed the planned memorial to the Holocaust and its Romani victims at Lety u Písku and erroneously stated that it would cost billions of crowns. Social network users criticized him sharply for his remarks.

The subject of the debate on "You Have the Floor", a program of public broadcaster Czech Television, was whether all schoolchildren should get lunch for free. "We're buying out pig farms here so we can build mausoleums on them that cost billions," Foldyna argued, adding that if the state has money for that expense, then it has the money to buy lunch for all children in primary school, including those from rich families.

"We can collect bottlecaps to fund our missions in Afghanistan, but let's pay for children's lunches, because that's the future of this state, not a mausoleum at a pig farm or missions in Afghanistan," the MP said. Moderator Michaela Jílková interrupted after Foldyna insulted those Holocaust victims who are Romani by casting doubt on the value of their memorial.

"I wouldn't mention that in particular, show some respect," she said. The MP then retorted: "What's to respect?"

The ROMEA organization shared video from that section of the program on social networks, after which Foldyna received sharp criticism. More than 13 000 people saw the video through Twitter, more than 6 000 saw it on Facebook, and most were very critical of the MP.

"This is horrible. In one sentence he confuses lunches for children, the memorial at Lety, and missions to Afghanistan," one reader commented.

"We are being governed by some disgusting populists. Unfortunately elections and referenda are being won these days by using this kind of shorthand, demagogy, attacks at the lowest level," the reader concluded.

"Kicking the Roma has become a folk custom for Czech politicians. The Roma are unable to defend themselves, any prosecution of Czech politicians for this has become like a sci-fi scenario," another reader wrote.

"More such MPs and ČSSD will get just 3 % of the vote," another reader tweeted about Foldyna's behavior. Reader Vojtěch Navrátil asked the politically incorrect question: "Why is the vice-chair of the ČSSD a Fascist?"

Other readers called on ČSSD chair Jan Hamáček to make a clear statement about Foldyna's attacks against Romani people and Holocaust victims of Romani origin. The contract to buy the industrial pig farm that has been located for decades on the site of the former WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku was signed by the Museum of Romani Culture, a state institution, with the AGPI firm in November 2017.

The Czech state bought the farm for roughly CZK 372 million [EUR 14,462,015] plus VAT and the new memorial there should be opened to the public in 2023. In September 2018 the state released CZK 111 million [EUR 4,315,331] to demolish the farm.

The building of the new memorial will be financed by Norway Grants, apparently with EUR 1.5 million. The Norway Grants money should cover the cost of new construction and of the operation of the memorial until 2024, after which the financing for operations should be provided by the Czech Culture Ministry.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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