Czech MPs avoid round table about the Holocaust and its Romani victims
On 21 January Czech MP Olga Richterová, the vice-chair of the Pirate Party, initiated a round table on the subject of the Holocaust and its Romani victims during the Second World War to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Chamber of Deputies. The impulse for holding the event was to commemorate the memory of the victims in light of the repeated statements by some Czech politicians recently casting doubt on whether ethnic Roma had suffered during the Second World War.
"We must recall these tragic milestones in our history and their victims," Richterová emphasized."From the statements made by some of my colleagues in the Chamber of Deputies I have the impression that unfortunately there are certain blind spots in their education. That was one motivation for organizing today's round table. Those most in need of this information did not attend. That is certainly a pity, because I believe if they were to review the historical facts it would aid them with avoiding making such remarks in the future, which are more than unfortunate. We want this information to be available so that nobody will be able to give the excuse anymore that they didn't know it."
Richterová was referring to remarks by MP Miloslav Rozner of Tomio Okamura's "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement, who spoke of the former concentration camp for Roma at Lety u Písku as a "non-existent pseudo-concentration camp". Several criminal reports were immediately filed against him about the remarks and police now plan to investigate him on suspicion of denying, doubting, approving of and justifying genocide.
The Chamber of Deputies will apparently decide on whether to lift Rozner's immunity from prosecution next month. Speaking after the first session of the Immunity and Mandate Committee in the lower house, Richterová said she wanted to invite Rozner to the round table on the Holocaust of the Roma.
Neither Rozner nor other MPs who have made similar remarks attended the seminar. Some attending the event also criticized the fact that Romani people, survivors of these tragic events, and the descendants of survivors were not present.
"We did our very best to arrange for participation by survivors, whether of the first, second or third generation, but unfortunately the state of health of many of them did not make it possible for them to attend," Darina Sedláčková of the Living Memory (Živá paměť) organization, which convened the round table, told ROMEA TV. She noted that Stanislav Svoboda, the grandson of a female Holocaust survivor of Romani origin, did attend.
Sedláčková said the aim of the seminar was to recall the tragic fates of the citizens of Romani origin who, during the Second World War, became the targets of Nazi persecution that was racially-motivated and systematic. Historian Michal Schuster familiarized those attending with basic data from that time about the movements of Romani people and the operation of the concentration camps and labor camps.
Schuster said that according to the available information, anywhere between 250 000 and 500 000 ethnic Roma were murdered in Europe at that time. He said that more exact numbers are difficult to establish, because most Roma were murdered during raids by SS commandos who destroyed entire Romani villages systematically during the advance of German units through the various European states.
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