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September 29, 2022

 

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Czech National Memorial on Vítkov Hill in Prague holds exhibition about the Holocaust and its Romani victims

13.8.2022 8:15
"The Genocide of the Roma during the Second World War" is a travelling exhibition that opened on the occasion of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 at the National Memorial on Vítkov Hill in Prague, Czech Republic. (PHOTO: National Museum)

The National Memorial on the Vítkov Hill in Prague, Czech Republic is currently housing a travelling exhibition on "The Genocide of the Roma during the Second World War" which opened on the occasion of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day and will remain on view at the monument until 15 December. Roma Holocaust Memorial Day commemorates the night of 2 August 1944 when the Nazis murdered the prisoners of what was called the "Gypsy Family Camp", part of the Auschwitz II-Birkenau Concentration Camp. 

During that single night the Nazis murdered more than 4,200 Romani and Sinti people. Other imprisoned Roma were murdered in the concentration camps of Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanka, Sobibór and Treblinka. 

In the "Gypsy Family Camp", during the 17 months of its existence from February 1943 until August 1944, as many as 23,000 children, men and women were imprisoned, approximately 21,000 of whom perished there. The travelling exhibition about these Holocaust vicitims has been produced by the Museum of Romani Culture and its specialized workplace, the Centre for the Roma and Sinti in Prague, in collaboration with the National Museum. 

The exhibition explores the subject of the Nazi persecution and murder of the Roma on the territory of what is today the Czech Republic. It commemorates this tragic time in history, when almost 90 % of the prewar population of Romani people on that territory were murdered. 

Visitors have an opportunity to learn more about this chapter of history, which has been sidelined until recently. "The National Memorial on the Vítkov Hill is more than just a location where we commemorate our modern state and its traditions, it is also a place where we honor all of the victims of the Nazi occupation during the Second World War," reads the press release sent to news server Romea.cz by the General Director of the National Museum, Michal Lukeš.

"The exhibition on the genocide of the Roma during the Second World War reminds us of the Romani suffering that must never be forgotten," Lukeš said. The director of the Museum of Romani Culture, Jana Horváthová, commented on the exhibition as follows: "Commemorating the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti at the National Memorial on Vítkov Hill is of great symbolic value to us."

"The National Memorial on Vítkov Hill is the location where important events in Czech history are commemorated. We perceive it to be the right place to commemorate the fact that Romani suffering and Romani memory are part of Czech history, part of our common memory," Horváthová said.

"We are glad that it is exactly the Centre for the Roma and Sinti that can be the connecting element to this important place and to this crucial date in the history of the Roma," said the director of the Museum of Romani Culture. During the opening on 3 August, visitors were able to watch a theatrical production by Gabriela Krečmerová, "Gypsy Boxer", with Filip Teller in the main role. 

The one-man play by German playwright Rike Reiniger is inspired by the life story of Sinto boxer Johann Trollmann, also known as Rukeli. In 1933, Rukeli became the boxing champion of Germany, but the Nazis soon stripped him of that title because of his ethnic origin. 

Despite enlisting in the Wehrmacht at the beginning of the war and even fighting on the eastern front, after returning from Russia, Rukeli was sent by the Nazis to the concentration camp at Neuengamme. The exhibition in Prague about the Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust who came from Bohemia and Moravia is open to the public free of charge. 

"Our aim is to contextualize the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti. We are, therefore, quite glad to be collaborating with the National Museum, which made it possible for us to stage this and other events at the National Memorial on the Vítkov Hill that we are planning as part of the accompanying programs there," said the director of the Centre for the Roma and Sinti in Prague, Olga Vlčková.

During the 1920s there were approximately 3,000 Romani people living in Bohemia and Moravia; the Moravian Roma mostly lived in settlements and the Bohemian Roma lived on the road. The North Bohemian Sudeten area was where the Sinti lived at that time. 

The authorities of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia banned living on the road in 1940. In 1942, gendarmes undertook a head count of all "gypsies, gypsy half-breeds and persons living the gypsy way of life" there. 

Protectorate authorities created a list of 6,500 people whom they so labelled at that time. Some of those people ended up in the concentration camps at Hodonín u Kunštátu and Lety u Písku

Almost 5,000 Roma and Sinti were forcibly transported to Auschwitz from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Just 583 returned to their native country after the war.
 

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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2.srpna, Centrum Romů a Sintů, History, Muzeum, Nazism, Památný den romského holocaustu, Vítkov, Výstava



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