Czech PM at Lety: No money to move pig farm
Today at 9 AM, the Office of the Czech Government and the Lidice Memorial held a commemorative ceremony in honor of the victims of the Romani Holocaust at the memorial at Lety by Písek near the site of what was once called the "gypsy camp". After opening remarks by Milouš Červencl, the director of the Lidice Memorial, which is entrusted with administering the Lety memorial, speeches were made by Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Daniel Herman of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (Ústav pro studium totalitních režimů). Romea TV will post a video of the ceremony in its entirety to the web later today.
Organizers said today's date was not randomly selected. Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of the issuing of an order by the general command of the undercover section of the police in the former Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia to combat what was referred to as the "gypsy nuisance". On the basis of that order, the "gypsy camps" at Lety by Písek in Bohemia and Hodonín by Kunštát in Moravia were established.
The commemorative ceremony was attended by almost no one other than the speakers, the organizers, and the press. The lack of attendance was the result of a boycott called for on Saturday by several Romani organizations. The Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust (Výbor pro odškodnění romského holocaustu - VPORH) traditionally holds a commemorative ceremony at Lety in mid-May, and this year was no exception.
"The purpose of today's event was to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the decree on combating the gypsy nuisance. The Prime Minister also wanted to establish a basis for commemoration which would actually be historically linked to a significant date connected with this site and the fate of the Romani people during the Second World War," Červencl said of the reasons for convening the ceremony. "There are many options for commemorative dates and it is a question which will take hold over time, whether the date from 1995, when the memorial here was unveiled, will persist. That was on 13 May, and ever since then the Committee for the Redress of the Victims of the Roma Holocaust [sic] has honored that date. I respect that. The question is whether there will be two commemorative ceremonies every year. We won't intervene in that, it's a matter for government representatives," he said.
Another speaker, Daniel Herman, commented on the dispute surrounding the date of the commemoration: "In my opinion what is important is not the date of the ceremony, but that we not forget. Naturally, there is a need for everything to be consulted with the organizers and the descendants of those who died here. However, what is most important is that this become part of our history and our historical memory. There is a need to clarify the history."
The Romani organizations that initiated the boycott of today's ceremony told the Government on Saturday that if it wants to honor the Romani victims it should arrange to acquire and demolish the pig farm that stands on the site of the camp in Lety where people met their deaths. Prime Minister Nečas addressed that today, saying: "Unlike some of my predecessors I don't want to make any false promises. Our budget situation here is real. I understand the sensitivity of this topic, I don't want to minimize it, but I definitely will not make any financial promises that I would not be able to fulfill as Prime Minister. Speaking very openly, I can say that there is no money in the state budget for this at this time. I don't want to paint a rosy picture."
The boycotting Romani organizations are also bothered by the fact that today's gathering was organized by the Lidice Memorial, which reportedly did not invite Romani Holocaust survivors to attend. Čeněk Růžička, VPORH chair and vice chair of the Euqal Opportunities Party (Strana rovných příležitostí) has stated that the Lidice Memorial does not have the necessary knowledge to organize a Romani commemoration. "We don't want a commemoration ceremony in the style of the one at Lidice, with military music. There is no need to organize a 'competing' government commemoration of the catastrophe at Lety," Růžička said.
Červencl, the director of the Lidice Memorial, responded to questions from the press on this as follows: "We received a protocol instructing us whom to invite. Naturally, the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust was included, Mr Čeněk Růžička, and we also invited Mr Holomek to represent the Moravians. It's difficult with the relatives. We know of essentially only one relative, Ms Hubková, but we lost contact with her during the past year, which is why we were unable to invite her."
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