Czech Republic: Art show about Hodonín concentration camp for Roma opens in Prague
On Tuesday, 30 June an exhibition of art by Michaela Pospíšilová-Králová entitled "As If It Never Existed" ("Jako by nikdy neexistoval") about the concentration camp for Roma at Hodonín by Kunštát opened at Café v Lese in Prague (Krymská 12, Vršovice). The opening featured a lecture by Markus Pape, a German journalist living in Prague who has long studied the topic of the Roma Holocaust.
The exhibition is comprised of sensitively colored black and white historical photographs, texts and collages. The artist explained her intentions as follows: "I was not trying to create a documentary collection, but rather to capture the atmosphere of my sense of Hodonínek."
The materials accompanying the exhibition read as follows: "Just above Brno a place that almost no one knows about is hidden in the woods. Called 'Gypsy Camp II' by the Nazis, it was located on a small road running through the forest between Hodonín and Kunštát. There is no arrow or sign there, nothing, it's as if it never existed. Whoever knows the territory can turn off onto an unmarked path and reach the place where, in a meadow surrounded by a deep wood, one of the original camp buildings still stands. All these decades it served as part of a recreatoin center with a swimming pool until the Government decided to build a dignified memorial here six years ago."
Between 1942 and 1943, more than 1 300 children, men and women were concentrated there. As a result of exhausting labor, inhumane conditions, and starvation, more than 200 people died there.
The other 800 were transported to the extermination camp at Auschwitz. The camp at Hodonín and another at Lety were established on the basis of a Nazi German decree, but the staff of both camps was comprised exclusively of Czechs.
Less than 10 % of the Roma living in the so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia survided the Nazi terror. To this day these commemorative sites are waiting for reverential treatment.
Pape said of the exhibition: "The story of the Hodonín camp is, to this day, still wrongfully forgotten compared to that of the Lety camp, of which the world has become aware. However, it is precisely this camp that can fully explain the important context of the genocide of Czech Roma and Siniti during the Second World War."
The exhibition was opened by František Lacko, a Romani orderly from Prague who frequently lectures as a "living book" in the Prague schools, reciting the testimony of František Daniel, a former prisoner in František: When, as a young Romani blacksmith, Daniel saw his father taken away by gendarmes to what at that time was "just" the concentration camp at Auschwitz, he followed in order to liberate him. He was arrested at the border, imprisoned, escaped the death penalty in the nick of time by fleeing, and hid until he was arrested again with his sister and transported to the camp at Hodonín.
In his memoirs, Daniel describes how the camp staff there killed a female prisoner in order to punish her. Toward the end of the operation of the Hodonín camp a group of prisoners from the camp at Lety was brought there as well.
Daniel spoke with the Lety prisoners about their experiences. After the war he was able to compare the living conditions of both camps based on their testimonies.
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