Czech Republic: Demonstration in Prague calls on EU to stop subsidizing pig farm on Romani Holocaust site
Monday, 16 May was the International Day of Romani Resistance, a day to honor the memory of the Romani victims of the Holocaust and the heroic uprising of Romani people in the Auschwitz concentration camp. On that occasion the Konexe organization held a demonstration in front of the EU House, the headquarters of the representation of the European Commission and European Parliament in the Czech Republic.
Representatives of Konexe delivered a message entitled "Europe, Stop Subsidizing the Pig Farm at Lety" to the EU House. News server Romea.cz broadcast audio and video of the demonstration live online.
"We have nothing against the European Union per se, we are criticizing the state of affairs in which the European Structural Funds are subsidizing a specific agricultural enterprise located on places where genocide was perpetrated. In our view, this is absolutely incompatible with European values," Miroslav Brož of Konexe told news server Romea.cz prior to the demonstration.
Day of Romani Resistance
The Day of Romani Resistance commemorates the events of 16 May 1944, when Romani and Sinti prisoners in the so-called "Gypsy Camp" at Auschwitz-Birkenau rose up against their captors. On that day the camp leadership had planned to murder them all, but the Roma rose up and refused to obey the orders of the SS.
This event is still absolutely unknown in the Czech Republic. News server Romea.cz published last year a study about the Romani uprising in Auschwitz written by historian Michal Schuster of the Museum of Romani Culture.
The events of 16 May 1944
The murder of everybody in the so-called "Gypsy Camp" was supposed to be performed during the evening of 16 May 1944, when the sound of the gong announced that everyone in the entire camp was banned from leaving and that it would be closed. A truck drove up before the gates of the camp and 50-60 members of the special SS commando unit jumped out and called on the prisoners to quickly leave the housing blocks.
All of the prisoners, however, refused to leave. Reportedly there was total calm in the barracks.
The prisoners barricaded the doors and prepared to defend themselves however they could with rocks and work tools. Romani survivor Hugo Höllenreiner (born 1933 in Munich), who was deported to Auschwitz with his family in 1943, recalls the moments of resistance as follows: "Outside about seven or eight men came to the gate. Dad yelled at them. The entire building shook as he shouted: 'We're not coming out! You come in here! We're waiting for you! If you want something, you have to come in and get it!' "
The SS commando was startled by this refusal to obey. Their commander decided to postpone the action.
The camp closure was temporarily called off. While there was never an open clash between the Romani prisoners and the SS members, the incident played a significant role.
It was definitely not the custom in the concentration camps for prisoners to resist a planned and prepared action en masse right before it was to be carried out. There is absolutely no doubt that the armed SS commando unit could have suppressed this act of resistance, but they decided not to go into an open confrontation and preferred to achieve their aims another way.
This incident unequivocally had the nature of an uprising and deserves a significant place in the tragic history of the Holocaust of the European Roma. There were approximately 6 500 prisoners in the so-called "Gypsy Camp" of Birkenau at the time.
During the night of 2 August and the early morning hours of 3 August 1944, all of the camp prisoners were murdered in the gas chambers. 2 August is therefore commemorated as the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.
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