Czech Republic: Director of Lidice Memorial rejects criticism from relatives of Lety victims
The relatives of the victims of the Romani Holocaust and several other Romani organizations believe the Lidice Memorial is not administering the remembrance site at Lety by Písek in an appropriate, sensitive way. They are bothered by the online presentation of the memorial and the information placards at the site of the former Nazi concentration camp for Romani people, none of which mentions the ongoing presence of a pig farm at the site.
Those who are offended have called on their fellow Romani people not to participate in future events at Lety should they be convened by the Lidice Memorial. They are also insisting that the industrial pig farm be removed from the site.
The appeal was sent by Čeněk Růžička of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust (Výbor pro odškodnění romského holocaustu - VPORH) to the Czech News Agency and Romea.cz. Milouš Červencl, the director of the Lidice Memorial, rejects the criticism (for the full text of the appeal, see http://www.romea.cz/en/news/czech/statement-on-management-of-the-lety-memorial-from-committee-for-the-redress-of-the-roma-holocaust).
"We are offended by the gross distortion of the basic historical facts in the texts that are now part of the signage on the walking trail through the site and the entire exhibition there. This distortion is humiliating for the victims of the Romani Holocaust and their surviving relatives," say the 40 individuals and several organizations who signed the appeal. In their view the Lidice Memorial was awarded the administration of the site "by negotiating with the surviving relatives in a way that has turned out to be dishonorable", and they argue that therefore the Lidice Memorial has no moral right to organize commemorative ceremonies there.
The Lidice Memorial is an organization run by the Czech Culture Ministry. The Czech Government decided that it would administer the site in 2009.
According to the authors of the appeal, it is not enough to merely maintain and repair the landscaping at the site. They are continuing to demand that the pig farm be removed.
Such a step has been recommended to the Czech Republic by several international institutions, most recently the UN Human Rights Committee. According to Červencl, however, the website for the memorial is not being badly administered and the information placards were approved by experts prior to being installed.
"As far as the pig farm goes, it's not within our purview and is a matter for the Government. At the recent commemorative ceremony we were praised by all of the members of the Government who were there and also by Romani people. We are administering the memorial in good faith to the best of our ability," Červencl said, adding that the Lidice Memorial's work should be evaluated by the organization that supervises it, i.e., the Czech Culture Ministry.
The Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust reminds the readers of its appeal that the intention to remove the pig farm from the Holocaust site has been mentioned in several documents approved by previous governments. The authors of the appeal disagree that the state does not have the money to purchase the industrial farm and proposes establishing a fund to raise the money.
According to the 40 relatives of the victims and the organizations that signed the appeal, the information placards near the mass grave site of the memorial include "insulting, simplifying, and unjustifiable judgments". The placards reportedly reference the "different cultural and social level" of the postwar Romani migrants to the Czech lands from Slovakia compared to the Czech Roma, which is alleged to comprise one of the obstacles to good coexistence between the Romani minority and the majority society today.
"What are the Romani people with Slovak roots, who comprise the vast majority of today's Romani population in this country, supposed to feel when reading this publicly posted text? How are any parents supposed to explain these generalizing, problematic texts to their children - not to mention the fact that they are posted at a place of remembrance?" the activists and relatives of the victims ask in their appeal.
The camp at Lety recorded the imprisonment of a total of 1 308 Romani children, men and women there. A total of 327 people are recorded as having died there and more than 500 are recorded as having been transported to Auschwitz.
After WWII ended, less than 600 Romani prisoners returned to Czechoslovakia from the concentration camps. Experts estimate that the Nazis murdered 90 % of the Czech Roma population.
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