Czech Republic: International student conference on "European Roma Identity in the 20th Century"
From 7-9 December 2017 a student conference entitled "European Roma Identity in the 20th Century" took place in Prague at the Scout Institute. The event was organized by Antikomplex and the Terezín Initiative Institute in collaboration with other partners in a project of the same name.
The international student conference is a follow-up to the expert international conference on "European Roma Identity in the 20th Century through the Lens of Holocaust Victim Documentation" which took place in May 2017 in Prague, followed by a summer school for educators held in August at the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno. During the conference, 40 high school students from the Czech Republic and Slovakia sought answers to the questions of how much we know about the history of Romani people during the 20th century and whether Romani subject matter is being opened in the schools, including the topic of the Romani Holocaust.
Students discussed whether it is difficult to discuss these subjects, why that is, and how students and teachers can mutually enrich each other with information about them. Conference attendees were encouraged to jointly seek answers to the questions of how education and research institutions such as Antikomplex and the Terezín Initiative Institute can aid them with these efforts and how active members of the Romani minority can play a part.
The three-day program included discussions, interactive workshops, the screening of the documentary film "Zatajené dopisy" ("Suppressed Letters") and a debate with the filmmakers linked to a program focused on minority schools, and a gala closing with a theater performance by the ARAART ensemble, "Theater of the Oppressed - You Will Not Pass!" (Divadlo utlačovaných – Neprojdeš!).
Those attending were scheduled to speak with guests on the subject of the Romani Holocaust such as historian Michal Schuster, activist František Lacko and the niece of a Romani Czechoslovak partisan, Růžena Ďorďová. An excursion to Lety u Písku, the location during the Second World War of a concentration camp for Romani people from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, was also on the program.
Students had the opportunity to visit the official memorial site, where an exhibition about the former concentration camp is housed in replicas of the buildings used to imprison inmates, as well as to tour the surroundings of the industrial pig farm, the grounds of which cover most of the territory of the former camp. Conference organizers said they believe this will be one of the last opportunities to see the farm in operation at Lety, as it is slated for closure.
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