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Czech Republic: "Stumbling-stones" commemorate Romani Holocaust victims for the first time ever

26.9.2017 7:05
The first stones laid in honor of the Roma victims of Nazism in the Černovičky quarter of Brno, Czech Republic (2017). (PHOTO:  DROM Facebook profile)
The first stones laid in honor of the Roma victims of Nazism in the Černovičky quarter of Brno, Czech Republic (2017). (PHOTO: DROM Facebook profile)

Attentive pedestrians walking through what was once a temporary settlement in Brno's Černovičky quarter will find an unobtrusive reminder of the Romani victims of the Holocaust there now. All they have to do is look down at the shiny metal memorial stones or "stolpersteins" ("stumbling stones") that have just been installed.

The stones are the first in the Czech Republic to bear the names of Romani Holocaust victims, specifically, those of Amálie and Jan Daniel. "They remind us that Romani people were systematically slaughtered just like Jews or other victims of Nazism," Gunter Demnig, the author of the project, told the Czech News Agency.

Whoever wants to get close enough to read the information on the brass plates must bow before the victims - that is the principle of the memorial stones. Černovičky today is a cluster of single-family houses in a little green valley between two highway offramps in the city's Slatina disrict, but it used to look quite different.

"The foundations for what is Černovičky today were laid by the Daniels, a Romani family, in the 1880s," Dušan Slačka, an historian with the Museum of Romani Culture, describes the origins of the neighborhood. The originally semi-itinerant Romani blacksmiths and metalworkers settled there near a local factory for producing coal briquets, which gave the new settlement the name of "U kostivárny" (At the Briquet-Maker).

Approximately 200 Romani children, men and women were forced to abandon the settlement in the spring of 1943. They were all transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.

After the war just a couple of survivors returned there. Jan Daniel died on 17 March and Amálie on 20 May 1943, Slačka said.

The memorial stones are 10 cm square tiles with a brass plate reading "Here lived..." and then specific data about the victims. The stones are inserted into the pavement in front of the last place the victims lived of their own volition.

In Brno there are about 150 such reminders so far, usually dedicated to Jewish Holocaust victims. The stones in Černovičky can be found in the playground area that has been established in the green space on the outskirts of the settlement.

"We would like to continue laying stones to honor the Romani Holocaust victims. In Brno alone, of the indigenous Czech Romani population more than 1 000 people were slaughtered," said Miroslav Zima, director of the Drom organization in Brno.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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