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Czech-Roma group alleges more people may have died at Roma genocide site than previously known, will demonstrate for pig farm removal

21.7.2017 8:28
The pig farm on the grounds of the former WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku. The roses were put on the fence on 24 June 2017 by advocates of removing the farm. (PHOTO:   František Bikár,
The pig farm on the grounds of the former WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku. The roses were put on the fence on 24 June 2017 by advocates of removing the farm. (PHOTO: František Bikár,

On Sunday, 30 July at 13:30 an assembly will be held on Hradčanské náměstí near Prague Castle called "Remove the pig farm! Remember the victims of the Samudaripen". Demonstrators will demand the removal of the pig farm from the site of the WWII-era genocide of the Roma at Lety u Písku.

The Konexe organization, which is convening the assembly together with the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement, is also demanding that the Czech state support more archeological and field research into the genocide perpetrated on the territory of Lety. Miroslav Brož, spokesperson for the Konexe organization, announced the planned demonstration to news server yesterday.

"The word Samudaripen (the great slaughter) is used by Romani men and women to refer to the genocide of Romani people. During the Second World War, 90 % of the prewar Romani population in the Czech lands was murdered, according to the most conservative estimates," said Brož.

"Some of those Romani people were murdered by German Nazis in the extermination camps, primarily in the gas chambers of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Some were murdered in camps on the territory of the Protectorate where the guards were Czech members of the Protectorate gendarmerie. None of those guards were punished after the war," Brož added.

"Probably the worst of the Protectorate camps, where the genocide of our ethnic Romani citizens took place, was Lety u Písku. At the site of the former camp the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic built an industrial capacity pig farm in 1973. At the places were Romani men and women were tortured and died there is now pig manure," Konexe says in its invitation to the assembly.

The group is also disputing the number of Romani people who died at Lety u Písku during that time. "Until now we have been hearing the 'official' version of the events at the Lety camp, i.e., that it was a small camp where 326 Romani people died, 241 of whom were children. That version, however, was based on records kept by the murderers. The 'official' version has always been rejected by the survivors of the camp, whose testimonies speak of exponentially higher numbers of victims. The recent archeological research at Lety has located more mass graves that have never been opened. We do not know how many more victims of the Lety camp are in them. However, what is certain is that the 'official' version is collapsing," Brož alleges.

According to the Konexe spokesperson, the genocide of Romani people is denied in the Czech Republic by ordinary citizens, for example, in the public arena of Internet discussions. "Websites are functioning undisturbed that are dedicated to denying the genocide of the Romani people here. Most citizens have no information about the Samudaripen. Nothing is taught about the genocide of the Romani people in the Czech schools, just as nothing is taught about the history of the persecution of the Romani people in the Czech lands. Who knows today that Czechoslovakia adopted anti-Romani legislation in 1927 that deprived Romani people of some of their civil and human rights and turned them into second-class citizens?" Brož asked.

"What is even worse is that the Samudaripen is disputed, minimized, and in some cases even denied by our political representatives or constitutional officials. They deny and dispute the genocide of Romani people, probably attempting to exploit the antigypsyism that is so widespread in the Czech Republic and doing their best, through such anti-Romani remarks, to win the sympathy of most voters, who are oriented against Romani people," the Konexe statement reads, specifically mentioning remarks by former President Václav Klaus, MEP Miroslav Ransdorf, MP Tomio Okamura, and current Czech President Miloš Zeman.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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