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Czech Vice PM calls Roma "parasites" during his visit to Roma Holocaust site

8.9.2016 7:45
Czech Vice Prime Minister Andrej Babiš at the memorial site to Romani victims of the Holocaust at Lety u Písku, September 2016. (PHOTO: František Bikár,
Czech Vice Prime Minister Andrej Babiš at the memorial site to Romani victims of the Holocaust at Lety u Písku, September 2016. (PHOTO: František Bikár,

During the past few days we have witnessed an absolute masterwork of manipulation and the populist abuse of power in the Czech Republic. Czech Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš is a political phenomenon who apparently still has a lot to say to the country.

It is evident that the scandal of the Vice PM's remarks about the Roma Holocaust site at Lety is not an entirely black-and-white matter. First the Vice PM denied that Romani people had been forcibly concentrated due to their race at the camp in Lety u Písku, then he denied making the remark, or at least excused it by saying it had been taken out of context, and then he concluded his self-defense, under great pressure, by "apologizing to everybody".

The Vice PM was, of course, apologizing for something he claims to have basically never said or never meant. What's the difference, right?

In any event, after the Prime Minister recommended that his Vice Prime Minister go to visit Lety, Babiš did so. However, his visit cannot be described as displaying any kind of sincere reverence for the victims or "bowing of his head" to them.

Instead, the Vice PM exploited that visit to the political maximum. In an interview with the press, he did not hesitate to criticize Romani people for a second.

Speaking at the site of a mass burial ground of Romani Holocaust victims, Babiš described how disgusted he was by the present-day living conditions he claimed to have seen among Romani people, including bedbugs on the walls of their homes, filth, and parents whom he called "parasites" on their own children. What is there to say?

Maybe Babiš has now achieved his much-coveted feeling of victory over Czech Prime Minister Sobotka - he recommended, in turn, that Sobotka visit the residential hotel in Varnsdorf that he himself had visited, and there is no doubt he has the stomach for such audacity. He topped off his speech to the media by saying that white people are the minority in Varnsdorf, after all, and that they fear for their lives.

Not even while visiting a Holocaust site did he forget to score pre-election points and make clear what sort of voter he wants to win over. I don't know whether it even occurred to the other journalists present what the situation was, what kind of a place the Vice PM was standing in when he made those remarks, but in any event, none of the acts of apology he has demonstrated to this point have anything to do with any actual honoring of the memories of the dead or any touching of his conscience, but have just been calculated manipulations in his pursuit of power.

Theories have even been expressed that the remark he made in Varnsdorf was made intentionally. I wouldn't be surprised.

In reality, this is basically not about Romani people, not about any of them - not the buried, and not the living. This is about votes, so we cannot be surprised that nobody Romani, whether a surviving relative of the victims or a representative of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, was invited to join this official visit.

Čeněk Růžička, director of that Committee, made more than one attempt to accompany the Vice PM during his trip. A confrontation between the two would probably have been unavoidable, and that would not have been appropriate for the prescribed scenario.

Babiš, however, has failed to disguise one thing. It's clear he even prefers walking over corpses to win the next election.


Renata Berkyová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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