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Decade Ambassador Holomek criticizes Czech PM at Roma Holocaust memorial

Hodonín u Kunštátu, 23.8.2010 16:52, (ROMEA)

As of yesterday, the building in which Roma victims of the Holocaust died during WWII is open for viewing at the site of the former internment camp for Roma at Hodonín u Kunštátu. Approximately 80 people attended mass at the site, where the Brno-based Museum of Roma Culture has opened an exhibition, followed by a memorial ceremony at the mass gravesite of the Roma victims. In his remarks, Karel Holomek of the Society of Roma in Moravia harshly criticized Czech PM Nečas over his choice of human rights advisor.

The Žalov site in Hodonín, where a recreation center was in operation until recently, was purchased by the Czech Education Ministry last year. The ministry wants to build an educational campus there where researchers and schools can study the Roma Holocaust. Šimon Mastný of the ministry said yesterday that the project is important for the ministry and that he hoped they were at the start of a four-year period during which support will be expressed for the project. However, he could not confirm whether money for the project would be guaranteed during this time of crisis. Mastný said the project was now being re-evaluated and that it might be implemented in a scaled-down version, with the ministry planning the financing to stretch over a longer period of time.

Even though it is in a desolate state today, the newly-accessible original camp building will remain intact during the construction of the center. "This is the only building connected to the Roma Holocaust remaining on Czech territory,” emphasized Jana Horváthová, director of the Museum of Roma Culture. Horváthová also discussed the significance of the building’s surroundings, including the landscaping and patios on which the other six prison buildings of the Roma internment camp once stood. "We do not know whether anything like this is still extant anywhere else in Europe,” she said.

Horváthová told the press that even today, very few people are aware of the Roma Holocaust. Nazi policies targeting Roma, considered by many to have been genocidal, were survived by only one-tenth of the original 6 000 Czech and Moravian Roma. The majority of today’s Roma population in the Czech Republic is comprised of Roma of Slovak origin, Horváthová emphasized.

Deputy Ombudsman Jitka Seitlová, personalities from the Jewish community, regional politicians, and representatives of the government and the Czech Education Ministry paid their respects to the memory of the victims of war in Hodonín yesterday. Pavel Fried, chair of the Jewish Community in Brno, spoke at the memorial service by the mass grave of how Jews and Roma share a painful past. "We share the pain, the injustice, and the arbitrary treatment that continues to this day. I also share the sense of a certain exclusion from society,” he said.

Karel Holomek of the Society of Roma in Moravia, who is the Ambassador for the Czech Presidency of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, spoke critically of Czech PM Petr Nečas (ODS). In Holomek’s view, any supposedly pro-Roma statements or gestures by the PM cannot be believed in light of his having chosen Roman Joch, head of the Civic Institute, to be his human rights advisor. Holomek quoted statements allegedly made by Joch which he understood to be anti-Roma. He has also signed a petition against Joch’s appointment.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, ryz, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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