Czech Justice Minister says moving pig farm from Roma genocide camp may require expropriation
On Saturday 24 June, the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) and the nongovernmental organization Konexe hosted an event called "Dignity for Lety". They gathered with activists from the Czech Republic and 15 other countries to demand the removal of the pig farm located on the site of a former concentration camp at Lety u Písku.
Politicians and ambassadors of various countries gave speeches in support of the removal of the pig farm. Romea.cz broadcast the event live online.
The event began with traditional Romani music to honor the victims who perished and suffered at the concentration camp. The music was followed by several political speeches from various organizations.
Testimonies of survivors of the camp and other witnesses were then read by several volunteers. Following this, more music was played and people were asked to decorate the fence outlining the pig farm with wreaths and flowers.
Benjamin Abtan, the President of EGAM, expressed his distaste for the presence of the pig farm on the Roma Holocaust site, stating, “Just behind me, in the place where prisoners were kept, in the place where Roma Czech people were transformed into slaves, killed, or sent in into Auschwitz-Birkenau, a pig farm has been operating for more than 40 years now. This is unacceptable.”
Banners held by several Roma in the crowd supported this sentiment, reading: "Remove the pig farm. We have been waiting more than 40 years."
The meeting gathered the support of almost 300 people from 15 various countries. Both activists and politicians spoke out against the farm, including Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikán.
“I was listening during these hours to many speakers saying the Government should be ashamed because there is still this pig farm. It was very difficult for me to listen to this because, I must say, I am ashamed, and I am sorry,” the minister told those assembled.
His statement was met with applause by those gathered. He went on to state that, “It is, for me, unacceptable. There must not be a pig farm here, there must be a memorial.”
“I will carry your message on [sic] Monday’s session of the Government and ask my colleagues who are in charge of this to speed up. We have time to offer a decent price for this to the current owner, and if he is not willing to accept it, we have time to begin an expropriation proceeding, which I believe is totally appropriate here,” the minister said.
Testimonies of the victims of Lety were also read to the audience, including the testimony of a woman named Barbara, who related several horrors that she and those around her had experienced: “I went from many concentration camps...but the Czech guards at Lety were the worst, much worse than the German guards at other camps...at Lety you had to be careful all day long, looking out for the guard that could hit you at any moment, beat you to death for no reason at all.”
“The Czechs today keep talking about how bad the Germans were but in Lety there were no Germans, all the war crimes committed at Lety were done by the Czech guards. The Czech police. But no one has been investigated. Brought to jail. Some of the guards are still alive. Why isn’t there any justice in this country? Gypsies who steal to eat are sentenced to Czech jails for years. But war criminals are still free in the Czech Republic,.” Barbara had gone on to say.
The concentration camp existed from 1 August 1942 to 4 May 1943. About 1 300 prisoners passed through the camp, with over 300 people dying at Lety and more dying during transport from Lety to Auschwitz.
A memorial was dedicated to the concentration camp in 1995. However, the pig farm that was established on the camp site in the 1970s remains.
Activists have been pushing for the removal of the pig farm and the establishment of a memorial on the site of the former camp. In the autumn of 2016, the Czech Goverment approved a bill to close the industrial pig farm.
As of summer 2017, the farm remains in operation at the same location. EGAM and Konexe decided to bring people from around the world to the farm to show the importance of removing it.
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