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Karel Holomek: Czech President's proposal to leave pig farm on genocide site is out of touch

13.7.2017 17:34
Karel Holomek at the 2016 Roma Spirit Awards.
Karel Holomek at the 2016 Roma Spirit Awards.

On 24 June, at the site of the former concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku, representatives of Romani people from all over Europe assembled, supported by many official European actors in a group reportedly totalling at least 300 people. The initiators of the protest against the pig farm on that site were not Czech Roma, although members of Czech Romani communities did attend the gathering.

In his recent remarks about Lety, Czech President Zeman has once again demonstrated that he is against everybody else. As he does at almost every opportunity, this time too he has put his foot into something quite disgusting.

Zeman has not just expressed a "different opinion" about the pig farm on the Holocaust site - what he said is absolutely, evidently a denial of why we must commemorate the Romani victims of the Holocaust. This is not the first time he has publicly spoken out against Romani people and caused them great harm, even if he does not directly express hatred of them.

Make no mistake: When Zeman speaks about the economic aspects, the costs to the taxpayer of buying the pig farm, that is just another of his failed comparisons that is absolutely beside the point. Once again, he is at least 15 years behind the times, as by now these matters have already developed along absolutely different lines.

Just a few notes on his remarks here:  First, would he have allowed himself to speak this way about something degrading the reverence expressed for the victims at Ležáky or Lidice, if any such thing actually existed? I doubt it.

With respect to Romani people, however, he has already verbally transmitted several lies and recriminations. Let's recall some of them:  During one of his smug trips to Liberec recently, when he was asked by a Romani woman when Romani people would be able to access housing equally in this country, he answered that they would be able to so when they stop allegedly tearing up the floorboards of apartments for firewood.

When Zeman made that remark he was at least 40 years beind the times. The saddest thing is that his stupid bonmot was greated by the crowds with enthusiastic applause.

That's symptomatic, wouldn't you say? Zeman has perpetrated other such harms against Romani people: His support for keeping Romani children enrolled into schools located near their residences is nothing but a dirty trick on the cabinet and its current program for integrating Romani people into society, which has been on the desks of one Government after another for at least 15 years here.

If thePresident really wishes the pig farm at Lety would stay in operation where it is, there is no doubt that by saying so he is damaging not just Romani people and their efforts at recognition. He is doing the most harm to Czech society as a whole, in the eyes of all of cultivated Europe.

That he is doing so in his role as President is the biggest horror of them all. President Zeman apparently knows nothing, as he commits his divine transgression, of the Government's plans for what is to become of the land once it has been bought.

That site will not become an "empty space", as he has alleged. Rather, a memorial will be built there that will finally place the Romani victims alongside all others who were sacrificed in the common work of the great effort to liberate the Czech and the Slovak nations at that time.

Zeman should also know that Czech Romani representatives are interested in making sure that unemployment not be increased in the area - they just want the farm to be relocated. It is not money that has ever been a barrier to taking such a step.

The only obstacle there has ever been to doing this is a lack of political will, and it is quite possible, I will allow myself to dare to say at this juncture, that the commemoration of and reverence for these Romani victims has never been comparable to, equal to, that of other victims here. It is also quite possible that what has predominated here all along is just the purely materialistic perspective that is now being represented by the highest constitutional officer in this country so convincingly - and, truth be told, so shamefully.

Karel Holomek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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