Karel Holomek: Roma should fundraise for removal of pig farm from concentration camp site
Karel Holomek, a former dissident and current chair of the Society of Roma in Moravia (Společenství Romů na Moravě - SRNM), said during the Czech Government's official commemorative ceremony at the Lety by Písek memorial on 3 August that in addition to the Government taking an active approach toward the issue of the pig farm there, Romani people themselves should be active. Holomek believes Roma should take up a collection to raise funds for relocating the farm, part of which now covers the site of the former WWII-era concentration camp for Roma.
"I believe the farm wouldn't have to be closed, it could just be relocated several kilometers away so the locals wouldn't lose their jobs. The Government could arrange that. However, I primarily believe this is a Romani matter and that they should establish a collection to raise funds for moving the farm and involve the European Union in it, because they would certainly find support there. By doing this, they would shame our Government, which has done nothing about the farm this entire time. The original estimate of the cost to close the farm was around CZK 500 - 600 million [EUR 22 million]. I myself no longer have the strength to establish such a fund," Holomek was quoted as saying by news server Denik.cz.
Holomek also pointed out parallels between the Czech public's perception of the victims of the Romani Holocaust and the victims of the postwar displacement of Sudeten Germans. "Both groups are at the center of attention and disfavor. The difference is just that today people hate the Roma more than the Germans, or rather, the Sudeten Germans," he said.
Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, also expressed his opinion on the situation around the farm at Lety during his appearance as a guest on Czech Television's "Events in the Regions" show on 3 August. "We have been fighting for this cause since 1998... Every year politicians promise to move it, but unfortunately they break that promise annually as well. They are not at all ashamed to make those promises even though survivors of the camp are still alive, the victims of the camp are following their behavior... This is a scandal that is unique in the world," he told Czech Television.
Jarmila Balážová, press spokesperson for the Czech Human Rights Minister, also appeared on the program. She spoke of a deadline for the possible removal of the farm which the Government has bound itself to in its Romani Integration Strategy by 2020.
Measures leading to ending the operation of the industrial farm in the immediate vicinity of the remembrance site at Lety should be adopted by 31 December 2018, according to the Government's Strategy. "Naturally it depends on whether the owners of that private company will be willing to cooperate, the Government cannot force them in any way. The Government can only motivate them somehow, it is doing its best to do that and endeavoring to win them over to engage in further negotiations about one of the possible versions for moving forward, and then raising the financing," said Balážová.
At the end of her appearance the spokesperson emphasized that "this place deserves reverence, as does the very small number of people who somehow symbolize the victims and their surviving relatives, and all we can do is hope that this succeeds". The moderator then asked Růžička whether he believes the Government will make the deadline.
"I believe it could be attained if a responsible Government agrees with the owner to rebuild the farm," Růžička said. "The owner wants a farm for farm, which means handing over the keys to the one in exchange for keys to another. Whether the Government accedes to that request is the question."
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