Letter addressed to the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic on Mr Okamura's statement on the Lety camp
The European Roma and Travellers Forum, Konexe, ROMEA and Slovo 21, o.s. just sent a letter to the Czech Prime Minister concerning Mr Okamura's statement on Lety Camp.
"Czech MP Mr Okamura denied the Genocide of Roma and Travellers at the former concentration camp at Lety. Given that 500,000 Roma perished under the Nazi regime and given that Roma and Travellers face continuing discrimination to this day with the support of many state governments, Okamura’s statements are completely unacceptable, insulting and finally, dangerous if we hope to avoid future violence and achieve a peaceful and unified future".
Letter addressed to the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic on Mr Okamura'statement on the Lety camp
Dear Bohuslav Sobotka, Czech Prime Minister,
Roma and human rights organisations are extremely concerned about Mr Okamura’s statements denying the Romani Holocaust. We are writing to you first to express our support and to thank you for your public condemnation where you expressed disapproval saying that Mr Okamura used propaganda from before 1945 and denied historical facts. However, we believe Mr Okamura’s comments merit more than just a verbal response.
Czech MP Mr Okamura denied the Genocide of Roma and Travellers at the former concentration camp at Lety. Given that 500,000 Roma perished under the Nazi regime and given that Roma and Travellers face continuing discrimination to this day with the support of many state governments, Okamura’s statements are completely unacceptable, insulting and finally, dangerous if we hope to avoid future violence and achieve a peaceful and unified future.
Okamura claimed in the online political tabloid ParlamentniListy.cz that “No one was killed at the camp - people died there as a result of old age and the diseases they brought with them as a result of their previous travelling lifestyle. (…) The victims of the camp definitely were not victims of any kind of Holocaust.” Mr Okamura is a Czech entrepreneur, writer and politician, at the head of Dawn of Direct Democracy, a populist and right-wing political party in the Czech Republic, founded in May 2013. This party is known for its appeal to anti-Roma sentiments. Mr Okamura and other politicians were responding to the tabloid’s question about the removal of an industrial pig farm from the site in Lety by Písek where Roma families perished during the Second World War.
The presence of this pig farm is disrespectful towards the memory of the suffering endured by the victims and their relatives. In 1998 the Czech Government resolved to remove the pig farm from the site, but that has yet to be achieved and in October 2010 the Czech Government announced that the removal is unlikely. A European Parliament resolution on Roma in 2005 called on the Czech authorities “to take all necessary steps to remove the pig farm from the site of the former concentration camp at Lety u Píu and to create a suitable memorial.”
As you are aware, Mr Okamura’s statements evoked strong reactions from politicians and journalists. MP Miroslav Kalousek, who is his party’s vice-chair, says Mr Okamura’s statements were “the kind of moral turpitude that rises to the level of a felony”. The Czech Minister of Human Rights, Equal Opportunities, and Legislation Jiří Dienstbier believes that Mr Okamura must resign. We share this view.
Mr Okamura’s statements have also encountered massive opposition from the Roma community and many prominent personalities have spoken out to denounce them, such as David Beňák, vice-chair, Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs, Čeněk Růžička, chair, Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust in the Czech Republic, as well as other concerned citizens such as historians, political scientists, musicians, Romani activists and students. This issue transcends the borders of the Czech Republic, just like the Holocaust did, and many from the greater European community have also condemned his words.
Okamura's statements were made during our commemorations of the 2nd of August, the 70th year since the Genocide of Roma communities was perpetrated during the Second World War. As you are aware, the concentration camp at Lety was created on 15th July 1940 on the basis of Government Decree N°72 demanding the detention of “wandering gypsies and other vagrants living in the same way who are capable of work, beggars by trade and those who make a living from begging (children, etc.), gamblers by trade, inveterate idlers, loafers and persons making a living from dishonest earnings (prostitution, etc.)”. The first prisoners arrived in the camp on 17th July 1940 and on 1st August 1942 the authorities changed the name of the site to “gypsy camp” and entire Romani families were deported there. A total of 326 people died directly in the Lety camp, 241 of them children. In addition to Lety, other Romani prisoners died during deportation to and after their arrival at the “gypsy family camp” at Auschwitz and the “gypsy camp” at Hodonín by Kunštát or other camps.
We are inviting individuals, national and international organizations and representatives of EU Member States to join us in raising our voices to condemn Mr Okamura’s denial of the Genocide of the Roma community.
We are calling for:
- politicians and organizations to isolate Mr Okamura and his party and cease collaboration with them;
- the waiver of parliamentary immunity to sanction Mr Okamura;
- the resignation of Mr Okamura;
- the removal of the industrial pig farm from the site of Lety.
We thank you for your cooperation.
European Roma and Travellers Forum
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