Museum of Roma Culture removed from Holocaust memorial project at Hodonín by Kunštát
Representatives of the Society of Roma in Moravia are criticizing the fact that the Museum of Roma Culture in Brno will not be a co-designer of a new memorial to the Roma Holocaust to be erected at Hodonín by Kunštát. Karel Holomek told the Czech Press Agency today that the museum has devoted itself to the creation of such a memorial for the past 20 years and has a full understanding of the history of the camp. He has sent a letter to the Czech Prime Minister, the Culture Minister and the Education Minister protesting the fact that the museum is about to lose its ability to influence the project.
Last year the Czech Education Ministry planned to build the world's first information center about the Roma Holocaust at the site of the former concentration camp for Roma in Hodonín by Kunštát. The ministry has recently released the following statement about those plans: "Construction of the large International Educational and Conference Center on a far-off site in the forest is not an economical option. Above all, it would be unsustainable without permanent increases in state investment."
CZK 98.5 million was originally allocated for the project. The state spent some of that money to purchase the former camp, which until recently was used as the Žalov recreation center. The rest of the money, more than CZK 70 million, was originally meant to have been used to build the new educational and conference center. The new plans now call for CZK 47 million to be spent on erecting a memorial and CZK 6 million on building an access road.
"We accepted all of that, we don't see a problem there. That form of a more modest option is acceptable," Holomek told the Czech Press Agency. He sees the main difficulty as being the removal of the Museum of Roma Culture from the project. The museum has devoted itself to the locality for years and even erected its own memorial there some time ago. The new memorial would come under the management of a Prague-based pedagogical museum, which Holomek says has nothing to do with the topic of the Roma Holocaust and has no experience with it. "The question is whether this facility will be able to create a close relationship to the Roma, including those in the international community," he said.
In its recent press release, the Czech Education Ministry said it already has enough educational spaces to manage in the country. The memorial will therefore become a detached workplace of the J. A. Komenský Pedagogical Museum in Prague. The press release also said that if the Museum of Roma Culture needs to expand its own capacity, it will have to resolve that with the Culture Ministry. "What we are saying is that from the very start this was a government project, so the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Education should settle such issues between themselves," Holomek said.
A total of 1 300 Roma people, including children, the eldery, and women, passed through the concentration camp at Hodonín by Kunštát. Due to the catastrophic conditions of their diet and housing, 207 Roma people died there during one year from a typhus epidemic. The others were transported to the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz. After the war, of an original Roma community of 6 000 throughout Bohemia and Moravia, only 580 returned from the concentration camps.
Czech Education Minister Josef Dobeš (Public Affairs - VV) visited the site of the former camp last year and was quoted as saying money to build an education center would be found. "At a time of total crisis it is probably good to send some sort of moral signal," he said at the time.
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