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June 16, 2019
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Museum of Romani Culture responds to Czech MP's critique of the new memorial to the Romani genocide at Lety

26.1.2019 20:29
The building of the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  Anglos, Wikimedia Commons)
The building of the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, Czech Republic. (PHOTO: Anglos, Wikimedia Commons)

The Museum of Romani Culture has objected to the remarks made by Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna, vice-chair of the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) about the planned memorial at the site of the former concentration camp at Lety u Písku. Speaking on the public television program "You Have the Floor" (Máte slovo), Foldyna insulted Holocaust victims of Romani origin during a debate about free lunch for children in primary school.

The MP ridiculed the planned memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and erroneously stated that it would cost billions of crowns. The ROMEA organization then criticized his remarks.

Since last year the museum has been the administrator of the remembrance site at Lety u Písku. News server Romea.cz is publishing its response to Foldyna in full translation here.

Museum of Romani Culture objects to the remarks of Mr J. Foldyna

Czech MP Jaroslav Foldyna (ČSSD), speaking during the discussion program "You Have the Floor" which was broadcast on Thursday, 17 January 2019 on Czech Television's Channel One, raised the future memorial to the victims of the so-called "Gypsy Camp" at Lety u Písku that will replace the industrial pig farm at the site that was purchased by the state in 2018. Since the Museum of Romani Culture has been entrusted with administering the grounds of the former farm and with all of the steps leading to the building of a dignified memorial at the site, we would like to correct Mr Foldyna's characterization of the future memorial as a "mausoleum costing billions".

The farm grounds cover most of the site of the former, Protectorate-era, so-called "Gypsy Camp" at Lety u Písku. In the years 1942 and 1943, this was the location of the forced concentration of more than 1 300 Roma and Sinti from Bohemia, of whom at least 326 died there, and most survivors of Lety were then transported to an all but certain death in the concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

On the basis of a Government resolution, the site was bought for roughly CZK 450 million including VAT (a tax that is paid to the state budget) from the farm's operator, AGPI, a.s. As part of that Government resolution, another approximately CZK 111 million was allocated to the budget of the Czech Culture Ministry, the establisher of the Museum of Romani Culture, from the Government's budget reserves for the demolition of the industrial pig farm, for the archaeological research there, and for other preparatory steps associated with building the memorial.

The construction of the memorial itself, the educational activities at the site, the preparation of an exhibition about the history of the site and other steps are being either co-financed or completely financed by money from abroad. This is especially thanks to support from Norway Grants (EEA Norway), which is contributing between EUR 1 million and 1.5 million to this pre-defined project.

The future memorial will not just provide a space to commemorate the memory of the victims, but plans to include a visitors' center with an exhibition about the history of the site and various educational activities. The idea that this will be some sort of dead "mausoleum" is, therefore, disinformation and greatly differs from our intention to create a living place for the commemoration and education advocated by the Museum of Romani Culture, which will be in accordance with global trends that understand it is not just appropriate to commemorate a place of suffering, but also to make it possible to acquire information there, to educate oneself, to reflect upon and even transform one's previously-held opinions about this history.

Such an approach is the appropriate way to lead society to prevent crimes against humanity and violence. The disinformation from MP Jaroslav Foldyna about the cost of building the future Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti in Bohemia at Lety u Písku is something that we must not only correct by explaining the actual costs to date, the assumed future costs, and the sources of the funding for them, but it is a tactic that we condemn as an unethical instrument of political combat and, as a consequence, also as an act of de facto (if perhaps unintended) marginalization of the historical subject of the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti, as well as of the position of the Roma and Sinti in contemporary Czech society.

zda, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Lety u Písku, memorial, Muzeum, Racism



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