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September 24, 2017
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Some Romani activists do not want future genocide memorial at Lety to be run by the Czech state

14.8.2017 18:05
The pig farm on the grounds of the former WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku. The roses were put on the fence on 24 June 2017 by advocates of removing the farm. (PHOTO:   František Bikár, Romea.cz)
The pig farm on the grounds of the former WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku. The roses were put on the fence on 24 June 2017 by advocates of removing the farm. (PHOTO: František Bikár, Romea.cz)

Some representatives of the Romani community agree that the memorial to the Romani victims of the Holocaust at Lety u Písku should not be administered by the state. However, they do not yet have an idea about how the memorial site itself should look.

One possible administrator of the site could be the Museum of Romani Culture, which is a state-sponsored organization. A breakthrough moment after many years of fighting to remove the pig farm now standing on the site of the former Protectorate-era concentration camp for Romani people was last week's decision by the AGPI company to accept the offer of the Czech Government to buy the farm.

"We as Konexe [a Romani organization] believe that the memorial should not be administered by the state. The state has already lost all of its legitimacy to undertake such an endeavor long ago by virtue of how it has behaved these past few decades toward the victims of the camp and their surviving relatives, as well as towards the Romani minority generally. We believe it would be brilliant if an independent institution could be created where the important decisions would be made by the relatives of the former prisoners, by Romani people. That organization would take care of the site and see to it," Miroslav Brož of the Konexe organization told Lidovky.cz.

Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust (Výbor pro odškodnění romského holocaustu - VPORH), is against the likely assignment of administration of the memorial to the Museum of Romani Culture. He is mainly criticizing the previously-expressed, negative attitude of the director of the museum, Jana Horváthová, toward removing the pig farm from the genocide site.

"She says she is a Romani woman and that members of her family died in a concentration camp. Then, however, she intentionally made a statement to the effect that rather than tearing down the pig farm, it would be important to spend that money on educating Romani children," Růžička told Lidovky.cz.

Karel Holomek, the chair of the Association of Roma in Moravia, who is Horváthová's father, disagrees with that assessment. "The Museum of Romani Culture in Brno is the only contributory organization of the Government with Romani management in the entire republic. It has the full trust of the Government and is overall a firm, relentless advocate for the equal treatment of Romani people. The unambiguous solution is on offer that the administrator of Lety will be the museum and it is considered a done decision. Government officials are already negotiating with Director Horváthová to that end," Holomek told Lidovky.cz.

Challenges for the future

According to Simona Cigánková, spokesperson for the Czech Culture Ministry, currently the ministry is completing its material about the process of the buyout, which the Government should review at the end of August and start of September. "We are presuming that by the beginning of the new school year the purchase agreement could be concluded," she told the media previously.

Demolition of the farm, its decontamination and the subsequent adaptation of the site, however, will be a question of years. In addition to the construction of the memorial, it will be essential to undertake a detailed investigation of the terrain of the former concentration camp in order to locate and look into the mass gravesites of the victims.

"I consider the main findings of our research to be that we have managed to demonstrate that remains of the camp are here, that the camp has not disappeared, its traces have not been erased, it can be found using archeological methods, or rather the remains can be found. I think we have a strong argument, therefore, for this location to be declared a memorial," Pavel Vařeka of the Department of Archeology at the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň, who is the head of research at the Lety site, told news server Romea.cz.

voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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History, koncentrační tábor, Lety u Písku, memorial



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