Speech by Miroslav Brož at Lety by Písek
Dear survivors, Dear Romani men and women, Dear visitors,
It is mid-May and we have assembled, as we do every year, to honor the memory of the Romani victims of the Holocaust, to remember the victims of the Lety concentration camp, and to remember the victims of the genocide perpetrated against the Romani people.
Because Romani people in the Czech Republic are second-class citizens, we cannot assemble today at the places where that genocide actually happened. On the sites where the Lety camp used to stand and where Romani men and women were tortured and died, there is farm where the pigs are rolling around in their own feces. It is difficult to imagine a greater humiliation for the survivors and the relatives of the victims. It is hard to imagine a less sensitive approach from the state which first build this industrial pig farm on these genocide sites and now is refusing to remove it. It is difficult to imagine a greater sign of disrespect toward the Romani victims of the Holocaust than what is happening here.
This state of affairs, in which pigs are being raised and their feces are being industrially processed on genocide sites, is part of a broader phenomenon that is very widespread in our country, and that is the phenomenon of denying the Romani Holocaust. We encounter this denial almost daily, it is part of the media environment and public discussions – the deniers are active in internet discussions about the pig farm here and there are Czech-language web pages and Facebook pages focused on denying the Romani Holocaust. The worst thing is that the genocide of Romani people, which happened at the sites of today’s pig farm, is openly denied and doubted by politicians as well, most recently by Czech MP Tomio Okamura. Holocaust denial is still a felony in the Czech Republic, but the authorities and police tolerate the denal of the Romani Holocaust, and nobody is ever prosecuted for it.
Most inhabitants of our country unfortunately have only minimal awareness of the events at Lety and of the Romani Holocaust generally. This histroy is taught in schools only under exceptional circumstances and as a side matter. This past is half-forgotten even though Romani people were probably the most extensively affected of all the groups targeted by the Holocast on the territory of our state and currently are the biggest minority group living in this country.
It is precisely this lack of societa; awareness about the genocide of Romani people, as well as the all but entirely lacking academic research into this blood-soaked subject, that are some of the reasons why the denial of the Romani Holocaust is so widespread.
Human rights activists, relatives of the victims and survivors have been fighting for the removal of the pig farm and the pig feces from these genocide sites since the 1990s. Many institutions have asked the Czech Government to remove the industrial farm from these genocide sites, such as the European Parliament and the United Nations. Many individuals have also sought the same result, all in vain. The Czech Government’s usual answer is that the Czech state allegedly does not have enough money to remove the farm – or that to remove it would be a matter so complicated and demanding that our country couldn’t handle it – or that it will take many more years before the farm can be removed.
That’s how it goes year in and year out: The farm stays where it is, and the survivors and relatives of the victims die off.
It is clear, however, that if the political will to do so were to exist, then buying the farm and tearing it down would take at the most a few months’ time – maybe even just weeks if we hurried. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
In conclusion I would like to invite you all, after this commemoration organized by Mr Růžička is over, for a guided tour that begins at 15:00 called “Get to know the territory of a genocide” and is organized by our civic association. We will walk through the territory of the former concentration camp, visit the quarry where the prisoners worked, visit the fishpond in which, according to the survivors’ testimonies, Romani children were drowned, and we will place flowers at an improvised remembrance site near the fence around the farm. I recommend this tour primarily to anybody who has never visited the former concentration camp and who has only visited the very nicely-designed official memorial.
Tomorrow, Saturday 14 May, there will be funeral procession starting at 14:00 from the pig farm to the cemetery in nearby Mirovice where we will lay flowers at the graves of the children who died in the Lety camp.
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