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October 26, 2021

 

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Terezín Initiative in the Czech Republic dismisses director of its Institute, she considers her dismissal incorrect, invalid and unfair

10.7.2021 9:53
Tereza Štěpková in 2018 in her role as director of the Institute of the Terezín Initiative when, together with the Museum of Romani Culture, a summer school for teachers was held in mid-August about the Holocaust and its Jewish and Romani victims. (PHOTO: Adam Holubovský, Museum of Romani Culture, Brno, Czech Republic)
Tereza Štěpková in 2018 in her role as director of the Institute of the Terezín Initiative when, together with the Museum of Romani Culture, a summer school for teachers was held in mid-August about the Holocaust and its Jewish and Romani victims. (PHOTO: Adam Holubovský, Museum of Romani Culture, Brno, Czech Republic)

On 30 June 2021 the administrative board of the Institute of the Terezín Initiative (ITI) dismissed the director of the Institute, Tereza Štěpková. The ITI will now be led by the lawyer Martin Thiel, who has past experience with the compensation of victims of the Second World War.   

The Czech News Agency (ČTK) was informed of the ITI's new management by the ITI's press service. Štěpková has informed news server Romea.cz that she considers her dismissal to be incorrect, invalid and unfair.  

What led to her removal is a conflict that arose after the administrative board decided that the names of the Romani victims of racial persecution during the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia would no longer be read during the commemorative readings of the names of Holocaust victims on the occasion of Yom HaShoah, an Israeli state holiday that the ITI has been commemorating in the Czech Republic. Štěpková disagreed with the board's decision and continued to include the names of Holocaust victims of Romani origin during this year's event, which happened to fall on 8 April, International Romani Day (the date of Yom HaShoah changes annually). 

"I consider my dismissal to be quite unfair, incorrect and invalid, the way the administrative board has behaved toward me is undignified," Štěpková told news server Romea.cz. According to the ITI press service, the former director deserves the organization's gratitude for ensuring the administrative and economic standards of the organization during her time in office.  

"My role at the Institute of the Terezín Initiative decidedly was not just to 'ensure an administrative and economic standard' - rather, through my expertise and long-term professional experience I was responsible for making visible the fates of Holocaust victims, both Jewish and Romani, I contributed to raising awareness about the Holocaust of the Roma in the Czech Republic and to its recognition, and together with my colleagues we are contributing to preventing hate speech and intolerance in society. We especially did this through the Public Reading of Holocaust Victims' Names event on Yom HaShoah, which became the pretext to pressure me to resign and then became the pretext for my dismissal," Štěpková told Romea.cz.  

Štěpková is a graduate of Charles University in Prague in the fields of education and Jewish Studies. She has worked at the ITI for 20 years, leading it since 2012.

"I continued and developed the organization's traditions while developing unique projects that have been garnering positive assessments both domestically and internationally. I created a team of experts, historians and educators who offer specific educational programs throughout the Czech Republic, expert informational materials and commemorative events," she said, adding that the Public Reading of Holocaust Victims' Names on Yom HaShoah has spread to almost 30 different locations all over the country during the 16 years it has been running.

"The volume of our work, our projects, our staff and our budget doubled during my time as director," Štěpková told news server Romea.cz. The ITI's press service has informed ČTK that "The first tasks for the newly-installed director of the ITI will be submitted by the close of August through a concept that will arrange for the fulfillment of the Institute's almost 30-year traditional mission as per its founding charter."   

ČTK reports that the ITI press service also mentioned that Thiel, who has been newly entrusted with directing the Institute, has previously worked for the Czech-German Fund for the Future where he was involved with arranging compensation for victims of the Second World War. Thiel has also worked for the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and on the Czech Culture Ministry's Committee for Compensating Romani Victims of the Holocaust.  

According to the ITI website, an international association of former prisoners of the ghetto at Terezín, the Terezín Initiative, established its Institute in 1993. The ITI is meant to support academic research into the history of the modern era, mainly the relationships of majorities to minorities.

The ITI runs the educational website www.holocaust.cz, a database about Holocaust victims, and a library that is publicly accessible and holds specialist literature. The Institute also issues publications and holds educational seminars.

The ITI has also been organizing the annual commemorative event during which Holocaust victims' names are read aloud. According to its press service, the ITI was established above all to support research into the history of Terezín (Theresienstadt) between 1940 and 1945 associated with the national socialist "Final Solution to the Jewish Question". 

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Holokaust Romů po Česku, Institut terezínské iniciativy, odvolání, Shoah



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