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Yom HaShoa: Tomorrow the names of both Jewish and Romani victims of the Holocaust will again be read publicly and together in the Czech Republic

27.4.2022 7:42
The Yom HaShoah event, held throughout the Czech Republic, has involved people publicly reading the names of both the Jewish and the Romani victims of the Nazi concentration camps since 2010. (PHOTO: Romea.cz)
The Yom HaShoah event, held throughout the Czech Republic, has involved people publicly reading the names of both the Jewish and the Romani victims of the Nazi concentration camps since 2010. (PHOTO: Romea.cz)

On Thursday, 28 April, the 17th annual Public Reading of Holocaust Victims' Names - Yom HaShoah - will take place in the Czech Republic. After two years when the commemoration was held online only due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, this year's format is returning to public spaces. 

The names of those persecuted and murdered during World War II for their racial origins will be heard in 24 cities throughout the Czech Republic on 28 April at 2 PM. Despite last year's dispute over whether the names of both Jewish and Romani victims of the Holocaust should be read together on this occasion, this year the Romani names will be read again. 

The board of directors of the Institute of the Terezín Initiative (ITI) decided last year that they would no longer read the names of Romani victims of racial persecution in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia as part of the reverential reading of the names of the deceased, Yom HaShoah. Then-ITI director Tereza Štěpková disagreed with the board's decision and carried out the event as usual in April 2021. 

Štěpková was later removed from the post of director, which led to protests among the ITI staff. "We are glad that we managed to keep this important event, which has found its place in the public space," said Tomáš Kraus, director of the ITI, in a press release sent to the Romea.cz news server. 

"It's tragic that today we're watching events such as those we commemorate, which many of us just know from textbooks, almost live not far from us," Kraus said, referring to Russia's war on Ukraine. This year, the Museum of Romani Culture, which is based in Brno, and its Prague office, the Center for the Roma and Sinti, are also partners of this commemorative event; last year, the Museum of Romani Culture protested against the abolition of the reading of Romani names.

Čeněk Růžička: I perceive reading Jewish and Romani names together as natural

A press conference on the issue will be broadcast live online today by ROMEA TV and will include a lecture by historian Kateřina Čapková entitled "The Holocaust of Jews and Roma in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia". The lecture will present information about the genocide of Jews and Roma from the Czech lands during the Second World War.

"Unfortunately, the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti is not yet publicly known or taught in schools. Therefore, we have long joined the public reading of victims' names and hope that it will make us all aware that the Holocaust during World War II had both Jewish and Romani victims, "said Jana Horváthová, director of the Museum of Romani Culture, which has been cooperating on reading the names of Holocaust victims since 2014.

"According to my father, who survived the Holocaust, the Roma and the Jews helped each other during World War II. When the Roma were in their worst situations, they went to the Jews and vice versa," recalls Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, who says he perceives the common reading of Jewish and Romani names on this occasion as natural.

The Public Reading of Names of Holocaust Victims, Yom HaShoah, is a country-wide, marathon reading of the names of the children, men and women who were persecuted by the Nazis because of their racial background. It has been held regularly in the spring months since 2006.

"As in previous years, with this event we join in honoring the memory of the heroes and victims of the Holocaust, called 'Yom HaShoah in ha gvura' (Holocaust and Heroism Day) and commemorates the uprising of Jewish prisoners in the Nazi ghetto in Warsaw," the organizers said in a press release for the event. Anybody can join the event, saying the victims' names out loud and publicly returning these forgotten, innocent victims of human hatred, violence and injustice to our consciousness and our common history. 

The event contributes to making respect for the victims of Nazi racial persecution part of the cultural tradition of the majority society in the Czech Republic. In Prague, the public reading of the names of Holocaust victims (Yom HaShoah) will be on Jiřího z Poděbrad Square from 2 PM to 5 PM.

The reading of the names takes place under the auspices of the Embassy of the State of Israel in the Czech Republic and with the financial support of the Foundation for Holocaust Victims. Mayor of Prague Zdeněk Hřib has given his auspices to the reading of the names in the capital. 

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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History, Holocaust, Institut terezínské iniciativy, pietní akt, Ukraine



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