European Grassroots Antiracist Movement calls Czech MP's remarks about Romani genocide site classic Holocaust denial
The European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) has condemned the recent remarks by the chair of the SPD party in the Czech Republic, Tomio Okamura, about the Protectorate-era concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku. Okamura said that he believed the camp had not been fenced and that the people there had been able to come and go freely.
According to EGAM this is "the most classic denial" of the Holocaust of the Roma and an effort to create a parallel history. EGAM President Benjamin Abtan communicated the organization's message to the Czech News Agency on 31 January.
EGAM brings together 40 organizations from around Europe to protect human rights and minorities and defends minority interests at European institutions. "[Okamura's remarks] demonstrate that denial of genocide is a current political problem in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe where it is primarily kept alive by nationalists," Abtan said.
In his view, the Holocaust of the Roma is not yet something about which there is broader awareness, and for that reason it would be necessary to establish a European foundation to endeavor to bring the memories of eyewitnesses and the findings of researchers to the public and to combat the denial of the wartime persecution and murder of Romani people. EGAM called for the creation of such a foundation this year on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January.
Abtan said the international call for such a foundation has been supported by 249 MPs from 28 European countries and by other figures. Okamura's remarks were also made on 27 January during an interview with the online television channel DVTV.
The MP gave his source as a book published by the Academy of Science that he erroneously claimed was called "The Camp at Lety: Facts and Myths" and also referenced a quote from former Czech President Václav Klaus on the issue. According to the Museum of Romani Culture, no such book exists and Okamura's allegations are refuted by documents and photographs from that time.
The Museum also stated that such remarks spark anti-Romani sentiment and trample the memory of the Romani victims of persecution and genocide. The state-funded institution then demanded an apology from the SPD chair.
Okamura has since responded by apologizing for his "imprecision" and urging people to read an interview with a professor who has referred to the genocide at Lety as a "myth". According to historians, the camp at Lety was first opened in August 1940 as a disciplinary labor camp.
The camp was intended for men who were unable to document their incomes to the authorities. People living a traveling lifestyle were also meant to be settled there.
A similar facility existed in Moravia at Hodonín u Kunštátu. In January 1942 both camps were changed into internment camps, and in August 1942 both were then turned into "Gypsy Camps".
From then until May 1943 a total of 1 308 Romani people - children, men and women - passed through the Lety camp, 327 of whom died there and more than 500 of whom ended up at Auschwitz. After the war fewer than 600 Romani prisoners of the concentration camps are said to have returned to Bohemia and Moravia.
According to estimates by experts, this means the Nazis murdered 90 % of the Romani people in Bohemia and Moravia. Despite this fact, more than one Czech politician has doubted whether Lety functioned as a concentration camp.
In 2005, then-Czech President Václav Klaus said Lety had not been a "concentration camp in the proper sense of the word" and that it had not been designated for Romani people but "for those who refused to work". His remark outraged other politicians and Romani organizations.
Okamura made a similar remark in August 2014. The Czech Police investigated that incident but did not recommend pressing charges.
In 2016, during a visit to Varnsdorf, the leader of the ANO movement, Andrej Babiš, who was Finance Minister at the time and is Prime Minister now, said the camp at Lety had not been a concentration camp but a labor camp. He then apologized for his remarks and promised money would go toward creating a memorial there.
- Czech MP apologizes for "imprecision", then urges people to read historian who calls the Romani Holocaust a "myth"
- Czech round table on Romani genocide memorial: Relatives of victims must have the last word
- Czech Constitutional Court receives complaint over buyout of pig farm on Romani genocide site
- Czech MP marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day by doubting what happened at Romani genocide site
- Czech Parliament marks International Holocaust Memorial Day with Romani speaker
- European Grassroots Antiracist Movement calls for creation of a European Foundation for the Memory of the Roma Holocaust
- History of EGAM and Konexe's efforts to see the pig farm removed from the Roma genocide site at Lety
- Co-chair of Green Party says Czech taxpayers should not pay to protect Holocaust deniers visiting Prague
- Čeněk Růžička, recipient of the Alice G. Masaryk Award: Sobotka's Government was brave enough to come to terms with the Roma Holocaust
- EUROPE: Roma Pride 2016 raised the issue of denying that Roma were Holocaust victims
- Czech MP Stanislav Huml shares Holocaust denial video online
- Parliamentarians of Europe get involved to prevent genocide and mass atrocities and to fight against genocide denial
- Jaroslav Miko: Romani voters must cast their ballots for a democratic coalition, otherwise anti-Romani extremists may get into government
- Czech moderator cuts short interview with party chair who refuses to distance herself from anti-Jewish texts
- Czech court sentences social media user to two years in prison, suspended for two years, for promoting terrorism
- Germany's Supreme Court rejects appeal filed by racially-motivated murderer of 10 people
- First Czech translation of Holocaust survivor Philomena Franz's memoirs being released
- Grandson of famous Czechoslovak partisan from the Romani community says his grandfather was a hero
- "Kamara - just a n****r" - Czech Police looking for football fans who published racist banner
- T-Mobile, general partner of Czech Republic's Sparta Prague football club, calls meeting with their leadership over their fans' racism
- Czech Bishops Conference distances itself from candidates running with extremists
- LIVE: "Leperiben: We Do Not Forget" - Prague ceremony honoring Romani victims of the Holocaust will include reading of their names
- At remembrance event, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust says Okamura is one of the Czech politicians agitating against Romani people
- LIVE BROADCAST TODAY AT NOON: Commemorative ceremony at Lety u Písku