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Germany to compensate Roma survivors of the Holocaust now in the Czech Republic

5.8.2016 11:18
A commemorative ceremony for the Romani victims of the Holocaust was held on 2 August 2016 at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. (PHOTO:  Council of Europe)
A commemorative ceremony for the Romani victims of the Holocaust was held on 2 August 2016 at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. (PHOTO: Council of Europe)

After years of negotiations between the Czech Republic and Germany, a breakthrough decision has now been made. Germany will compensate Czech Roma for the suffering caused by their internment in German concentration camps during the Second World War.

Considering how long a time has passed since the dark events of Nazism, the compensation will be received by just the last 10 Romani Holocaust survivors still alive in the Czech Republic. According to news server Hlídací, each survivor will receive a one-time payment of EUR 2 500 as soon as possible.

The money will be allocated from Germany's Hardship Fund for Non-Jewish, "Racially" Persecuted Victims. The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed that information.

"Yes, last month negotiations were held with the German Finance Ministry, which confirmed that compensation will be paid to Romani people who survived the Holocaust," Michaela Lagronová, spokesperson for the Czech Foreign Ministry, told Hlídací “It's good news that the negotiations managed to reach a successful conclusion.”

Paying for their funerals

Romani organizations sought the compensation more than a year ago. "While Jewish people have already absolutely justifiably received their compensation, Romani people have been viewed as second-class victims, and that really angered me," said Čeněk Růžička, President of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust in the Czech Republic.

The Committee turned to the Czech Foreign Ministry with a request for aid with upholding the Romani Holocaust survivors' right to satisfaction. "They began to vehemently engage in this and ultimately it succeeded, even though not it is not happening in the way I envisioned," Růžička said.

Jewish Holocaust survivors receive their compensation not as one-time payments, but as regular contributions to their retirement pensions. "However, for the Roma who are seeking compensation, every single crown is good, so they are glad for this one-time contribution," Růžička said.

"They are elderly people, 80 years old or more, and some are no longer mobile," Růžička said. He believes most of the Romani people whose entitlement to compensation has been acknowledged are clear on what to do with the unanticipated injection of financing.

"Most have told me that they will save the money to cover their funeral costs," he said. "For us Roma our funerals are very important, it's not possible for us just to be cremated. It has to be a magnificent event, attended by many people, with a wooden coffin, real flowers, and following all our traditions."  

End of the pig farm in sight?

Some Romani victims of Nazi crimes were previously compensated within the framework of the overall settlement with those who suffered during the Holocaust, but statistics on how many of those compensated were Romani are not kept by the authorities. The only certain thing is that four Romani people were compensated by the Czech-German Future Fund

The news about this compensation for the suffering caused by the Nazis comes shortly after Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman announced the Czech Government will resolve the situation at Lety by Písek by next autumn. At the site of the former WWII-era concentration camp there where Romani people were interned, and through which more than 530 people passed on their way to Auschwitz, an industrial pig farm has long been running - and subjected to years of criticism.

"I lost many of my close relatives, including my grandfather, at Mauthausen, so if I were to imagine that pigs might be wallowing in the place where my grandfather died, I wouldn't like that at all," Herman said recently. "I am genuinely convinced that our Government will manage to do something about this by the next elections." 

This piece was written for the Institute of Independent Journalism (Ústav Nezávislé Žurnalistiky), an independent nonprofit organization and  registered institute in the Czech Republic that provides information, journalism and news reporting. The analyses, articles and data produced by the Institute are offered to all for use without precondition.

Eliška Hradilková Bártová,, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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