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Roma Pride marches in 14 European cities call for removal of pig farm on concentration camp site in Czech Republic

5.10.2015 5:22
The Roma Pride march passed through the center of Prague on 4 October 2015. (PHOTO:  František Bikár, Romea.cz)
The Roma Pride march passed through the center of Prague on 4 October 2015. (PHOTO: František Bikár, Romea.cz)

Roma Pride 2015 took place yesterday in Prague and other European countries. Only about 50 people attended carrying banners reading "Hate is No Solution", "Remove the pig farm from the site of the Romani concentration camp at Lety" or "For dignified conditions for all Holocaust victims".

Similar marches were held in another 13 European countries. The common theme of all the demonstrations is removing the pig farm in Lety by Písek that stands on the site of the former concentration camp for Romani people.

The situation at Lety was discussed on Roma Pride podiums from Dublin to Istanbul. Each country had its own national theme, which in the Czech Republic this year was "Roma welcome refugees".

The marches were convened by the European Grassroots Anti-Racist Movement (EGAM), whose Czech member association is the Konexe association, which organized the march together with the Christian initiative called "Living Together in Peace" (Společně žít v míru) and the Czech Helsinki Committee. Konexe's coordinator Miroslav Brož criticized Czech politicians for promising to remove the pig farm for 23 years without managing to ever do so, claiming that no one rational can believe any of their promises on the issue.

"We want to attract international attention to this scandal and to the denial of the Romani Holocaust in the Czech Republic and pressure the Czech Government to start addressing this international embarrassment," he declared, adding that more than 70 MEPs and members of national legislatures from 22 countries are also calling for the pig farm to go. Brož also said that recently in the Czech Republic refugees have replaced Roma as society's scapegoats.

"We want to express solidarity with [refugees]," he said. Participants in Roma Pride 2015 in Prague began assembling in Portheimka Park just after noon on 4 October.

Romani music played and people listened to speeches supporting refugee reception. At the Church of Saint Václav in the Smíchov quarter, everyone prayed together in both the Czech and Romani languages and then marched at 16:00 down Újezd Street, across the Legie Bridge, and along Národní třída to Bartolomějská Street.

Marchers chanted "Stop racism", "Black, white, together we fight" and "Get rid of the pig farm." The chanting continued outside the headquartes of Czech Police Headquarters on Bartolomějská Street, where whistling was also heard.

Given that people were in an inflammatory mood, organizers decided to change the program and first held a discussion with refreshments before posting a temporary paper sign on the wall of the police headquarters building. The sign reminds passers-by that during the Nazi Protectorate the deportation of Romani people was organized at that very building, including to the camp at Lety.

The sign includes the information that from 1942-43, German Nazis ordered the removal of 6 500 Roma from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Only 600 members of the community returned to the former Czechoslovakia from Nazi concentration camps after the war.

"Those actions were directed by the Czech Protectorate Police, under the supervision of the German Criminal Police, from this building. We will not forget - Nabisteraha," the sign reads.

In its 2020 Romani Strategy document the Czech Government pledged to remove the pig farm from Lety and several cabinets have called the removal a priority in the past. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said last year that his Government apparently will not be able to find the money to buy the farm.

In August 1942, what was originally a disciplinary and labor camp near Lety was changed by the Nazi Protectorate administration into a "Gypsy" camp. As of May 1943, when the camp was closed, 1 308 Roma had passed through it, 372 had died there, and more than 500 were transported to Auschwitz, where most of them were murdered.

The Nazis are estimated to have murdered 90 % of the Roma in Bohemia. Since 2010 a state-managed remembrance site has been accessible to the public at Lety. 

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Demonstrace, Pochod, Roma Pride, EGAM



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