Director of Terezín Initiative Institute invites Czech politicians to join tour of former concentration camp for Roma
The director of the Terezín Initiative Institute, Tereza Štěpková, sent an invitation on 6 December to the chair of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM), Vojtěch Filip, and the chair of the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" party (SPD), Tomio Okamura, offering them a guided tour of the site of the former concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku which is currently occupied by a pig farm. She did so in response to the politicians' statements against the state buying out the farm.
"From your statements it can be deduced that it is not absolutely clear to either of you how the camp functioned and why. We would be glad to communicate that information to you directly at the site during a guided tour of the grounds, we will take you through the official exhibition of the Lety Memorial as well as through the locations where the camp actually was," Štěpková wrote in an open letter that news server Romea.cz is publishing below in full translation.
Dear Mr Okamura, Dear Mr Filip,
In response to your statements on 5 December 2017 in the lower house during the discussion of the state budget for 2018 about buying the pig farm at Lety u Písku, which stand on the site of the former concentration camp for Romani people that existed during the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, we are hereby inviting you to a tour of the grounds of the former camp at Lety that we are holding on Friday, 9 December 2017, as part of the program of our international students' conference on "European Roma Identity in the 20th Century through the Lens of Holocaust Victim Documentation". From your statements it can be deduced that it is not absolutely clear to either of you how the camp functioned and why.
We would be glad to communicate that information to you directly at the site during a guided tour of the grounds, we will take you through the official exhibition of the Lety Memorial as well as through the locations where the camp actually was. We base our tour on the expert conclusions of the archeological research that took place on the grounds of the former camp this year, which exactly located the area of the so-called "Gypsy Camp" at Lety.
We do not know what background materials you are basing your allegations on, for example, Mr Filip's statement that "The facility of the AGPI firm is not on any land where that labor camp originally was. If there has been a call here for us to somehow compensate what the Czechs have done to the Roma, then don't be angry with me, but that seems to me to be a call that is out of touch with reality."
Experts and historians have demonstrated, described and documented the development of the camp at Lety u Písku, which during the era of the Second World War was first a so-called 'Disciplinary Labor Camp', then an 'Internment Camp', and then on 2 August 1942 was again transformed into a so-called 'Gypsy Camp' in which women, children, men and elderly people were imprisoned until June 1943. Just as in the other concentration camps established on the territories occupied by the Nazi Third Reich, the prisoners here were tortured by means of hunger, insufficient medical care, physical abuse, shocking hygienic conditions, and violence.
Like other concentration camps throughout Nazi-occupied Europe, these camps were intentionally labeled "Labor Camps" by the Nazis so as not to spark panic among people about their deportation to them - exactly so their actual situation would be deceptively hidden. By making remarks such as the ones you have recently made, you have used the terminology of the Nazis, and you are casting doubt on the significance of the Holocaust and belittling the memory of its victims.
Experts from the Terezín Initiative Institute who have dedicated themselves to documenting and researching Holocaust victims for 20 years here are available to introduce you to the history of the former concentration camp at Lety u Písku at that very location and will be glad to answer your questions. We are looking forward to your attending the tour!
Terezín Initiative Institute, Prague, Czech Republic
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