Čeněk Růžička, recipient of the Alice G. Masaryk Award: Sobotka's Government was brave enough to come to terms with the Roma Holocaust
On the occasion of International Human Rights Day (10 December), US Ambassador Stephen King gave the Alice Garrigue Masaryk Award to the chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust (VPORH), Čeněk Růžička, as his first official act in office. News server Romea.cz publishes Mr. Růžička's speech at the award ceremony in full translation below.
Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,
After twenty years of efforts of our community to enlighten Czech and foreign societies as to the truth about the life of Roma families at the Lety concentration camp, and stressing the unacceptability to desecrate the site of race motivated murders of at least 327 prisoners including children, what I was convinced about, has happened. Bohuslav Sobotka’s government has heard the wish of the families of the victims, and has entered the Roma and Sinti history as a government which, even in the election year, had the courage to unanimously decide about the purchase of the pig farm, and two weeks ago signed the contract with the pig farm owners.
Your Excellency, I really do not know if I deserve such a great recognition. I used to be convinced that the pig farm on the site of the concentration camp is such an immoral thing that it would be enough for us to just repeatedly speak about the truth about the circumstances of the establishment of the camp and the life of the prisoners, so that citizens would understand and remedy the situation themselves. But I did not know that it would take long twenty years. And yet, I am convinced that there are groups of people in Czech society who really care about the reputation of this country, and this conviction has proved as decisive for the remedy of the Lety situation.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is not enough time for me to thank all activists, Czech and foreign institutions and associations and all good citizens in this country individually for their support. They all know very well that we truly appreciate their support.
Therefore, let me single out at least the role of Minister of Culture Daniel Herman, former Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier, and also you, the ambassadors of the EU countries, the United States of America, Canada, Russia, India, Israel and other countries. By your participation in the ceremony at Lety every year to honor the memory of the Roma victims to Nazism, you have denounced the desecration of the site of murders of innocent victims.
In conclusion, let me recall one more person whom the historians never mention. He is Mr. Adolf Vondrášek, the first post-1989 mayor of the city of Mirovice where the first Lety concentration camp victims of typhoid were buried at the local cemetery. After 1989, he was the first Czech who allowed the installation of a memorial plaque to the victims of the camp at the cemetery with the following inscription:
"I am the resurrection and the life. To commemorate the victims who perished at the Lety concentration camp under inhuman, cruel conditions in 1942-45."
Your Excellency, I appreciate the award and thank you very much for it. To me, it is a commitment for the future.
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