Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc. 8: EU scandal: Commemoration of Roma on a pig farm

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The "Lety camp" in the Czech Republic is one of the places in Europe where hundreds of Roma and Sinti perished, simply because of their ethnicity. The memorial is degraded by the existence of a pig farm on the site.

July 2014: EGAM holds the first European commemoration on the site of the Lety Roma concentration camp

50 top European antiracist and Roma leaders from 18 countries held this commemoration to honour the memory of the victims.

This memory is diminished by the existence of a pig farm on the land
where hundreds of Roma perished because they were Roma. 

"We are here to restore the dignity of the victims and the descendants of the survivors. The assault on the memory of the extermination of the Roma, which is represented by the presence of a pig factory on the site of the former concentration camp at Lety, reminds us of the discrimination and racist persecution of the Roma people in Europe that persists to this day. This commemoration is a first step towards a wider mobilization. Let's get mobilized again on August 2nd to commemorate the Roma holocaust." said Benjamin Abtan, President of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement - EGAM

"This is a key support for us. This location is a scar on the landscape of Europe. It is our duty to honour the victims of the genocide with dignity to ensure the enjoyment of equal rights for Roma citizens for today" said Miroslav Broz, President of Konexe.

Historical background

In the so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (German: Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren), which was declared a non-sovereign state under the protection of the Reich on March 16, 1939, the fascist regime implemented its persecution. The Lety camp near Písek was intended for the internment of "anti-social" Roma from Bohemia, and 1,256 prisoners passed through it, including 36 children who were born there to imprisoned mothers. It was used as "Gypsy camp" from summer 1942 until December 1943.

In the files of the gypsy camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau were written the names of 4,493 Roma from the Protectorate. The only ones with a hope of surviving were those transfered to work at other concentration camps, such as Auschwitz I, Natzweiler, Flossenburg, Buchenwald, and Ravensbruck, from where they were redistributed to other concentration camps, especially in Dora, Dachau, Neuengamm, Bergen-Belsen, Mauthausen and so on.

After liberation, only 583 Roma men and women returned to their homes. 

The Pig farm

Built in the 1970s by the communist regime, the Lety pig farm in south Bohemia stands on the site of a former Nazi concentration camp for the Czech Roma minority which was almost exterminated in the Holocaust. Over 1,300 Roma men and women were interned there, 300 of them died in the camp and others were transported to Nazi death camps. Every year, members of the Roma community gather here for a commemorative ceremony in conditions that are far from dignified. The small stone memorial depicting a broken heart is sheltered from the offensive farm by simple shrub hedge and the smell is all-pervasive.

"Not until 1995 could a memorial be set up in Lety on the initiative of Václav Havel, president of the Czech Republic at the time. The granite monument was designed by Zdenek Hula and is located on the camp's former temporary cemetery. A further memorial is situated in the parish cemetery in the neighbouring town of Mirovice. In the camp's early days, victims were buried here; the memorial, which was dedicated in 2001, is close to the children's mass grave. In recent years, the Czech government has been faced with demands to have the pig farm closed in order to appropriately honour the victims of the 'Lety Gypsy Camp'." Source: www.memorialmuseums.org 

The government earmarked 20 million crowns for a dignified memorial for Roma victims of the Holocaust.

Memorial stone "Lety Gypsy Camp"

Source: Wiki commons 

Memorial Roma in the "Lety Camp"

The memorial was unveiled a year later and, despite pressure from the Romany minority and international organizations for the pig farm to be relocated, the matter of the Lety farm was shelved indefinitely.

 

In February 2009, the government turned down demands for a memorial due to cost concerns. Instead, the government purchased the premises of the former "Hodonín Gypsy Camp" and plans to set up an information centre there on the topic of Roma persecution. 

An intervention of the EU parliament

In the year 2005 an exhibition of photographs entitled "Lety – history of unmentioned genocide", initiated by Mr Milan Horáček, MEP for the Greens/EPA, was displayed in the European Parliament in Brussels. The European Parliament called upon Czech authorities to remove the pig farm currently situated on this former camp site in Lety.

Reacting to the resolution of the European Parliament, Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, told the Czech daily Lidové noviny on May 14th, 2005: "Of course, many tragic things happened there. However, we understand that the victims of this camp primarily succumbed to an epidemic of spotted typhus, not due to what is traditionally understood as the fate of a concentration camp victim - at least according to what every child learns in school. Of course, it is necessary to appropriately commemorate this place."

In response on the same day, Romani Rose, president of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma said in Prague: "President Václav Klaus is treating the crime of genocide, committed against the Sinti and Roma during Nazism, cynically and is distorting the historical fact that the Nazi system consisted, by its very nature, created conditions that led to people dying, especially children. Such a remark, if made with reference to the Jewish victims of Nazism, would provoke worldwide debate." 

Listen to Radio Praha concerning the events in 2013:

Offensive pig farm likely to remain on Roma Holocaust memorial site,
26 July 2013, by Daniela Lazarová

"The UN Human Rights’ Committee has asked the Czech government to close down a pig farm located on the site of a former Nazi concentration camp for Romanies. Built in the 1970s, the farm has been a source of embarrassment to all post-1989 governments, but despite bringing the country international disgrace, it is still there and likely to remain so. ... "

 

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