Commemoration of Romany Holocaust victims sparks controversy
Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Monday attended a commemorative ceremony for the victims of the Romany Holocaust. At the site of a former concentration camp in Lety, Mr Nečas admitted the Czech responsibility for the murder of over 5,000 Romanies during the war. But the official event sparked controversy among the Romany community which says the government should first make sure the victims were giving a dignified memorial.
“Unlike those Romanies who perished in Auschwitz, the victims here died mainly of typhoid and dysentery, of hunger and exhaustion, as a result of conditions imposed on them by the Nazis.
For the last 17 years, commemorative events at Lety have been held on May 15. This year, dozens of Romanies including relatives of the survivors came to the memorial service, as well as several ambassadors and cultural dignitaries - but with a notable absence of top level officials. But Prime Minister Nečas chose July 9 to pay tribute to the Romany victims at Lety, 70 years after police in the occupied Czech lands began confining Romanies in concentration camps.
However, several Romany groups including the Committee for the Redress of the Romany Holocaust called for a boycott of the event, arguing the government should first relocate a large pig farm that was established on the site of the camp in the 1970s, and erect a dignified memorial honouring the victims. Historian and human rights activist Markus Pape says the government’s reluctance to pay for the farm’s relocation is a symbol of the society’s negative attitude towards Romanies.
Some expected Prime Minister Nečas to address the issue in his speech but were disappointed to hear that the government has no plans to remove the farm from the site of the former concentration camp. After the ceremony, Prime Minister Nečas said he was not going make empty promises, noting that the strained state budget could not pay for the removal of the farm.