Lety - the Story of a Forgotten Genocide

Former president Vaclav Havel at the exhibition, photo: CTK

An exhibition of photographs opened at the Czech Parliament in Prague on Monday evening to tell the story of the hundreds of people, mainly Romanies, who suffered and often perished at the concentration camp in Lety, around 80 km south of Prague. The camp has been a source of controversy in recent years, partly because of a pig-farm that now stands on the site and also because the camp was entirely staffed by Czech guards.

The exhibition, which was on show at the European Parliament in April, is called Lety - the Story of a Forgotten Genocide. Markus Pape is the spokesperson for the Prague-based Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust:

"We want to inform the public and members of parliament especially about what happened in the concentration camp at Lety u Pisku and we want to show this in a special way - these are not only documents but also the faces and stories of people and we want to show that this is not only about countries or their history but it is about real people."

Do you think that there has been any significant improvement in the last decade in awareness of what happened at Lety among the Czech public?

"I think that there is and we needed these ten years to make the subject public because this was not mentioned during the Communist times and nobody knew about it and it takes a long time for people to understand their own history and to see that there were things that were unknown and there were things possible that were incredible."

Do you think that Czechs really don't want to know what their fathers and grandfathers did in the war time?

Former president Vaclav Havel at the exhibition,  photo: CTK
"Actually it was a small group of people. I think it's a general problem and it's the general image of history. Czech historians love to talk about the Czechs as victims and it is almost impossible for them to imagine that there could be some perpetrators among the Czech people and that there also was the will of some of them to exterminate others because of their otherness and I think this is a long way to understand that this is not only a problem of certain nations but it is a problem of the whole world."

For years people have been saying that the pig farm, which is occupying part of the Lety site should be removed and replaced with a proper memorial to the concentration camp and its victims. Do you think in ten years time we will have this conversation and the pig farm will still be there?

"I don't hope so. But it's possible and as the member of the European Parliament Milan Horacek said, we need to take a long breath. It's a long way and we owe this to the victims and I think we will make it some day."