Series of events planned to honour victims of Communism


Communism, like any totalitarian regime, was built on fear and repression. the human toll was high. Over a quarter of a million people were sent to prisons and work camps where 4,000 are estimated to have died. In May the victims of Communism are being honoured by a series of events around the Czech Republic. One is called "Jachymov Hell", after the notorious work camp centred around a uranium mine in the north Bohemian town. Organiser Frantisek Sedivy explained why the "Jachymov Hell" memorial was being held.

"It's to remember the people who lost their lives, and lost many years of their lives and their youth. It was comparable to German concentration camps, although there weren't gas chambers...but the regime was the same."

An estimated 2,000 people died at Jachymov; just how bad were conditions there?

"The people who were there were in a radioactive environment 24 hours a day, because even when they weren't working they were in a camp which was beside the mine. The wind carried the dust so they were always in a radioactive environment, which wasn't at all good for their health. Many of the inmates died of cancer and few of us survivors of the camp are still alive."

Several of the speakers at Tuesday's news conference expressed their sorrow that many Czechs seem to have forgotten the crimes of the Communist era. I asked senator Jaroslava Moserova if she was disappointed that people seem to have such short memories.

"It does not surprise me. I'm sad that it's so. People tend to, especially people who were somehow soiled by the past, of course wish to forget."

One of the speakers said earlier that a lot of the culprits haven't been punished. Is that true, would you say?

"Yes, it is true, it is true, it was the very nature of the Velvet Revolution. We accepted the Document on Human Rights and Freedoms and accepting the document in fact we closed the door on banning the Communist Party. But until they change their name and distance themselves totally from the past I find it hard to accept their existence."