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Tuesday, 22 June 2010


The memorial to the Romany victims of wartime Nazi persecution, which the Czech state arranged in Lety near the site of a former Romany internment camp, was ceremonially opened Friday in the presence of the culture minister and the government human rights commissioner. An open-air amphitheatre has been built at the memorial site in the past four months, along with two replicas of the original wooden dormitories with an exhibition commemorating the Romany victims. The memorial has been arranged close to the site where the camp used to stand and where a pig farm has been built in the meantime. The Lety camp was opened as a disciplinary labour camp in August 1940, designed for the men who failed to prove how they earned their livings. It was also designed for travellers. The same camp was opened in Hodonin near Kunstat, south Moravia. In 1942 both camps were transformed into interment camps for Romanies. A total of 1308 Romanies were gradually interned in the Lety camp by May 1943. Out of them, 327 perished there and more than 500 were transported to Oswiecim. Experts estimate that the Nazis killed 90 percent of the Czech Romany population.

"We've built a complex that the Czech Republic need not feel ashamed of and where we can invite anyone," Culture Minister Vaclav Riedlbauch told journalists. The next task is the removal of the pig farm standing at the former camp site, he said, adding that the problem rests in gaining the necessary money as the state would have to buy the pig farm from its owner, Riedlbauch said. He praised Michael Kocab, former minister in charge of human rights and minorities, and now government human rights commissioner, for largely contributing to the Lety memorial project. Kocab said he is happy at having fulfilled his plan. It has turned out, he said, that people are not indifferent to the fate of Romanies in World War Two. Kocab, too, said the next task is to have the pig farm pulled down. Last year the government earmarked 21.4 million crowns for arranging the memorial. Before, the site was maintained by the town of Lety, but not systematically. Since last year it has been managed by the Lidice Memorial, a state-subsidised organisation seated in Lidice, central Bohemian village that the Nazis razed to the ground in 1942. Lidice Memorial director Milous Cervencl Friday said another task is to present the Lety commemorative site to Czech students and teachers so that they start visiting it. It is interesting that foreigners know about the memorial and have been visiting Lety, Cervencl said.

Prague Monitor