Government to pave way for memorial on former concentration camp site|
The pig farm at Lety has proven to be an embarrassment for a succession of
Czech governments: in the early 90s, the media revealed that the farm
stood on the site of a notorious concentration camp, where Romanies were
interned by the Nazi Protectorate in World War II. More than 300 people -
the majority of them children - died there, succumbing to disease in
appalling conditions, while a further 800 were sent on to Auschwitz and
other death camps. In view of the shameful circumstances several Czech
governments tried to have the pig farm removed or relocated in favour of a
memorial - but failed for lack of funds and political will.
It is difficult to think of a more offensive slight to the memory of Romani
Holocaust victims than the existence of a pig farm on the very site of a
concentration camp. For years members of the Roma community have protested
the presence of the farm on the actually site where Romani men, women, and
above all children died. Cenek Ruzicka is the son of a Lety survivor:
"Here, on the site of a former concentration camp, a pig farm has
been operating for more than 30 shameful years! A pig farm!"
In April of this year activists' indignation was echoed by the European
Parliament when it adopted a resolution calling for the Czech government
to act. Romani representatives like Karel Holomek wholeheartedly agreed it
was high time something was done.
"I hope that the European Parliament's recommendation that this pig
farm ought to be removed or destroyed shows our society that it is a very
sad and shameful situation. I hope that our government finally will remove
this pig farm and it will be a true memorial of the Roma Holocaust in
And, he was not alone. Following the EU Parliament's resolution, incoming
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek himself agreed that action was needed and he
pledged his government would make Lety a top priority at last. Now he
appears to have kept his word, Mr Paroubek telling the daily Lidove Noviny
on Friday the government will have the necessary funds having earmarked
tens of millions of crowns from the draft state budget for the purchase of
the farm. The previous government of Milos Zeman for example, pledged the
equivalent of around 6 million US dollars but it wasn't enough.
Can a deal be reached this time? The facility's owner AGPI, remains open
to a deal so long as the land is exchanged in return for a suitable site.
The question still remains over how much removing and relocating the farm
will really cost: some estimates say it could go over 10 million dollars
US. The government is convinced a deal can be signed for less but,
negotiations have yet to begin.
Previous governments promised to deal with pig farm: only one - led by the
right-of-centre Civic Democrats under Vaclav Klaus - was able to establish
a memorial nearby. Most agree that it's high time a proper memorial on the
actual Lety site was introduced, in memory of - and in long-overdue respect
for - those who died. It's clear that members of the Roma community like
Jan Vrba, a Lety survivor, will settle for no less:
"It was a place of cruelty; starving children were eating raw cabbage
from the fields, and that the townspeople from Lety paid no attention to
them. Small children were dying on piles ofI don't want to say itpiles
of excrement. Lety must be a memorial!"