EP urges Prague to remove pig farm from the site of a SWW concentration
The European Parliament on Thursday passed a resolution condemning the
discrimination of Romanies on the European continent. It called on EU
governments to take active steps to improve the position of Romanies, who
make up Europe's largest single ethnic minority. The Czech government in
particular was urged to remove as fast as possible a large pig farm at
Lety, in south Bohemia, the site of a concentration camp for Roma during
the Second World War.
Lety is a name that older Romanies recall with grief. Although present day
visitors to Lety will see only a pig farm, for the Roma it is a mass
graveyard. A total of 1,256 Romani men, women and children were interned
there in inhumane conditions. Over three hundred are thought to have died
just in one typhus epidemic. Those who survived were sent to Auschwitz,
Treblinka and other extermination camps.
Historians are divided over what actually happened at Lety between 1942
and 1945 but there is no doubt that for Czechs the camp raises a number of
uncomfortable questions. The camp, where more than half of the Roma
population in the Czech lands were held, was staffed solely by Czech
guards and was initially set up by the Czech puppet government early in
the Nazi occupation.
The pig farm was erected at the site 30 years later under the communist
regime and although the matter was repeatedly brought up after the 1989
revolution, post-communist governments have so far failed to get the farm
relocated, mainly because it would cost millions of crowns.
Czech politicians themselves remain divided over the issue. Czech MEP
Miloslav Ransdorf, a Communist party deputy, claims that what happened in
Lety is not a crime on the same level as the genocide in the camps in
Poland, Germany and Austria. He says that although there are problems to
be solved in helping to integrate the Roma minority, Lety is not one of
"Bringing up the Lety camp was a provocation. There was no
concentration camp in the real sense of the word in Lety, there were no
gas chambers in Lety. So the fact that Mr. Horacek from the Greens
introduced this item into the debate of the European parliament was a
provocation, from my point of view."
The right wing Civic Democratic Party also voted against the EP
resolution. When the Civic Democratic Party was in government it built a
memorial to Roma camp victims close to the farm, in a vain effort to close
that sensitive chapter of the country's history.
The ruling Social Democrats came closest to relocating the pig farm a few
years ago but in the end they decided that the 100 million crowns or 4
million dollars this would cost would be put to better use serving the
needs of the Roma minority in the present day. However at Thursday's vote
in the European Parliament Czech Social Democrat MEPs raised their hands
in favour of the resolution calling for the farm to be removed.
So once again the Czech Republic is left having to consider whether
recognizing the wrongs of the past may not be the first step to dealing
with the wrongs of the present.