Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Former Czech Nazi concentration camps inmates mark Holocaust Day

About one hundred former Czech Nazi concentration camps prisoners and some 50 guests paid tribute to Holocaust victims on the Holocaust Remembrance Day today, honouring the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust in World War Two.

The world marks Yom Hashoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, the day of the liberation of the Oswiecim (Auschwitz) Nazi extermination camp.

In the Czech Republic, Holocaust Remembrance Day started to be commemorated five years ago.

"It is very important to commemorate Yom Hashoah. To forget about what had happened will mean to increase the risk of the things to be repeated. This can never be ruled out," Czech Federation of Jewish Communities head Jiri Danicek told journalists today.

He said for him the Holocaust meant the dark side of human nature.

"If it gets out of control it is capable of doing everything. If you look around and listen to news you will see that such things happen on a smaller scale very often," Danicek said.

Brno's Museum of Romany Culture director Jana Horvathova who as a Romany historian has been studying the topic of Romanies' extermination during World War Two said that the "Holocaust was not a historical anomaly but the result of dark corners in human thinking."

One hundred men and women who came through the Terezin ghetto and survived the internment in the extermination camp attended today's meeting.

The guests included Czech Chief Rabbi Karol Sidon, Prague Archbishop Miloslav Vlk and newly appointed Minister for ethnic minorities and human rights Michael Kocab (for the junior government Green Party, SZ).

Senate chairman Premysl Sobotka (senior ruling Civic Democrats, ODS) spoke about the current situation in the Gaza Strip where Israel and the radical Islamist Hamas movement waged war recently.

He said it was necessary to fight against "carriers of evil."

"We should not allow the passivity to backfire on Europeans," Sobotka said.

Six million Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps. In the Terezin ghetto alone 155,000 Jews from the entire of Europe were interned and 117,000 of them did not survive the war. Further thousands of Jews perished in extermination camps in which thousands of Romanies also died.

According to estimates, the Nazis exterminated 90 percent of the Czech Romany population.

On the other hand, also from the Romano Vodi:

Czech pig farm should be moved from Romany Holocaust site

The pig farm on the site of the wartime camp for Romanies in Lety, south Bohemia, should be removed, Jiri Leschtina writes in the daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) today in connection with the promise of new Czech Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocab to pull the farm down.

The bad smell from the pig farm filling the air during commemorative events organised at the memorial of the internment camp's victims recalls the unwillingness to admit that it is not only Nazi Germans but also Czech guards who contributed to the death of more than 300 Romanies in Lety, Leschtina writes.

He says the Czech commander of the camp and several pathological guards killed tens of the inmates by beating them up and making them starve and freeze to death even before many of the others died of epidemic typhus.

Out of the 1,308 Romanies who were gradually interned in the camp in the early 1940s, 327 died there and more than 500 were transferred to the extermination camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

The Czechoslovak communist regime decided to bury the memories of the genocide by building a large pig farm instead of the camp, Leschtina writes.

The pig farm is a symbol of the deformed view of the Romany Holocaust: unless the farm is removed, the Czechs continue to show that they have less respect to Romany victims of World War Two than to Jewish victims, Leschtina says.

The problem is similar to that of the postwar deportation of Germans from the country's border regions where they had lived for many generations. The Czechs try to ignore that they have part of the responsibility for the injustice done and crimes committed during the deportation, Leschtina writes.

He says the indefinite discussion on whether the sum demanded by the present owners of the farm as compensation for the removal is acceptable is pointless.

The farm should be removed at any cost because the Romany survivors and the descendants of those who died in the camp wish it, Leschtina points out.

Kocab should remember his excellent mixture of diplomatic skills and firmness thanks to which he pushed through that Soviet troops left Czech territory in the early 1990s, Leschtina writes.

He says Kocab has a hard nut to crack, recalling that Kocab's predecessor Dzamila Stehlikova and all government human rights commissioners, including Petr Uhl and Svatopluk Karasek, have so far failed to get rid of the pig farm despite their efforts.

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