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14. 12. 2009 13:11

Ministry Bought Out Lands for Roma Victims Memorial

The Minister of Education signed a contract for purchase of lands for the construction of a memorial of Roma victims in Hodonín u Kunštátu

Miroslava Kopicová, Minister of Education, signed a contract worth 20 million crowns for the purchase of the area of a former detention camp for the Roma, which existed in Hodonín u Kunštátu during World War II.

Next year, 70 million crowns will be invested in transforming this area into a memorial of Roma holocaust victims and a training centre. A permanent exhibition is to be organized there by the Museum of Roma Culture in Brno, a holder of the Gypsy Spirit award in 2009. Educational activities performed by the centre shall be organized by the ministry of education, which has founded a public benefit society for this purpose. The implementation of this project has been entrusted to Radan Večerka, secretary of the cabinet of the minister of education.

Negotiations about the purchase of the area were initiated last spring by Michael Kocáb, Minister for Human Rights. In addition to the Hodonín Memorial, the next year's projects of “Renovation of Commemorative Sites Related to Roma Holocaust”, which are implemented by his ministry, will include the opening of a commemorative site in Lety u Písku, which was also the site of a reception and detention camp. The costs of this project are estimated at 120 million crowns.

The human rights minister Michael Kocáb reminded the importance of remembering Jewish and Roma holocaust victims. “We have to keep in mind that although World War II ended 65 years ago, there are still tendencies in the society to downplay or to even deny the tragic genocide of the Roma and Jews. Such tendencies have to be vigorously challenged by showing good will to commemorate with dignity such victims. The construction of commemorative sites will also be a stimulus for thousands of the Roma, who are often associated generally only with certain negative phenomena. I am sincerely happy for what the (Prime Minister) Topolánek's and Fischer's governments have been doing to enhance the Roma's identity and solidarity with the troubled history of their nation.”

The camp in Hodonín was in operation from August 1942 until December 1943. The Nazis imprisoned there a total of 1396 people, 207 of whom died there, mostly of pneumonia, tuberculosis, typhus and typhoid fever. More than one thousand of them were transported to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Victims of this tragedy are only commemorated by a cross in the forest; the former camp site is occupied by a recreation centre. The single surviving camp building currently serves as a restaurant. This building will be the only building left the planned commemorative area; all other buildings will be demolished.

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