Educational centre to open at former Roma concentration camp

18-06-2008

A former Roma concentration camp in South Moravia was turned into a holiday resort in the 1960s. Now the site is set to become a documentation and educational centre with a permanent exposition on the Romany Holocaust – the first institution of its kind in the Czech Republic.

About 6,500 Bohemian and Moravian Roma went through two concentration camps in the occupied Czech territory before they were shipped to Nazi extermination camps. The best known of them is Lety, which today houses a pig farm criticised by the European Commission. The other is in Hodonín u Kunštátu, some 40 km north of Brno, South Moravia, which might become the country’s first and only research and educational centre on Roma history and culture. Minister for Ethnic Minorities and Human Rights Džamila Stehlíková led the negotiations with the property’s owner.

“The negotiations took several months before the owner of the establishment agreed to sell the property. Compared to the pig farm on the site of the other concentration camp in Lety, it was much easier, because the owner showed a lot of good will.”

The former concentration camp will become an international research and educational facility with programmes on Roma history and culture for schools, teachers and the public. The only surviving barracks building will have the country’s first permanent exposition on the Romany Holocaust. The centre will be part of the Brno-based Museum of Roma Culture, whose director Jana Horváthová says education on Roma Holocaust should be included in school curriculum.

Džamila StehlíkováDžamila Stehlíková “The whole of Europe is getting ready to launch Roma Holocaust education at schools, but this hasn’t yet happened in many European countries. If we in the Czech Republic were first with such a centre, I’m sure other European countries would be interested in following what we’d be doing, and come to learn what we would be the first to develop.”

Apart from an exhibition on the Roma Holocaust, the Museum of Roma culture is also planning to use the centre for presenting their unique collection of visual art as well as for an outdoor museum with samples of historic Roma housing. Minister Stehlíková again.

“I’m sure that we will find an agreement and that the Culture Ministry will agree to fund the documentation and educational centre, and I also hope that we will receive international assistance. The planned centre should present the history and the culture of the Roma people, not just in the Czech Republic but in a broader European context as well.”

Provided the Museum of Roma Culture receives sufficient funding, the documentation and educational centre in the former Roma concentration camp in Hodonín u Kunštátu could open in middle of next year.

18-06-2008