Attendees, including parliament speaker Marketa Pekarova Adamova (pictured) symbolically planted trees at Lety today, mostly donated by the Orlik Estate of Jan and Karel Schwarzenberg. Credit: Marketa Pekarova Adamova, via Facebook.

Roma Memorial in Lety To Open on 3 February Next Year

The memorial to the Roma and Sinti Holocaust victims in Bohemia will open on 3 February 2024, representatives of the Museum of Roma Culture told journalists yesterday. The memorial is currently under construction at the site of a former pig farm in Lety, where a Roma labour camp used to stand during World War 2. 

Politicians and other people symbolically planted trees at the site today. Most of the seedlings for the planned new forest were donated by the Orlik Estate of Jan and Karel Schwarzenberg. Those attending the event held a minute’s silence for the late Karel Schwarzenberg, the former MP and foreign minister who died at the age of 85 on Saturday. Schwarzenberg supported the construction of the memorial.

“We will plant trees that will be part of the memorial,” said Jana Horvathova, director of the Museum of Roma Culture. “The newly planted forest will symbolise the lost Roma community. It is this forest that will symbolically replace them, and as it grows, we believe that the coexistence of the majority of the population with the Roma minority, whose genocide during WW2 has been forgotten and completely erased from the history of our country, will improve.” 

The mixed forest, which will comprise almost 14,000 trees, will be a space for contemplation and commemoration of the victims of the local labour camp.

The memorial is being built by Protom Strakonice, who successfully won a tender procedure with a project costing CZK 98.6 million. A visitor centre will be built for CZK 10.5 million. The costs of the indoor exhibition will be covered by money from Norway Grants. The German embassy promised CZK 2.6 million for the outdoor exhibition.

For the first two months, the memorial will be in trial operation, open from Friday to Sunday.

“It is extremely important to remember what happened in these places. The victims that we commemorate here today are often forgotten and this chapter of our past lies in a kind of shadow,” said lower house Speaker Marketa Pekarova Adamova (TOP 09).

There will be audio-visual testimonies of witnesses. “There will be outdoor exhibitions all over the area. At the top, there will be a commemorative circle with the names of the victims and prisoners of the camp, which was a concentration camp,” said the museum’s spokeswoman Karolina Spielmannova, adding that a wall will separate the memorial area from the outside world.

Most of the seedlings for the new forest were donated by the Orlik estate. The 13,917 seedlings include nine tree species, with pines and oaks predominating.

Karel Schwarzenberg supported the creation of the memorial. “And he offered that his estate could donate the tree seedlings,” Horvathova said. “Karel Schwarzenberg was also here with us this May, when we did the traditional commemorative event, and in an interview back in June he very positively recalled President Petr Pavel’s participation in the event, and how important it was.” 

The demolition of the pig farm, which was built in Lety in the communist era, began in July 2022 and finished in December. The remains of one hall of the pig farm will be part of the exhibition. The outdoor exhibition is intended to highlight the history of the site after the war, including the pig farm. The demolition cost CZK 10.2 million.

The site was a labour camp for Roma prisoners during WW2. In the 1970s, a pig farm was built there. In 2018, the state bought it for CZK 450 million from the Agpi company, which kept 13,000 pigs in 13 halls there. According to historians, 1,308 Roma, men, women and children passed through the camp at Lety between August 1942 and May 1943, of whom 327 died there and more than 500 were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Roma Memorial in Lety To Open on 3 February Next Year
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