Prague paves way for Roma memorial site

For eighteen years Czech governments have failed in their attempts to close down a pig farm next to the site of a former Roma concentration camp in the village of Lety in South Bohemia. The farm has prevented proper commemoration of the victims so far. On Monday the current government decided to pay for the relocation of the business. Czech commentators voice relief.

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Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Anti-Roma card has lost its pull

It was always political rather than financial motives that prevented the closure of the pig farm and proper commemoration of the murdered Roma, Lidové noviny stresses:

“Lety was one of the great disgraces in local politics. But what couldn't be done for 20 years is suddenly not a problem anymore. It was never about the money for buying the farm, which won't have any impact on the state budget. Over two decades each government feared that the opposition would attack it for deciding in favour of the Roma on this issue. This has changed now. The opposition - with the exception of the communists - is more cultured nowadays. The politicians have realised that you can't play the hugely popular anti-Gypsy card when it comes to a place where even children were killed simply because of their skin colour.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Finance minister had to give in

A few weeks before this current move by the government Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš caused a scandal when he described the Roma concentration camp Lety as a 'labour camp'. But in the end this embarrassing situation helped to pave the way for a proper commemoration, comments Hospodářské noviny:

“After 18 years of controversy over closing the pig farm in Lety, finally a solution seems likely. But it's not over yet. Pigs are still being fed on the site of the former concentration camp, which by rights should be a memorial site. Now the government has commissioned a study to determine how expensive it will be to acquire the facility. Unbelievable that this has taken so long. … Paradoxically, with his embarrassing remark Babiš contributed most to a solution. He can hardly refuse the money if he doesn't want to be left looking like a denier of the Roma Holocaust.”