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Romani Holocaust - Official complaint against Czech war criminal

15 July 1997

On April 4, 1997, a group of Romani and non-Romani citizens lodged an official complaint against Josef Hejduk, who Is presumed to be the last surviving guard from the internment camp at Lety, established by the Czech government in 1940 for the detention of Roma. In addition to the complaint (printed In full below), Romani activist Ľubomir Zubák also filed an official complaint against Hejduk on June 6. In related developments, plans are being developed for the construction of a monument at the site of another Czech Internment camp in Hodonín, in southern Moravia. Romani sculptor Eduard Oláh has been commissioned to produce the work, which Is being partially financed by the Brno Museum of Romani Culture.

According to Jana Horváthová, a representative of the museum, at least two hundred Roma of the one thousand three hundred Roma imprisoned in the camp at Hodonín died there; the rest were sent on to Auschwitz Birkenau. The site of the camp has to date been marked 6y private monuments, but there are fears that in the publicity surrounding Lety, Hodonín will be forgotten. Harel Holomek, one of the signatories of the official complaint concerning Lety, stated later that it was a mistake not to Include Hadonín in the document. Horváthová is against all such legal actions, and has stated that it is more important just to Inform the public of the existence of the camp and of the tact that “its planning and organisation came from Czech heads.”

The events in the Czech Republic mirror developments around Europe: observers have noted a dramatic rise in visits by Roma to Auschwitz, Lackenbach and other former concentration camps. Lawsuits have been initiated by the International Romani Union to forte the Issue of the involvement of Roma in compensation programs such as the one recently announced by the Swiss government. There is a marked rise in publications on the Romani holocaust, as well as in programs for documenting the past through survivor testimony and archival research. All of this indicates a new interest in the politics of memory, as well as a determination on the part of Roma to pursue justice.

To mark this groundswell of activity, the ERRC has devoted the Past Abuses section of the Summer 1997 Roma Rights to the Second World War and the Romani Holocaust.

Official complaint

We the undersigned, of various nationalities, professions and political orientations, hereby lodge a complaint according to Article 158 of the Criminal Procedure Code, for the crime — or reasonable suspicion of the crime — of genocide, Article 259 of the Criminal Code, committed by the authorities of the Czech Protectorate, and by the commandant and some of the officers of the “Punitive Work Camp” (Karný pracovní tábor) in Lety near Písek from August 1942 to Spring 1943. During this period, the camp functioned as an extermination camp, aimed primarily at the internment and physical liquidation of Romani citizens from Bohemia and Moravia. As a result of the deliberate acts of the camp commandant and some of the officers, more than 300 people, including babies and children, died during the period. The camp was established exclusively at the initiative of the authorities of the Czech protectorate, particularly the Czech Minister of the Interior and General of the Gendarmerie (Četnictvo) Josef Ježek, and was administered exclusively by Czech personnel, mainly from the ranks of the Protectorate Police. According to preserved testimony of several of our fellow-citizens who survived stays in the camp or who came into contact with the directorate of the camp during the crucial period, as well as according to preserved archive documents, the concentration camp in Lety was no different in administrative method and degree of brutality from concentration camps established by Nazi Germany in different places in Europe. The imprisoned convicts, as the citizens interned in Lety were called in contemporary documents, were not allowed, according to then Minister of the Interior Josef Ježek and camp commandant Josef Janovský, any civil rights. In fact they served as a work force designated for exhaustion and death from undernourishment, lack of clothing, and brutal violence. Among the officers who actively participated in the crime of genocide committed against Romani citizens, at least one is still alive: Josef Hejduk, b. 1907 in Bořikov a Klatov. The camp commandant Janovský was tried after the war by the “Extraordinary People’s Court” (Mimořadný lidský soud), but this trial was con ducted after February 1948 and resulted in no punishment. There is no statute of limitations on the crime of genocide under Article 259 of the Criminal Code. Evidence of the genocidal acts which took place at Lety can be found in the State Regional Archive (Státní oblastní archiv) in Prague (Fond MLS, LS 678/48), in the archives of the Ministry of the Interior in Prague, in the District Archive in Třeboň and in the Regional Archives in Písek. The under signed also have access to the statements of several individuals who survived their stay in the camp in Lety and are still alive. We consider that proper investigation of crimes committed against our fellow-citizens of Romani origin during the Second World War by the Czech authorities and the Protectorate police is an essential step leading to the establishment of the full truth about our recent past. The tragedy of Roma imprisoned in Lety must never be forgotten. We give power of attorney in the lodging of the complaint and in our representation to Dr. P. Rychetský.

Prague, April 4, 1997

Jarmila Balážová journalist
Ivan Dejmal ecologist
Pavel Dostal MP
Fedor Gál sociologist
Ondřej Gina journalist
Ivan Klíma writer
Karel Holomek President, Association of Roma in Moravia
Egon Lanský senator
Arnošt Lustig writer
Dana Němcová psychologist
Martin Palouš Czech Helsinki Committee
Markus Pape journalist
Petr Pithart president of the Senate
Pavel Rychetský senator charged with representing the signatories
Libuše Šilhanová Czech Helsinki Committee
Václav Trojan Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly
Petr Uhl journalist
Jan Urban journalist
Ludvík Vaculík writer
Rudolf Zeman member of the Journalists’ Syndicate

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