Romani Holocaust developments in Germany, Croatia and the Czech Republic

05 January 1999

On November 24, the Romnews Network (RNN) of the Hamburg-based Roma National Congress reported the desecration of the Magdeburg (Germany) memorial to Roma and Sinti murdered during the Nazi era only two days after it was unveiled. A name plate was stolen, and the local police stated that they could not exclude political motivation.

In Zagreb (Croatia) on December 15, the County Court formally indicted Mr Dinko Šakić, the former commander of the Jasenovac concentration camp. According to the Belgrade-based Beta news agency. Šakić is indicted for crimes against humanity and violation of international laws, which caused the death of more than 2,000 Serbs, Jews, Muslims and Roma in a period of nine months during 1944. According to the statement of the Attorney's Office, the indictment against Šakić is based upon the statements of forty-six witnesses collected during the investigation process. The indictment, which has come as a result of international pressure, does not include the charge of genocide. Šakić was extradited from Argentina in April 1998, and has been held in custody since then. It is expected that the trial will begin in February 1999.

Finally, the campaign for the removal of a pig farm from the place of the former concentration camp for Roma at Lety, southern Bohemia, was intensified with an open letter to the Czech Prime Minister Miloš Zeman. The one hundred signatures collected included the famous Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal and German writer Günther Grass, the ČTK news agency reported on December 3. Following his negotiations with both Romani representatives and the farm owners, Mr Petr Uhl, the Czech government's envoy for human rights, announced on December 30 that he would launch a national campaign for collecting the financial means necessary for both building a memorial site and removing the farm. Nevertheless, according to Radio Prague of January 8, a survey undertaken for the public service of the Czech Radio and Czech Television showed that less than a quarter of the Czechs polled would support erecting the memorial - another quarter answered they were indifferent, and two fifths were against. One quarter of those asked also believed that ethnic Roma suffered less than Jews under the Nazi rule. Several hundred Romani inmates died in the Lety camp, established during the Second World War by the authorities of the Czech Protectorate (see Roma Rights Summer 1997 and Summer 1998). (Associated Press, B92, Beta, FoNet, Mladá Fronta Dnes, Právo, Radio Prague, RNN)

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